meditation for busy parents
I was thinking about swim teachers and the backwards law, or the law of reverse effect – and about how sometimes, the harder we try, the less likely we are to succeed. I was curious whether the instructions swim teachers use to teach people to float are similar to the instructions meditation teachers use to teach people to meditate.
So, I typed “how to float” into a search engine and guess what. I found a set of clear, succinct instructions that could have as easily have been for meditators as swimmers. Listen to them here, in one of thirty, brief guided meditations for busy grownups.
Recently, more and more attention is being given to cognitive biases – psychological traits that have evolved in response to changing environments. A cognitive bias that gets a lot of attention, at least in meditation circles, is the negativity bias. Simply put, having a negative bias means we tend to give more weight to negative input, lousy news, challenging feelings, things about which we're worried than to positive information, good news, lighthearted feelings, things about which we're excited.
Scientists don't agree on how much good news it takes to balance out a single piece of bad news, but five positive inputs for every negative one is a ratio I've seen cited by several researchers. If we use a five-to-one ratio as our rule of thumb, that means let's give ourselves five enthusiastic “yesses,” for every "no!"
When we get caught in the grip of strong emotions our nervous systems shift to high-alert. Then it’s difficult, if not impossible, for us to be open and flexible, to listen and to learn. There’s a name for this – it’s called emotional hijack –a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence. So, what do you do? You practice mindfulness first. What I mean by practicing mindfulness first, is that you use one of the many useful, mindfulness-based calming strategies that can quiet your nervous system and turn the table on emotional hijack.
Mindfulness practice has been shown to enhance our health and quality of life at any age. It’s no wonder so many of us want to teach mindfulness to our kids—but how can a busy parent find both the time and the right approach? “The surest way to raise a mindful child is to be a mindful parent,” teaches Susan Greenland. With Mindful Parent, Mindful Child, this expert teacher presents an audio journey created to help families discover the life-changing power of mindfulness together—in just ten minutes a day.
Are you familiar with the law of reverse effect or the Backwards Law? Sometimes, the harder we try the less likely we are to succeed. For those built with a strong work ethic, the Backwards Law can be hard to get our minds around. What are we supposed to do? Give up? No. Giving up isn't what the Backwards Law is about, it's about relating differently to our goals and aspirations.
It's not possible for parents to know the answer to every question, yet sometimes we act like we do anyway. We resist saying “I don’t know” because we think they’ll feel safer if they believe we know the answer. Often, the opposite is true and kids whose parents are comfortable saying “I don’t know, at least not yet, let’s figure this out together” have more agency and control. And so do their parents.
Life has a way of throwing curve balls and it’s up to us how we respond. Hoping to control the outcome, we often clamp down and think about what happened from every angle. Over and over and over again. But what would happen if we loosened our grip instead of clamping down?
When our minds change - when we feel more relaxed, less stressed, and less reactive - our bodies change too. And when our minds and bodies change our behavior changes, which shifts outcomes, which in turn affects what happens in the world.