Meditation for busy parents?
May 17, 2012 8:59 PM   Subscribe

How do I find a time and place for meditation as a parent?

I've got two young, high-energy children at home, a demanding job, and lots of housework to take care of. My wife is also running pillar to post every day, as am I. Frequently her parents visit and stay for a week or two at a time, which is wonderful, but adds to the hectic nature of home life.

I would love to be able to meditate for just a few minutes each day, 10 or 15 would do it. I've read a lot about meditation and practiced it a little in my pre-kids life. But I can't seem to find the right time or place. Constantly worried about being ambushed by someone coming around the corner or just walking by and asking me what I'm up to.

Those of you who meditate: Do you have any advice for making a space and time for meditation in the middle of a hectic environment? It seems like this is the kind of situation where meditation is most needed, but most books assume you can find a quiet place and a private room. Are there tips? Tools? Techniques? Help me out here!
posted by dylan20 to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Stop at a park or somewhere peaceful on the way to or from work for ten minutes.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:06 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I find it impossible to just sit and quiet my mind, but going out for a walk often does the trick for me. I am not mindful of myself per se, but I try to concentrate on noticing nature, which gives me a nice little mental break from all details of my life.
posted by vignettist at 9:30 PM on May 17, 2012

One part of mindfulness - is taking time to practice walking meditation. You can find moments where you are moving from one place to another - and focus on your breathing. Meditation does not have to be in a lotus position with absolute quiet, It is more a sense of awareness of the moments of life. Focus on what you are experiencing in the moment.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:38 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes to walking meditation, doing dishes meditation or any other moment you can take... Also look into the 'three minute breathing space.' It is a quick exercise to take stock of thoughts, feelings and body sensations, centre on breathing and gather awareness of your body as a whole. I found it easy to integrate into my day when I tied it to specific prompts 'eg, after I arrive at work but before getting out of the car, at the end of eating my lunch,' etc. You can even steal a few minutes in the toilet if you have to.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:44 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Most people I know who manage this set the alarm clock 15 minutes early. Painful, but ultimately very valuable.
posted by judith at 9:44 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wake up earlier or do it after they go to bed.
posted by michaelh at 9:49 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can your children participate? My toddler thinks yoga is the awesomest game I've ever invented. The first few attempts were raggedy for me, while giving him instructions and teaching him the idea, but now I had do 15 minutes or so with him imitating and giggling and shouting, "Now like a dog! Now like a cobra!"

I also like walking meditation and getting out to a forest preserve lets me hike pretty peacefully with both kids in tow. The little one just looks around and then falls asleep, and the toddler is too wrapped up in his own exploring to pay much attention to me.

Kitchen chores can also be meditative, and you can probably get cooking time to yourself.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I recently read Happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and he discusses various techniques for daily mindfulness including walking meditation. He also includes an entire section of mindfulness practices that you can do with children.
posted by Gilbert at 10:26 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you allowed 15-minute breaks at work where you can go outside?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:03 PM on May 17, 2012

I have two young kids and tried for a while to get up 15 minutes earlier, but never knew when the 15 minutes earlier was! I now try and find some time at lunchtime when i'm at work to just get outside and either sit in a park, or I find walking meditation seems to be the easiest way for me personally, at least I know I can always achieve that no matter what the day throws at me.
posted by merch sengl at 11:21 PM on May 17, 2012

Where some other people get bored, I meditate. Stopped in traffic jams. Waiting for the microwave. Waiting in line. OK actually I often gnash my teeth instead, but when I do choose meditation, time passes faster and peacefully.

I have meditated in public places like airport lounges, bus stops, university campus green spaces, and public parks. YMMV, but no one has asked what I'm up to. With some movement-based qi gong practices, which look a bit like tai chi, I have twice had people pause to watch a polite distance away and speculate to each other about whether I was doing tai chi or what. Once, three young teenage boys watched from an impolitely close distance and the leader sneeringly mimicked my movements while his followers snickered. I ignored them and they went away after, hmm, two minutes max. It was good practice in staying present and peaceful. So, only three times in about thirteen years did people do anything besides ignore what I was doing. YMMV depending on city and neighbourhood vibe. I did it in some public parks in Boston but never while waiting for Boston public transportation.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:11 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stop for 10-15 minutes on your way home. I do this sometimes - just park somewhere and meditate. Somewhere nice to stop is good but not 100 percent necessary. I can't, for the life of me, get into it in the morning but it's usually OK to be home a few minutes later. Also maybe practice spot meditations? Traffic lights ate great for this, also supermarket queues, anytime you're stuck on hold for customer service. Also if you can stop a couple of times a day, be still, check in with yourself and breathe, even for 30 seconds to a minute, it can really help.
posted by t0astie at 2:01 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sound meditation is great: every time the phone rings, at work or at home, take two deep, slow, mindful breaths before answering it. Listen for other regular sounds in your environment, maybe a clock, the oven timer, a favorite story your wife reads to the kids, your morning alarm, etc., and do the same thing.

Red-light meditation, elevator meditation, waiting-in-line meditation ... it's not always about 10-15 minutes of quiet remove from the bustle of the day, the key is to integrate mindfulness into the bustle.

Another thing to consider, if you decide to introduce your kids to the practice, is to involve their senses in it. Walking meditation, yoga, or recorded guided meditation sessions are easier to start with than silent sitting.
posted by headnsouth at 3:54 AM on May 18, 2012

You are a dad. You have probably figured out how to micro-nap in between commercial breaks. You can figure this out too. When things get really loud here (single mom, 3 kids), I sometimes go to my car. It's quiet in there.

Do you have a toolshed on your property? Is there something near your house that you could walk to?

Sometimes the problem isn't finding the time or space but acknowledging that you have the right to take care of yourself. You have value. Don't put yourself last. Your wife is there. Tell her that you have found that you need 15 minutes alone every day to unwind. Ask her how long she needs and then become partners in helping each other get that time.
posted by myselfasme at 5:56 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am in the same situation. This is where I meditate:

1) I take longer sitting on the toilet than I need to. Not the best place, but you take it when you can.

2) I take the most congested roads home from work to have more time to myself.

3) I try to go for a walk during work, but this is the least achievable.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:20 AM on May 18, 2012

I can't get any guaranteed me-time at home, so I carve me-time into my time away from home (i.e. during my work day). Meditate before lunch, or after, or take a 15-minute break mid-afternoon, halfway between lunch and the end of your day. Schedule it just like you would schedule an important meeting; this is non-negotiable time that you can't just schedule away even if something really important comes up (though you can move it around if you need to). Make it a priority. I've discovered since becoming a parent that if I don't make something a priority it just does not happen. So, commit.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Already lots of good ideas here, but in the vein of the getting up early suggestion, maybe you and your wife/in-laws can work out some kind of system of getting things around in the morning in series rather than in parallel (you only need a small slice), so that, e.g., mom wrangles the kids into clothes while you shower and dress yourself, and then you trade off. Then you each get a short time when you can be alone (!!) and possible wedge in ten minutes of mental quiet between/on top of shower and pants. Then you don't have to worry about finding self-discipline in the evening, when you're already beat, and you sort of automatically have an isolated place (bedroom or bathroom) in which to get some mental space. I find that just being able to close the bathroom door while I do my morning ablutions has a restfulness that few other parts of the day can match, and you can always sit on the toilet lid if you really want some seated time.
posted by acm at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are great suggestions, thank you, all of you. I appreciate the advice. I've favorited a bunch of these answers but I can't possibly pick a "best answer." However, I really like the suggestions to make a stopover on the way home from work, or 15 minutes during the day, and the "three minute breathing space" is also a great idea -- thanks for the tip. There's a guided meditation that I downloaded which is already going onto my phone's playlist.

And, while I have tried and failed to get up 15 minutes earlier, I might just try to work out a deal where I can get 15 minutes in the shed, or the back yard, in exchange for giving my wife the same.
posted by dylan20 at 6:46 PM on May 18, 2012

I realise only recently that this is why my parent's garden isn't fully reticulated. My dad waters the garden daily, zoning out and escaping from the madness in the house.
posted by kjs4 at 6:40 AM on May 19, 2012

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