Meditation can be wonderful. It does not have to be constant, and for parents of young children there are other ways to calm and clear your mind, but knowing what meditation is like is beneficial so that you'll know when you need it, and what parts you might induce by walking, breathing, self-calming thoughts or words or postures.
But don't take it too seriously. Live lightly and smile and breathe.
One day when someone asked how to meditate, there were some answers I especially liked:
Dan Moyer Artisan wrote:
My approach and attitude towards meditation:
Sit down, alone, in a quiet area Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and hold your head up high. Rest your hands in your lap, and close your eyes. Mentally focus on imagery that is analogous to traveling inwards, specifically find a visual metaphor that you can associate with your body.
For me, it's visualizing myself as an ocean of thoughts, and I"m sinking to the bottom, away from the surface thoughts, and towards my core, or my subconscious.
Once you've gone through this visualization, focus on the sensations that come from within your body that are caused by breathing. Focus more and more intensely only on these sensations. Continue to focus only on your inner sensations for about 5-10 minutes. When you feel yourself thinking a thought during this period, think of it as a bubble, that you're letting go and it will float to the surface. Again, that's my visual analog, you can use whatever metaphor you want. The point it so set aside encoded thoughts, and focus on the continuum of sensations that are inside of your body.
Meditation is work. It's not something you can do while doing other things.
I/Sandra Dodd wrote:
I like Daniel's description.
You might use a candle, too. Look at the little flame without staring. Know that it's there and let the movement of the flame be a mental focus, but don't really look at it, and don't really think about it. (It can keep you from looking at or thinking about other things, though.)
Start off with deep breaths. Ten, if you want to count, but it might be better to find a recorded meditation leader so you're not keeping track of anything but just the moment you're in.
Deep breaths first, with space between. Time with the breath out. Breathe in. Time with the breath in. Up a bit, and then out slowly. Then a little more out and wait. Those will slow your heartrate, and after your heart has slowed down the breathing can be light, shallow, slow, and let your arms and hands relax like you're floating. If a thought comes, let it go by like a little fish; don't follow it.
I've done it different ways, at different times of my life. Mostly, as described - sitting, focusing on the breath, noticing thoughts, not getting carried away by them. And if I get carried away, when I "return", calmly return my focus to the breath, without letting thoughts of "Oh, no! I got carried away!" carry me away again. :) The "depth" of my meditation is different now than it was 30 years ago. I've gained things through time & experience, and made the mistake of thinking I should have had those things before time & experience allowed me to. The books "Journey of Awakening" by Ram Dass, and "Wherever You Go, There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn were particularly helpful, as well as the work of Cheri Huber & Tara Brach ("Radical Acceptance" helped my unschooling). I'm now wanting to list every book I've read, teacher, retreat leader & insightful moment I've experienced, but I'll refrain from doing so. :)
Finding groups & teachers was hugely helpful to me at various times.
When the boys were younger, I'd sit when I could, but I noticed that thoughts of "needing" to meditate were pulling me away from the moment *with them*. So I'd get centered in that moment, breathing (3 deep breaths is magical), noticing sounds, smells, where my body was. Momentary, but being able to be in the moment changed & flavored the next moment, and shifted it toward peace.
I also made the mistake of believing my meditation & practice should be like that of those teachers, yogis, & retreat leaders. Then I came across the concept of "householder yoga", which is different than "monk yoga". I came to allow mothering to be my practice, which benefited both my kids & my meditation. I realized expecting my practice to be like that of someone who sat in a cave for 30 days, or sat with a teacher for hours every day, wasn't beneficial; whatever brings me fully to this moment is.
Caren came back and added:
Feeling the need to be honest: An experience with dropping acid, then reading Ram Dass' "Be Here Now" is what first opened my awareness to what meditating was about. I do not recommend this method to people, because of the unpredictability of results.
Responding to Caren's comment and quoting her, I wrote:
-=-When the boys were younger, I'd sit when I could, but I noticed that thoughts of "needing" to meditate were pulling me away from the moment *with them*. So I'd get centered in that moment, breathing (3 deep breaths is magical), noticing sounds, smells, where my body was. Momentary, but being able to be in the moment changed & flavored the next moment, and shifted it toward peace.-=-
There's a recording of a presentation on parenting peacefully that I did with Richard Prystowsky, an unschooling dad and professor whose wife was a LLLeader and really involved with HSC years back (maybe still). He was very involved with formal buddhism, too.
In the discussion (which we had planned by "you talk about this; then I'll talk about that"Śwe had an outline/schedule and went back and forth) you can hear the point where I was saying a mom with young children can breathe while she's out with the kids, and what you can't see is that he gave me a look like "no... wrong direction." :-) He said that people needed a formal practice, and I hadn't known he was going to say that. :-) We still liked eaach other. :-)
Better, more peaceful, more mindful is all anyone can do. No one will reach perfect, perfectly peaceful, and unfailingly mindful. Still, each moment has the potential to bring us more peace in that moment. The more we have "in the bank," the less potential a difficult situation has to kick our butts.
The hard part of meditation is that you don't get immediate feedback that you're doing something that will work for you, so it's hard to keep doing it long enough to get the feedback.
Focusing on the feel of the breath moving in and out seems to be a key component of most practices as a way to get the brain to be quiet. And learning how to breath.
Classes, CDs and such can keep you going on a practice long enough to see if it's effective for you.
Caren Knox has it. "Householder Yoga" helped get me past the barrier (in my mind) of what a meditation practice "should" look like.
When our kids are little it IS impossible to meditate like the monks (at home at least). And SO frustrating to expect that we SHOULD be able to or we're doing it wrong or it's worthless if we don't get to sit in perfect silence for a certain amount of time.
There are many ways to meditate. It's simply about focus. Walking meditation is where you focus on each step. Feeling the ground under each foot. Bringing your focus back to your feet each time your mind wanders. You can synch your breath with your steps if you want to get fancy. You can also walk a labyrinth. Very powerful.
This is my version of the mom's meditation that Caren mentioned.
Set a timer for 60 minutes and then get on the floor with your kids and focus on them. You can just observe or you can engage with their play if they want you to. But every time you find your mind wandering to the grocery list or anything else just let that go and bring your focus fully back to the kids. (It's kind of nice to do it with one kid if the others can be occupied by dad or a friend).
It's an interesting practice if you let the kid be totally in charge, meaning you don't direct the play at all or even make suggestions. Just notice the times you have the urge to do so and then return to following your kid. Really BEING with them in the moment and doing exactly what they are doing or what they tell you to do.
Also noticing judgement/evaluation is a helpful practice. No "being proud" of her fine motor skills while stringing the beads or wondering if he will ever correct that pencil grip. Just notice it and return to being the neutral observer.
If it feels hard to do it for an hour, start with 30min or 15 or 10. No self judgement if more time is hard, just start with what feels manageable and doesn't make you restless. (Although a little restlessness is a good opportunity to practice coming back to the present moment) :)
It's good to have meditated "successfully" a dozen times so that you know what you're aiming for when you induce the state with the TV on and the dishwasher running and you're folding towels. If you haven't meditated before, you might not know if you're finding "calm" or "being in the moment" in the way people use those terms with meditation. But if you HAVE done it, you can do it more easily the next time, and the next.
I tried many times with different guides or books, to do sitting meditation, and just couldn't even get close. Eventually my sweetie joined Dahn Yoga and got me to join too, and that works better for me because it is moving meditation (think Sufis or Shakers). I gotta have something to drown out the radio in my head that comes in about seven stations simultaneously with plenty of static and NO volume control!
There is discussion of breathing and meditation and being more peaceful as a parent, with children, in a recording and partial transcript here: Parenting Peacefully and if a player doesn't show (Safari is resistant), there is a link right below to hear it while you're reading (from where it lives on the Internet Archive).
The video below is humor for the sake of humor, but... the best humor is about truth. So be amused and relaxed, and let the ideas help you decide how to be, or not to beŚin the lightest of ways.