The start of a new year is a time when many people take stock of their lives and resolve to make changes. If you’re looking for more peace amid a frenetic lifestyle, for yourself and your family, Michelle Gale suggests simple steps to add mindfulness to the mix.
Her book, Mindful Parenting in a Messy World: Living With Presence and Parenting With Purpose (Motivation Press, 2017), combines practical tips and resources with a personal narrative about her own journey. The mindfulness teacher and executive coach lives in Larkspur with her husband and two sons, ages 14 and 10. Learn more at michellegale.com.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness brings us from being on autopilot to being aware. Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose to what’s going on inside of us and outside of us with compassion and without judgment.
Why is it important?
I think that the modern lifestyle, particularly in the Bay Area, is go go go. I rarely speak to a parent, a working parent or stay-at-home parent, who doesn’t desire and long for more pause and more connection to themselves and their families. We’re in a bit of a crisis of attention right now with technology and the pace of our lives. People are longing for something deeper.
How do you fit it into your busy day?
What I often do is have parents look at their whole day from waking up, and write up in news clips what they do. "Wake up. Have coffee. Make breakfast…." Imagine the entire day, and then inject mindfulness into what you’re already doing. … It might just be walking from the door to the car and really feeling your feet on the ground. It might be on your commute and downloading an app on your phone like Simplehabit.com, (a five-minute meditation app).… It might be doing a little meditation while waiting to pick your kids up from soccer or dance lessons. I often sit in my car and close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I use Insight Timer. It’s a great app with short mediations.
How do you handle stress?
We want to notice our triggers early on. For me, it’s often about running out of time. I can get pretty snarky and snippy. As soon as I notice the stress coming, I’ll often notice my feet on the ground or where my hands are hitting the table. Something happens when we shift from mind to body… We want to explore our triggers ahead of time. Is it when my kids are fighting and bickering? Is it when my house is a mess and I can’t think? Bring in curiosity and humor, be able to smile a bit. "The house is a mess, I can see that, and I’m going to let it go." It’s not something that just happens. It happens slowly over time.
What do you do when you fail and lose it?
I always say I’m a recovering yeller... The yelling happens and then the guilt sets in. In the moment, it feels good. It’s a release of energy. … It doesn’t mean we should never be stern or use a different tone of voice, but yelling usually doesn’t get us anywhere but kids crying and us in a bad mood. … It helps us to be more aware. What caused this trigger? Then there’s the recovery. We want to repair. … "So I yelled and I got angry. I wish I hadn’t done that. This was what was going on for me. What was going on for you? How can we do this better?"
Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.