Lena Franklin, LCSW
Mindfulness is a way to walk through the world with more balance, peace and love. For pregnant and postpartum women, this intention becomes a life line, as we’re attempting to care for ourselves and our children. As mothers, mindful living can be the transformative intention that we pass down to future generations. But what IS mindfulness exactly? Mindfulness isn’t an intellectual knowing, but rather, an embodied experience. Science continues to validate what ancient yogis have known for thousands of years which is exciting territory. My definition of mindfulness is “the art of paying intimate attention to the present moment, intentionally and without judgment.”
Mindfulness supports a nervous system that is balanced and at ease. Mothers need this more than ever, as we live in a perpetually busy, I-Phone-pinging world. In neuroscience, we call this inner physiological balance having a parasympathetic dominant nervous system. As research continues to support mindfulness as a powerful portal for positive brain change, there is greater incentive for pregnant and postpartum women to adopt mindfulness as a way of living.
More than 3 million American women suffer from postpartum depression each year. Through mindfulness, pregnant and postpartum women can begin to transform their relationship with negative and invasive thought patterns. This approach has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants for preventing depression relapse, and some studies have suggesting that it may also be as good as traditional psychotherapy. Remember, mindfulness isn’t about getting rid of thoughts, but rather, it’s about transforming our relationship with thought patterns that don’t serve our highest good.
Give yourself permission to start small. Choose a specific amount of time that you can realistically dedicate to your daily sitting practice of paying attention to the present moment (your breath, sounds or body sensations). This could be 5, 10, or 20 minutes. Listen to your intuition and acknowledge you can build on this later. Consistency is key and to promote the longevity of your meditation practice, you need to be honest with yourself. Release judgmental thoughts about how long you should be sitting. Meditation is not meant to be another item on your to-do list or a competition, but rather, a practice we’re pulled to.
We’re creatures who thrive on daily rhythm and predictability. Choose a dedicated meditation space in your home or office. As you begin practicing, your intentional, calm energy will fill this environment. This will reinforce the energetic consistency of your meditations as you return to your cushion time and time again. To enhance the structure of your practice, choose a specific time during the day to meditate (morning, afternoon or night). Consider your practice a non-negotiable, like eating breakfast, taking client calls or brushing your teeth. This shift in perspective solidifies your meditation as a routine rather than an option.
As you begin practicing, utilize the breath flow as an instrument to rest your attention on. Settle your focus on the breath and each subtle and pronounced body sensations of this experience. For example, how the air feels when it hits the tip of your nostrils. Then, attend to the feeling in your throat as the air travels towards the lungs. Here, you are using your body as a way to strengthen your awareness muscle. Like doing bicep curls, your awareness will be strengthened with repetition.
The goal isn’t to not have thoughts, it’s to gain awareness of your thoughts. Think of yourself as a non-judgmental observer of your thoughts, emotions and body sensations.
Trust me, your mind will wander. One moment, you’re focused on breath flow, then all of a sudden, your mind jumps to creating a grocery list! Everyone’s mind wanders, even for meditating monks who have been practicing for 30 years. As you embark on this inner journey, you’ll soon see the folly of the mind and the illusion that we are defined by our thoughts.
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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.