In the words of the Zoolander crowd: mindfulness is still so hot right now! But how can we get some of this elusive contentment for ourselves as mothers when we're already so busy and feel like we have no time to meditate?
I had a yoga and meditation practice before my first child was born, but it pretty much fell by the wayside in the upheaval of motherhood. I missed my practice and I missed the benefits. The reason that I couldn't manage to meditate and be mindful daily wasn't that I needed more convincing of the benefits – the issue was that I was trying to force my previous meditation practice into my new life as a mother and it just didn't fit.
So as a trained yoga and meditation teacher, I decided to use my knowledge to come up with new ways that I could be mindful and meditate.
For me, part of being able to meditate regularly was acknowledging that if I waited for everything to be calm and peaceful before I rested and sought stillness, then that moment might rarely or never come. So when moments of stillness and brief pauses appeared naturally in my day, I took these opportunities and expanded them gently to make room for my meditation practice. You can do this too.
If breaks and pauses don't appear naturally in the ebb and flow of your day, then you can learn to eke out some stillness for yourself; first, by performing your daily tasks more mindfully, and next by putting aside time for longer meditation practices.
Mindfulness techniques that I found I could fit into my day as a mum included: sitting in my parked car after the childcare drop, enjoying some stillness before I eat, pausing before I leave the house, adapting breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to quiet my mind, and becoming truly present while watching my children play, giving my child a massage or walking with the pram.
Based on my experience I wrote a book, Mindfulness for Mothers. In it there are techniques that will help you notice and enhance the natural breaks in your day. There are also techniques for you to try when you have time alone that will help you to cultivate stillness, to come to peace and surrender to the present moment.
By enhancing stillness, awareness and spaciousness in your daily life, you are nurturing yourself. You will then be better able to nurture others, especially your children.
To-do list: Be here now
A 10-second simple meditation technique matching mantra with breath.
This technique can help you to be present in the moment. It clears and focuses the mind and can also create a sense of spaciousness.
An appropriate trigger for this technique might be when you're about to check off a to-do list or start an activity that requires focus. Another one I suggest is when you're about to reach for your phone for a distracted browse of social media.
Sit or stand with a naturally straight spine, arms and shoulders relaxed. If you are pregnant, this can be lovely to do with both hands on your belly – a great reminder that you are already doing enough by just growing your baby.
• Close your eyes and sigh three times.
• Inhale and say to yourself, 'Be'.
• Exhale and say to yourself, 'Here'.
• Pause after each exhale and with empty lungs say to yourself, 'Now'.
• Repeat for three breaths.
Let go of the mantra. Open your eyes. Pause, taking your time before carrying on with your day.
Add your pelvic floor exercises. As you exhale, contract and lift your pelvic floor muscles. Release your pelvic floor muscles as you inhale.
Mindfulness for Mothers by Rebecca Ryan is published by Macmillan, RRP $19.99.