Preparing for childbirth: The delicate dance between pushing out and letting go

Observing a friend struggling with, and complaining about, the last days of her pregnancy –constantly posting on Facebook about how she finally wanted her baby to make an appearance in the “real world,” listing details about all the activities she undertook in order to make this happen ASAP — made me reflect on the delicate dance that childbirth is. 

I get it. I’ve been there.

Ready to Push?

Feeling big — no, huge! Not being able to see my toes anymore, let alone tie my shoelaces. Feeling very swollen in the summer heat and out of breath after walking up the stairs to our apartment on the 4th floor. Rolling around on the mat in my prenatal yoga class feeling like a huge whale. Nights spent sleepless with heartburn, an active baby in the belly, and a bladder that never wanted to go to sleep.  

And then, there is all the excitement about finally getting to meet this tiny human being that you have lovingly and patiently grown in your belly for all these long months. The excitement about becoming a parent — for the first, second, third… time. There are all the people around you, asking when the baby is due — which does not really help or make waiting any easier — and so many other good reasons to finally push the baby out of your belly and into the world. 

But First…  

But there is another side to the story, which tends to be forgotten or at least does not enjoy a lot of spotlight.

A more delicate, more sensitive — even darker — side that might not be as limelight-worthy or Facebook post-worthy…a side, which in my opinion, is just as important as the “push side.”

It is the side that mindfully focuses on letting go.

On gentleness, on feeling, on making space for the baby to come into this world…and making space for what is to come and follow.

On becoming aware of and consciously reflecting what is transpiring inside of us: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

Facing Our Feelings

This includes facing our anxieties and deepest fears and doubts about birth and about parenthood, about our ability to “do a good job” at delivering and then protecting, nurturing, and growing this delicate, wonderful new being that we already love more than we could have ever imagined. It may also include acknowledging and confronting our fear of failure, our fear of pain, our fear of loss, and our fear of fear. 

Furthermore, it includes facing the reality that things are (again!) about to change tremendously. That not only our everyday life is about to get the next big overhaul, but also our whole universe: The way we relate to the world, and the way we relate to ourselves is going to drastically change.

It includes coping with our bodies changing — yet again — from the pregnant state to a postpartum state, which will look and feel very different from what we are accustomed to and from what we might actually enjoy or expect seeing and feeling. We might feel empty, tired, depleted, sore, and possibly a far cry from attractive and sexy for quite a while.  

I vividly remember mourning my “empty“ belly for several days following my daughter’s birth. It felt empty and somewhat sad to not feel my baby inside my belly anymore. While I was certainly very happy to finally be able to hold her and cuddle up with her in my arms, I missed this innate and exclusive feeling of connection to her.  

Bringing Together the ‘Pushing Out’ and the ‘Letting Go’

I believe that, in order to consciously and mindfully prepare for birthing our child, it is important to take the time to look at and ideally merge both sides of the equation: the “pushing out” and the “letting go.”  

The tiredness of being pregnant and the energetic eagerness to have baby out of my belly have certainly helped me tremendously in getting over my fear of giving birth and all the pain that would be — and certainly was — involved. However, being mindful, open, and receptive to the side of letting go, creating space, and facing anxiety, doubt and fear — even mourning during this transition — has certainly proven to be very helpful as well. I believe it might be one supportive part in the puzzle of alleviating or possibly even preventing feelings of the “baby blues.” 

So, I’m calling on all expecting moms: Take a deep breath and give yourself a mindful moment — and ideally many more — and some space to merge both ends of the continuum. By doing this, you will be giving your body, mind, and spirit a chance to holistically and soulfully prepare for what is to come instead of forcing it into birthing-action mode.

Photo source

Mindfully balancing freedom and boundaries to nurture our children

inga bIf you asked me in my teens and early 20s what it was I desired most, I would probably have told you it’s this easygoing feeling of freedom, of lightheartedness, of non-restrictedness. Freedom to go wherever I want to, to move around freely, to do, say, think, and feel whatever I want to… I never liked being told what to do.

Rules? Boundaries? Structure? The less, the better — so I thought…

Fast-forward a little over a decade: I am a mom of an 8-year-old girl. I am a child psychologist. I am a mindfulness teacher. I am a Strala Yoga guide and so much more — and all of these parts of my life have taught me a lesson or two about freedom.

When I became a mom, I naturally wished for my daughter to experience this feeling of freedom herself — freedom of choice, freedom to develop her own sense of self, her own will, her own talents, her own style of doing things.

And so far, I believe things are going pretty well most of the time.

freedom-hippieHowever, of course, there were and will always be bumps in the road, and challenges — big and small. Alongside my growing daughter, I have learned how the need for and the experience of freedom changes over the course of a child’s development. I also grew to understand how healthy, mindful boundaries can be helpful — not merely limiting — in setting up this framework of a safe space, which in turn encourages and enables the growing child to experience, explore, and enjoy his or her freedom.

Here are 2 reflections on freedom and boundaries, and how to mindfully approach these in a way that conforms to your child’s and your own unique needs as they present themselves in this very moment:

1) Kids need healthy, age-appropriate boundaries in order to be able to experience a sense of freedom and develop their own sense of self, including their own will.

Ever stood in front of an open closet stuffed to the brim with kids’ clothes of all colors and styles, asking your toddler what she wants to wear today? Yup. I know. I have. It’s mayhem — stress for the mom and stress for the toddler. However, telling that same toddler that she will have to wear exactly xyz today might result in a big tantrum. Why? Because said toddler finds herself going through an important developmental phase where she is experiencing and developing a sense of self, including her own will.

What’s a mindful way to go that caters to your child’s wish for some freedom of choice, her developmental stage, and your wish for giving your child space and freedom while at the same time preserving your sanity?

This might look like laying out two weather-appropriate outfits for your toddler — without even giving her a glimpse of that fully equipped closet filled with those gazillion choices — and asking her which one she prefers to wear today. Consequence: A happy, proud toddler who got to make her own choice — and a happy mom, with a content toddler fully dressed within minutes.

2) What these boundaries look like will change from moment to moment and over time.

Your teenager will not be as content as said toddler if you lay out two outfits for school in the morning and ask her to choose one. The same applies for other choices and rules like how long my child is allowed to play outside in the evenings, when is a suitable bedtime, how far from home my child is allowed to go, when she can play with her peers, and so on.

As parents, we are constantly challenged to find and establish a framework of healthy boundaries and rules for our family. Ideally, this would involve allowing all members of our family to experience a sense of individual freedom and self-efficacy while also experiencing the equally important sense of belonging to our loved ones — especially our immediate family — and the comforting feeling of being held and contained within this safe structure.

Being mindful and ever curious about our children’s needs and their individual development, being well-informed about children’s developmental stages, and being aware of our own reactions to these needs will help us figure out how to navigate — moment by moment — as we move through this wonderful, exciting lifelong parenting journey.

5 tips for mindfully coping with chronic illness — for your child and you

The practice of mindfulness can be tremendously helpful under all kinds of life circumstances. Today, I want to chat about how mindfulness can help your child — and your whole family! — deal with chronic illness.

inga bAfter years of guiding, counseling and working with hundreds of families, blending more traditional psychotherapy approaches with mindfulness and yoga, and creating 2 mindfulness-based coping group programs — MAPLE MINDS for toddlers and parents, kids and teens as well as MindBodyFeel for adults to helping people cope with stress, illness, pain and whatever else life throws our way — I’ve got a few takeaways to share with you that might help lighten your load and help you feel a little more happy, confident, relaxed and at ease…no matter what is currently going on in your life.

free images com - jin neohLet’s start right here and right now by…

1) …Mindfully acknowledging, identifying, accepting and welcoming all emotions that arise — our child’s emotions as well as our own! — be they pleasant or unpleasant. Of course, as parents, we want our children to be well and happy. The last thing we want is seeing them feel pain, severe anxiety, nervousness, tension, anger or despair. So all too often, while providing comfort for our little ones, we might “automatically” find ourselves quick with suggesting distractions, pushing those uncomfortable feelings away as fast and as far as possible, and rushing to move on to something more pleasant and enjoyable.

However, the practice of mindfully acknowledging, identifying, accepting and welcoming all emotions that arise will help your child understand that all emotions are valuable, welcome and have their place in our lives. It can be a huge relief to feel that it’s OK and “normal” to be upset/angry/anxious every once in a while. We all do. It’s totally fine. And from here we can learn how to cope with it.

2) …Mindfully connecting to ourselves, our breath, our body, our bodily sensations, our emotions and our thoughts – and reconnecting to ourselves if we got lost somewhere. Let us be positive role models for mindfully strengthening our intuition as a source of our own inner health and wellness guide. If we re-learn how to look within, connect and listen to our intuition, we will have an easier time making smaller and larger decisions and figuring out what is good for us in any given moment of our life. This is great news in general, of course, and especially helpful when you have to navigate your way through tough medical questions and decisions.

It can be as easy as one big belly breath, as I wrote about here.

3) …Mindfully exploring our body and experiencing it as whole and complete — just the way it is in this very moment, whatever this might look like. Especially when we grow up while over and over getting the message that something is “wrong” or “does not work quite right” in one or more parts of our body, we risk developing a negative or otherwise dysfunctional body image and self concept. From here, it is a slippery slope downward, possibly drowning us in all sorts of self-doubt, negative messages about ourselves and our bodies, and general pessimism.

While we might not be able to shield our child from all of this, there are things we can do to mindfully and gently support a more supportive self-concept and body image. It is tremendously helpful, especially for these kids, to enjoy moments — as in age-adapted mindful meditation, in visualization practice, or in yoga and mindful movement guided by our breath — where they experience their body as whole and good and complete just as it is…as opposed to a fractioned collection of body parts that are more or less “functional.”

4) …Mindfully experiencing and expressing gratitude, even in the midst of what might sometimes look like a complete disaster. Yes, you might experience moments of despair, of complete helplessness and hopelessness. And some of these thoughts might creep up in your mind, triggered by all your understandable anxiety, tension, sorrow, worry and pain: “Why my child?” “Why does her life look like this, while all her friends lead a normal life?” “How did we deserve this?”

It is important to again mindfully acknowledge all your thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise and to give yourself honest permission to feel and explore these. But sometimes we risk letting ourselves get too carried away by these, thus possibly paving a path for depression and other conditions which might not be so helpful, adaptive and desirable.

So what to do? Try installing a regular gratitude practice with your child or, better yet, with your whole family. Make it a daily habit to briefly reflect on what made you feel happy, grateful or plain good today. I call this “Smiley Practice” when leading MAPLE MINDS groups for the younger kids. We roll around a smiley ball while sitting in a circle, and each of us shares something that made us smile today. This can be something very small like a smile someone gave us, a flower or some beautiful leaves we saw outside, or the fact that the sun is shining today.

I make it a point that this practice is not about pretending that we are happy when we are not — which would totally counteract point #1 above. It is about re-sensitizing ourselves for all the beauty, happiness and love that surrounds us in each and every moment — a skill that many of us tend to lose when faced with arduous conditions like chronic illness or pain. We can re-train our brain! And while this might not cure our child’s disease it can have quite a deep effect on our mood, coping capacity and general outlook on life.

5) …Last but not least, trying to put your mindfulness practices in effect when connecting with your family, with like-minded peers and, very important, your team of healthcare specialists. This way you will be able to intuitively find and create a support network for your child and your family which will help you feel more connected, embedded and understood.

Even if dealing with your child’s chronic illness might oftentimes feel like a dark, desperate, painful and very lonely journey, there is always support out there just waiting for you to be uncovered! A mindful approach can help you here. You are not alone!


**Lotus flower photo source: Neoh

My favorite part of the body

inga bOur young children — still — master the natural, simple and intuitive connection between body, mind and emotion. Let’s support and inspire each other to live with more ease and calm, every single day. And in case you forgot how to do this, let your kids be your teacher.

Last school year, my daughter and her Grade 1 classmates worked on a classroom project called “My Favorite Part of the Body.” Students were asked to identify one part of their body that they particularly liked. The teacher snapped a picture of whatever body part the kids chose, and each child came up with a text outlining why this body part was their favorite.

When the parents were invited to visit the classroom to have a look at their children’s works of art, my daughter enthusiastically pulled me toward the picture she had created. When I saw it and read what she had to say, my heart melted! This is what my then 6-year-old girl came up with:

inga school project

Looking at her artwork, there were several things that immediately struck me:

  1. The adorable innocence and the natural, simple unconditional body love radiating through the picture and text;
  2. The natural and simply basal connection my little one formed between her lungs and belly, the act of deep breathing, and the positive feeling of relaxation and calm which it can bring about;
  3. How much our children value seeing us parents live and model easy, positive, simple and natural connections between body, mind and emotion.

Reflecting on this — and on the fact that we grown-ups ever so often seem to find ourselves in a state of moderate to total body-mind-emotion disconnection, often accompanied by a rather negative body image and self-awareness — my mom heart started wondering:

  • When, why and where did we lose this connection?
  • And how can we gently support our growing children and adolescents in maintaining and nourishing this natural, simple, intuitive connection to their bodies, minds and emotions?

Maybe the answer lies here: Let’s practice, grow and flow together, inspiring each other every day by practicing the simple art of mindfully and intuitively tuning into our bodies, minds and emotions.

In case you forgot how to do this or need some extra inspiration, just take a look at your kids and let them be your teacher! Observe them in their natural, innocent way of embodying a positive mind-body-emotion connection.

How simple is that!

We are all blessed with a wonderful body that includes a stomach. Besides our stomach, our torso also includes our lungs — and the whole thing is somehow connected. And, hey, with the help of our lungs (and diaphragm) and belly, we can breathe in and out — not only this, we can breathe deeply into our bellies.

When we perform this simple act of deep belly breathing for a couple of moments, it might actually affect the way we feel in a positive way: We might feel more calm and relaxed or maybe just plain good, happy, soothed, at ease, de-stressed, ___________ (fill in the blank).

Our body and mind can do amazing things for us, easily — no elaborate studies, gurus or equipment needed! We simply have to remember and trust these naturally given abilities — to feel into our bodies, and then practice what feels natural, good and intuitive, like deep belly breathing in a moment where we feel tense, sad or anxious. (These are moments when we naturally gravitate toward more agitated, fast and shallow “chest breathing.” Observe yourself and your breathing patterns in these moments.)

Start right here where you are, one deep belly breath at a time — your body, your mind, your emotional state and your kids will thank you!

Get inspired with this fun children’s mindfulness exercise

logoforsiteEditor’s note: Celebrate Screen-Free Week, May 4-10, by turning off your screens and helping your children to unplug from digital entertainment. APtly Said will be encouraging families to connect with one another by not posting next week.

Whether or not you choose to participate in Screen-Free Week with your family — and whatever your approach to this event, whether a wholehearted all-or-nothing dive into a completely tech-free week or maybe dipping in a toe or two by going screen-free for a day or two and seeing what happens — this can be a wonderful opportunity for you and your family to get creative while exploring all kinds of fun, non-tech activities.

Yoga and mindfulness exercises, dancing, singing, story telling as well as reading are just some of a huge array of options. Maybe you have some ideas in mind already: Go ahead and try them out with your kids. If you want more inspiration, how about combining the above activities into one fun practice? How about getting your body moving along to some of your kids’ favorite stories?

Grab a favorite book. Any book will do here, but going with an easy, short and picture-based story with lots of animal characters might best facilitate the exercise. Sit down with your kids, cuddle up, read the story together. If you have kids who are already able to read by themselves, take turns in reading the story to each other page by page.

Start acting it out. Play around with voices, intonation, speed. Get into some body language. Have fun trying out different facial expressions. Move your arms and legs along with the story. Maybe at this point of the process, you will find yourselves standing up, walking, running, dancing and singing, or jumping across the room instead of sitting in the spot where you started out. Fantastic!

Now come up with matching yoga poses for the characters — imitating animals, plants, shapes like triangles, balls and houses that occur throughout the story. Take your breath along for the ride
here, taking deep, mindful inhales and exhales while playing around with different yoga poses.

Let this be a flowing process. Get creative and have fun. You don’t need to come up with a pre-drafted elaborate choreography before you present this activity to your kids. Rather, have the whole family be part of the process — inventing, creating, trying out, inspiring and surprising each other as you go.

In case you’d like to get started now and try this out, but feel overwhelmed, look for a story-based children’s yoga book at your local library or bookstore, such as Jasper’s Journey to the Yoga-Animals, and go from there. These books help by inspiring parents to read to their kids and move along with them, exploring yoga poses and mindful breathing exercises while listening to a fun story.

Whatever you decide to do during Screen-Free Week, I hope you and your kids have tons of fun along the way!

Insight from the International Children’s Yoga Conference on mindfulness

IngaBohnekamp2Last month, I was invited as a guest speaker to the International Children’s Yoga Conference in the beautiful town of Heidelberg in Southern Germany. The main topic of this year’s conference was mindfulness, and my workshop focused on my mindfulness and yoga work with children dealing with chronic illness.

Participants with all kinds of different backgrounds and from five different countries traveled to Heidelberg in order to learn, inspire and grow together over the course of three days. Several guest speakers shared experiences and ideas around different mindfulness topics. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience, and everyone seemed to leave the conference and the town of Heidelberg inspired and happy — but many participants also seemed to be a bit surprised by how their conference experience differed from what they had expected it to be like.

On my seven-hour train ride from Heidelberg up to Berlin, Germany, I had to opportunity to connect and chat with some of these participants and learn in more detail about their impressions on the conference and the topic of mindfulness. Here is what I discovered:

While many of the (mostly) yoga teachers seemed to have anticipated workshops and lectures providing them with hands-on tips and strategies and tools on how to “teach” mindfulness to children, this is what they got instead: Alongside many hands-on tips and techniques, over the course of these three days, they were taken on a rather self-exploratory journey themselves — tuning into their very own minds, connecting to their intuition, experiencing and exploring mindfulness from the inside out!

This is the true essence of mindfulness work with children and teenagers and adults alike, no matter in which setting. The basic and most important prerequisite is us being mindful ourselves, within our own lives. Only then can we be authentic and function as gentle guides for others — be this our partner, our own children, our patients, clients, students. Once we cultivate a mindfulness practice for ourselves — this can look very differently for each and everyone of us — we will automatically radiate this to our surroundings and maybe start inspiring the ones around us toward a more mindful way of living.

So, if you want to “teach” your kids “how to be more mindful,” the starting point is you!

You, cultivating your own mindfulness practice. This can be as simple as focusing on your breathing for three minutes everyday, maybe first thing in the morning before you even get out of bed or last thing at night before you go off to sleep.

You will be in a much better and more authentic place for incorporating mindfulness into your loved ones’ lives.

And although seeking for inspiration at conferences, in books, on the Internet or in classes — once you start your own journey — don’t be surprised if you become so inspired that you come up with your and your family’s very own mindfulness practices and traditions. Wishing you a wonderful journey. If you like, connect with me and let me know how it goes.

Wishing upon a star…mindfully ringing in the New Year as a family

stars-christmas-tree-2-1322945-mToday, I want to share with you a beautiful, mindful way to ring in the New Year as a family: Wishing upon a star.

You can repeat this practice on a regular — maybe monthly — base throughout the year if you like. It is a beautiful way to check in and connect with your loved ones and mindfully, playfully, agree on some core values.

I have to confess that I have never been fond of New Year’s intentions. In fact, I cannot recall ever having set some of the typical New Year’s intentions.

However, I love — and have enjoyed sharing with many kids, teens and families so far — this idea of mindfully and gently inviting whatever it is you wish for…may it be more happiness, kindness, joy, ease, harmony, health…into your lives. You can practice with children and teenagers of any age, simply by adapting your choice of words.

Wishing Upon a Star

  • The setup: A cozy space to sit — e.g. your living room floor (how about sitting by the lights of your Christmas tree, if you have one?), a cozy rug or blanket spread on the floor, a couple of cushions or yoga mats arranged in a circle, or…you get the idea.

I highly recommend turning your session into a fun and creative crafting project. This helps visualize your wishes and gives you the opportunity to create a shared reminder for future reference, which you might pin up on your fridge or another communal spot in your home.

For the crafting, you will need many stars (made of cardboard, paper, foam or any material you feel comfortable writing on and of colors according to your family’s preferences), colorful markers, a large piece of cardboard and glue, or a pin board and pins.

  • The practice:

Once everyone feels ready, all together come to a nice, comfortable, seated position — making sure each of you has some space around them for extending arms on both sides of your body — and gently close your eyes.

Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, letting your breath simply flow in its natural rhythm, giving each of you a chance to settle and check in with yourself for a couple of moments, and to anchor your awareness on your breathing.

Then, gently holding your awareness on your breathing — and simply bringing it back there over and over again whenever your attentions starts to wander elsewhere — gently deepen your inhales and your exhales more and more, as much as it feels comfortable to each one of you.

With each deep inhale, now spread your arms wide open to your sides — much like as if you were about to give someone a huge hug — creating space. Pause. When the exhale rolls in, gently let go, letting all the air float back out of your body. Simultaneously lower your arms to wherever feels comfortable for you: your lap, your sides or maybe bringing your palms together in front of your heart. Pause, settling into the space and calm.

Continue this breathing pattern for a couple of minutes:

  • Inhaling: Opening up, creating new space, making room for whatever it is we would like to invite into our lives.
  • Pause.
  • Exhaling: Letting go, gently letting go of things we might hold on to that no longer serve us and giving us a moment to settle into the clear space we have created with the power of our breathing.
  • Pause.
  • Repeat.

Adapt the length of this exercise to your family’s preferences and of course the age of your children: The younger your children, the shorter the practice will probably be. Once you feel you have continued this breathing pattern long enough, gently return to the natural rhythm of your breathing and mindfully follow it for couple more moments before you gently open your eyes.

Share a smile. Share a hug. Share a huge hug.

Then, on to the crafting part. Each of you grabs as many stars as you like and, one wish per star, writes down things each person would like to invite into his or her lives and into your life together as a family.

Share. Connect. Discuss. Explore. Stay open, and let yourself be surprised. This is a wonderful occasion for connecting with your loved ones and sharing what is close to your hearts. Have fun with this!

Once you have assembled all your stars onto the cardboard or pin board, find a beautiful space for the reminder you have created. And, if you like, come back and check in regularly.

Happy New Year to all of you! May whatever it is you wish for on your stars find the space to enter, enrich and lighten up your lives!

Mindful Parenting

mindful parentingThe Chinese idiogram for “mindfulness” pictured here is made up of two different elements: the top part meaning “presence” over the bottom part meaning “heart.” This makes  for a wonderful translation of the word, “mindfulness,” into “presence of heart.”

I chose this translation as this introduction to mindful parenting, because I feel it is a wonderful way of expressing the very essence of mindfulness. If mindfulness can be described as “presence of heart,” I would like to describe mindful parenting as “parenting from the heart.”

Mindful parenting is parenting from the depths of our hearts, rather than letting us be guided by a set of pre-fixed, often unreflected beliefs about what is right and wrong — beliefs about things having to be done or seen a certain way, standards and rules we might have been brought up by and that might even have been around for many generations.

Mindful parenting in a way is about making your own rules — rules that nourish and suit your family’s needs at this very moment of your life. It is about connecting to your heart, to your instincts, to your intuition — all these parts deep down inside of you, which might be hard or even scary to access at times. It is about tapping into these — our own! — very powerful sources of wisdom while letting go of limiting beliefs that might rather blind us and make us prone to getting caught up into the same old drama and vicious interaction circles with our children, over and over again.

Mindful parenting is about looking at your loved ones — and your whole life! — with open eyes, an open heart and a curious mind. It is about taking life and the great and overly important work of parenting one moment at a time. It is about intentionally bringing your awareness to your life as a parent, and with the same intentionality, gently letting go of blinding and limiting judgements that might not serve you and your family any longer.

Once you embark on this exciting journey, mindful parenting will open your heart and mind to all kinds of new and creative views, to greater happiness and contentment. It will lead you to higher levels of compassion for your children, your family, yourself. It will organically guide you toward a way of parenting that is more in sync with what really matters to you as a human being and with what you would like to instill and ignite in your children. It will help you feel connected to your children and those around you at the very heart — naturally instilling a deep, raw and honest sense of interconnectedness and secure attachment.

Mindful parenting requires us to stay present, open, curious, willing to let go of our  “inner judge,” who is constantly censoring and judging whatever is going on around us as well as what is going on inside of us — many times without us even noticing.

A wonderful way to begin with mindful parenting is to start with your own breath. Try tuning into your breath at different moments of your day. To start, you don’t even need to schedule this practice into your probably already über-busy days, although you might naturally want to gently make more room for it over time. You are breathing anyways. At any given moment. As long as you live. So start right here! Right in this very moment!

Right where you are at:

  1. On your next breath in, follow your in-breath. Obeserve it. Can you feel the air flowing into your body? Where do you feel it? At the tip of your nose? In your throat? In your chest, maybe expanding your ribcage? Further down in your belly? What does your breath feel like? Warm? Or rather cold? Does it feel shallow? Or deep? Fast? Or slow?
  2. Now follow your out-breath as it comes about. What does this feel like? Can you feel the air leaving your body? Where? What does your body feel like while you breathe out?

Explore! Be curious! Ask questions. Your breath can teach you a lot about yourself and your (inter)actions in this very moment. This will, at a later point, help you better understand and reflect on your thoughts, emotions, actions and your interactions with your children.

Once you start regularly bringing your awareness to your breathing, you will notice that you breathe differently at different moments. These variations in your breathing pattern are likely linked to different emotions, bodily sensations, activities or thoughts . They depend on what is going on in your life at this very moment. For example, if your stress levels are just about to skyrocket because it is one of those crazy Mondays, your breathing will likely feel very different in such a moment — can you feel it at all!? — compared to a moment where you are more calm and relaxed.

Can you observe this? Notice these differences? Stay present. Can you stick with the breathing and observing, without judging, or trying to make immediate changes? Give it a try! Start right now. Stick with it for a while. Go with the flow of your breath and see what it tells you and where it guides you.

With some practice, you will soon notice that you become more sensitive toward yourself, your children, your family, your whole environment. You will become more aware of what is going on inside of you — thoughts, feelings, impulses — as well as around you. You might feel a new or deeper compassion for yourself, as well as for your loved ones.

Over time, this will open up a whole new universe of compassion, love, creativity and space. You will notice that no matter how stressful, tense or messed up the situation you are in seems to be, you always have a choice. You have a choice on how you would like to react to a certain situation or interaction with your child, as opposed to reacting on autopilot or jumping into a judgmental mode right away.

Let me know how it goes.

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