I never considered myself a particularly emotional person.
Well, that is, until I had kids.
Becoming a mother has a way of helping our emotions to "blossom." And of course by that I mean, all the wonderful emotions, like deep love, elation, pride, real joy. . . but let's be honest-- most of us have had other emotions blossom in motherhood as well, like guilt, frustration, anger, loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion. . . among many others. I fear that exasperation may have topped the list for me in many stages of motherhood. As they say, "children have a way of pushing our buttons." And when you have four children like we do? Well, let's just say, I didn't know I had that many buttons, but I guess I do. Or did.
Then I discovered meditation.
We had lived abroad for nearly 10 years and upon returning to the States, I found that this thing called "mindfulness" had crept into the country in wide swaths in my absence. After hearing it thrown around so much as a casual term, I knew I had to figure out what the word meant, especially when my daughter's school was offering a course on mindfulness--specifically for stressed out parents. The course description accurately described me, so I signed up.
Little did I know, the course would not only help me learn to de-stress, but literally changed the way I show up in my family, the way I show up in the world, the way I view the world, and ultimately the path my life would take. During that course I learned what mindfulness is, how it serves us, and how a meditation practice can literally change our brains.
I believe a common misconception about meditation is that it just helps you relax. There is that. But if that were all it did, wouldn't it be easier (and probably more enjoyable) to just commit to a bubble bath a day, or reading Vogue, or kicking up behind a good movie? Meditation is so much more than relaxing. Meditation is mind training.
Who needs mind training? Can't I just do some Sudoku? Well, anyone who has ever had a hard time empathizing or forgiving; or who has acted out in reactive anger; or who has ever had a poor night's sleep because of a spinning mind; or who has had trouble focusing on a conversation or task at hand; or who gets caught up in negative thought cycles; or who feels their life is just relegated to stress and busyness. . . In short, everyone could use some mind training. And especially mothers.
When I finally settled into a regular meditation practice, there was an inner calm that started to develop inside me, little by little. More and more, the little things quit bothering me. I began to handle stressful situations with a bit more grace and equanimity. I became much less reactive to my children, and more thoughtfully responsive. I started noticing the rides that my thoughts or emotions were taking me on, and began "hopping off the ride," before it took me where I didn't want to go. I became better able to empathize with my family members--which is a game changer is understanding and connecting with them in a way that fosters collaboration and cooperation.
The benefits of a mindfulness practice are far and wide. Scientific studies are now all over the map, touting less anxiety and depression, better sleep, improved relationships, increased self-compassion, emotional intelligence, and even more robust physical health, among many others. For me, the most tangible results were more patience, more calm, more love, more emotional stability and more peace.
What might a meditation practice do for you?
Jen Prokhorov is the founder of Stillpoint Meditation -- an app designed to help busy mothers access the game-changing tool of mindfulness, and is available in the App Store. www.stillpointapp.io