Book Review: Mindfulness For Mothers by Rebecca Ryan

Mother Cradling Baby - Mindfulness For Mothers Cover Image Mindfulness For Mothers by Rebecca Ryan
Macmillan Australia RRP: $19.99 AUD

Mindfulness is the big pop-psych buzz word at the moment. You’ll find plenty of books on the shelves tapping into this movement, from adult colouring books to self-help meditation guides – and some are a lot more helpful than others. Rebecca Ryan’s new book adapts mindfulness theory for parenthood, providing meditation techniques for a ‘be here now’ approach to mothering. Mindfulness for Mothers is designed to help you stay ‘calm and present’ while caring for a child.

A calmer approach to parenting

As always, once a term like ‘mindfulness’ gains mainstream traction it starts to mean different things to different people. For some, mindfulness just means ‘paying attention’ – stepping away from the smart phone to watch your kids at the playground, for example. For others, mindfulness is a complete lifestyle based around meditation and learning to ‘sit with’ and experience emotions rather than negating our feelings, or reacting to experiences in ways that might be unhelpful.

Ryan’s background is in yoga and meditation teaching, so clearly this is something she practises as a lifestyle. She acknowledges, though, that we don’t always have time for long, contemplative healing sessions. Sometimes, meditation needs to happen on the run, literally. Ryan provides moving meditations (to be done whilst exercising), 10 second tension breakers (for those daily flash points) and awareness routines that can be done with – or in the presence of – your children.

One of the key messages is that, with practice, mindfulness can become a way of being rather than something you need to consciously enact for x-number of minutes a day. Mindfulness is not about getting away from your stressors (with a colouring book, or anything else) but recognising them and gaining a deeper understanding of them. Mindfulness is…

…awareness of the present moment […] You feel the sensations of the moment without judging, critiquing or analysing. You are fully engaged, you are paying attention, you are awake, alert and alive […] You can eat, walk, shower, talk and exercise mindfully.

Keeping your own emotions in check can be one of the hardest aspects of parenting, but one of the most important things you can do for the emotional wellbeing of your children.  Let’s face it, our kids learn by watching. It’s tough to tell your kids not to spit the dummy if they’re regularly watching you road rage your way through the pick-up zone!

But I’m too busy to meditate!

Mindfulness For Mothers is not a book that needs to be read cover to cover, so even time-poor parents can dip in and out grabbing resources that might be helpful. However, if you do have time to read the book in detail, you’ll be rewarded with some inspirational, individualised exercises to set you up for a long term meditation plan.

The book concludes with spaces for you to create a mantra that’s meaningful to you and your family. Ryan shows you how to establish a schedule of short and longer mindfulness exercises that fit your daily grind – from the work commute to the afternoon slump and onwards to the kids’ bedtime routine.

One tip that resonated for me personally was the idea of a ‘sense preference’; in short, this means that not everyone finds the same things relaxing or meaningful. Your personal ‘happy place’ for meditation purposes is related to the way you learn – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic etc. So while I might have a favourite ocean view to picture while meditating, you might prefer to focus on the sound of the waves or the smell of the sea air.

Basically, your approach to meditation can go as deep as you choose, from a few deep breaths when time permits, to a long term commitment to self-awareness. Mindfulness For Mothers offers direction at both ends of the spectrum for anyone from parents-to-be through to experienced practitioners.

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