How rocking your baby to sleep counts as meditation
“We can't go over it
We can't go under it
We're just going to have to go through it”
(from the song, 'We're going on a bear hunt'
I spent literally hours pacing the floors of our apartment with my first baby, rocking him to sleep.
Hours.. some days we took it in turns to pace and rock until our arms got tired (or we needed the bathroom).
I remember my husband went to get laser eye surgery and I was so anxious that there would be a couple of days where he couldn't see properly and I would have to mange the endless pacing and rocking alone and my arms and reserves of patience would be exhausted!
I remember bringing baby home from the hospital and realising I had NO IDEA how babies slept (newsflash, you don’t put them down gently awake into their cot and have them nod off – no matter how many times the babies on TV do this, don't be fooled, like I was)
Often he slept after a feed, but he took short naps (about enough time for me to think about doing something epic like having a shower where I washed my hair, but not enough time to actually execute the plan) except for when I had him in the baby carrier.
Oh the rocking and the pacing. Nothing else seemed to work for us. White noise. watching the sleepy signs, put down drowsy (hah!).
People told me “not to make a rod for my own back”, “don’t fall into the rocking to sleep trap” etc etc..
But aside from walking away and leaving him to wail, there didn’t seem to be an alternative.
I wished sometimes for a baby that slept better and napped longer and I wished that we had a quicker way to get him to that longer nap.
But all the wishing and the refusal to accept that this was the baby we had and the situation we had, didn't make life any easier.
"You're just going to have to go through it"
What did make life easier was working with it...
So…. I turned it into meditation (I know, I know.. bear with me)
Not because I thought it was a lovely Zen moment, but because I would've gone crazy otherwise.
And I had no time to actually meditate or do yoga because he was stuck to me, so I figured I'd put the walking meditation I'd learned years ago into practices.
I'm not saying you should pace up and down with your baby for hours as a meditation strategy.
I'm saying if you find yourself in that situation and it's stressing you out and getting you (and baby) tense, you might like to try it as a meditation, as a mindfulness practice, work with it, go through it, instead of trying to change it..
Staying with each step, noticing only that.
Not jumping ahead to the worries or the complaints or the catastrophising.
But just being with it, your foot moving through the air and down, the weight of your baby in your arms. the sounds outside.
I can still feel it now when I close my eyes, the warmth and weight of him in my arms, the feeling of my foot meeting the floor. I can smell the city wafting in the window, the noise of trucks delivering to the fruit market and neighbours shouting gossip at each other over their gates.
I think using the pacing as a meditation made those sense memories more solid in my mind, and I think of the pacing now with great fondness.
Instructions for a walking meditation
You can do this outside or inside. If you are outside and, in a garden, it can be really nice to be in bare feet so you can feel the ground underneath.
I've had people on my courses try this in their own home or garden which seems to work well, but less well if you're in a public park, where you might feel self conscious walking about a snails pace.
You don't have to actually get anywhere with this- you can pace over and back in a small space or around in a circle.
I've found that walking meditation for me, was a little difficult yo get into at the start, but once I did, I found I could into a very deep and quiet place with it (and I didn't have the pins and needles in my legs from seated meditation!)
Also if you're actually "going for a walk", especially in a place where you're likely to encounter a lot of people, you might find it aggravating or distracting to have so many external stimuli competing with the attention on the walking (also if you're moving slowly, you might be holding up pedestrian traffic- just a thought!)
You can choose to do a walking meditation practice while your children are near you and occupied with something where your full attention isn’t needed.
This can also be a nice one to do with a baby in arms- as mentioned above!
If doing it for a set period of time, set the timer before you start.
Begin with a few breaths standing, feeling the ground under your two feet. Allow the breath to bring your awareness into your body.
Begin to move, really slowly, with full attention to the foot lifting from the ground, through the air, and then back down in front as you move.
Continue the focus as you move the other foot/leg.
You can allow the other aspects of your surroundings/scene to be present on the periphery of your awareness ( this might be the sights and sounds, your children playing).
If you find yourself distracted, pause, take a couple of breaths again with both feet on the ground. Use the breath to come back into the body.
If you are with your children and need to respond to them, do so, but try to bring the awareness of your movement with you as you go to them.
Continue in this way until the timer goes off.
Want to learn how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life? Register now for the 6 week course Calm in the Chaos. Starts May 16th.