Mindful Parenting

At the end of January I got lucky and happened to see a text on my daughter’s preschool chat about a wellbeing event at LightHouse Arabia. I usually miss the good stuff so I was excited to see the event had not passed already.  The event cost only 75 dhs (20USD) and the fee was actually an optional donation to charity.

I am a mom of three and every day I wish I had done a bunch of things differently.  I want to be the calm mom and the strict mom. The mom that has polite well-behaved children, the ones that do chores without being asked. I want kids that are nice to each other and respect adults. I want them to do well in school and sports and to have nice friends. I wish they would eat more vegetables and enjoy my cooking, without complaints, every day. While I am making a wish list, I wish they would go on pinterest for inspiration and make their own goddamn lunches too.

I hope for lots of things for my children but what happens, everyday, is I get so caught up in the immediacy of it all that I end up just being a mediocre version of myself. I yell, I say things I wish I hadn’t and I settle for the minimum. Sometimes I don’t care if anyone brushes their teeth. But because I am me, and because I strive for success, I’ll feel guilty about it all later. And in this cycle I read and I write and I try to learn as much as I can. I try to have fun with them and enjoy the little moments, because they go so fast. I heard an interview with an amazing mother recently and she said everyone should be the mom that comes naturally to them and if you do that, your kids will turn out fine. It’s true though, we spend so much energy trying to be a different, better kind of parent that we can lose our strengths in the struggle.

Anyway…I do not have much wisdom for you, except that I learned a lot from the workshop that I went to and I thought I would share some of it here, on the blog to help others. It was super nice to take a break from my family on a Saturday and listen to well-trained professionals. The event was relaxing, peaceful and so welcoming. My kids did a couple of workshops for kids (technology and baking) and they loved them. I even got a free chair massage and free juice!

The first workshop I attended was Positive Discipline Strategies for Parents. I try to apply positivity to every aspect of my life, but being positive with discipline is super hard for me. Why? Because I get tired and annoyed and it’s so difficult to be constructive in those moments! Almost every friend groaned when I told them I was going to this workshop. They said, “I know how to do this, but I just don’t do it!” Exactly…

I have to say, my discipline strategies have not improved overnight from this workshop but I have been able to apply some of the principles to my everyday. These are the things that stood out to me:

Only pay attention and praise the behavior that you want to see more of instead of focusing on the bad behavior. This makes sense and it does work but it’s still challenging for me! What did help me though, is that the presenter focused on effective praise being much simpler than we think it is. You don’t have to offer rewards or gifts. A simple “thank you”or “you did such a great job with that” is enough.

The workshop included much more but the biggest takeaway I got from it was about how to engage with your kids one on one. This is my struggle with three kids. They all want me and demand things from me and I sometimes end not giving anything to all of them because I am so busy fending them off while I try to help one etc.  Studies show that just ten minutes, alone with each child, doing an activity of their choice is the best way to spend quality time with them. This is not driving in the car or even reading to them. This is child directed time. Don’t interfere too much, don’t ask too many questions, only narrate what they are doing. Example, “you put all the blue blocks together and all the red ones over there.”

I started doing this each day and my kids love it. It’s given more structure to our evenings and helped with everyone’s expectations when they know their time is coming. With my youngest she wants to play mommies and daddies or Sylvanian bunnies. My middle one wants to play Go Fish or “Gold Fish” as she calls it. My oldest one usually wants to play a game of cards or a board game. The important thing is that they pick the activity and they lead the way.

Next I went to a workshop about the appropriate use sof technology for kids. I learned a lot here and this topic opens up a huge can of worms. The internet is big, guys, and we can limit their use of screens and devices and the content they access BUT it is so important to be involved with their education in technology. I also learned the hard way this year that I need to teach my children what to do if they come across something inappropriate or unsuitable for children. My instinct was just to shelter them completely and while I will NOT be giving my kids unlimited and uncontrolled access to devices or the internet, it is important to teach them how to use these things. Like everything else in life, it is so important that these lessons come from parents and that we just keep talking and communicating. They need to know they can come to us if they see something that makes them uncomfortable or curious.

Lastly, I want to tell you about the Smart Heart Board Game. My two oldest children came with me to play a life-size version of this at the workshop. They loved the game so much that I bought it from the creators. The game involves just enough competition to keep my oldest engaged and they actually like playing it together. The typical birth order issues do come out and there is some bickering but it all ends well! Even my three-year old can play, if I help her. We’ve only had the game two weeks and everyone has their own special game piece and we play everyday.  I love it because it encourages talking, sharing and empathy, all the things I try to teach, but it does it in a way that is not too obvious. I now follow LightHouse Arabia on instagram so I don’t miss anymore amazing community days. For more information see links below!

http://www.lighthousearabia.com

https://www.smartheartboardgame.com

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginners Guide To Meditation

img_3383

(The most zen like photo I could find of myself…)

If I told you I received a mantra from my grandmother for my ninth birthday, you would probably ask what cult I was raised in. No cult. Just your typical suburban upbringing. My grandmother, when she was living, had a lifelong relationship with Transcendental Meditation (TM) and she lived in an ashram during my childhood. I received my mantra from her friend, a TM teacher named Olga on a sunny day in September. I was young enough to accept all of it without questioning it or being worried what my friends would think if I told them. I tried to use it but, like most things a child is left alone to pursue, I couldn’t find my own motivation. I am still grateful for the introduction even though I never continued my education in TM.

Fast forward quite a few years. I used my child’s walking mantra when I thought of it or under times of stress but, like most people, I just didn’t “get” meditation. I loved yoga but, whenever the teacher invited the class to sit with our eyes closed and meditate, my inner dialogue would only accelerate its normal pace. All I could think was “I’m not good at it. It doesn’t work. I can’t clear my mind. I am not able to meditate. I am so uncomfortable. And my favorite: When will this be over!”

It has taken me almost 30 years to realize that this inner dialogue is the point of meditation. Over time, your mind learns to be in the moment for longer periods of time and, when thoughts do float in, you try to accept them and let them keep on walking.

In the last 9 months, I have been exploring the wide world of sound healing meditations in Dubai and I have become a little obsessed. I have gotten a few friends hooked too. We are all texting each other events and clearing our busy evenings when we can. As it turns out, relaxation is addictive.

Sound meditations are like a private concert for your mind and body. If you like feeling a sense of calm, music and lying down with your eyes closed, you might like them too. There are a variety of styles of sound meditations going on in Dubai. Gong, singing bowls and hand pans are the ones I have experienced. The idea is that your body and mind relax so you are able to receive the sound vibrations and bring your body into a state of balance.

It’s not all perfect, like everything in life, it has many ups and downs. Last Spring, I dragged my reluctant husband to a sound healing meditation and he snored so loud I couldn’t get out of my state of distraction and annoyance to find my bliss. Another morning, I arranged a private singing bowl meditation on Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boards at Surf House Dubai for myself and friends. It was beautiful, but I realized morning meditations might not be the easiest for a frazzled mom after the school drop off. I love being in the ocean on a SUP board and I love singing bowl meditations, but maybe not together. Luckily, there is no shortage of choices in Dubai for timings and venues. My best advice is to try different ones. Don’t judge only on your first impressions. Try to keep an open mind. Lastly, be easy on yourself. Learning mindfulness is a journey, not a race.

To help you ease into the idea of meditation I have created a beginner’s guide of why and how to enjoy meditation, even if you think you will hate it!

1)It’s much cheaper than a massage (costs vary from approximately 50-150 dhs per session) and many meditations are even free, a super huge bonus in Dubai!

2)You don’t have to know how to do it, there are no breathing techniques or methodologies, you just have to sit or lay down, listen and relax.

3)You might fall asleep which indicates a deep sense of relaxation where healing can occur but don’t fret, if you don’t fall asleep, your body is still getting benefits and it may help you sleep better that night.

4)It forces you to switch off. There are no mobile phone noises You are not checking emails or texts and nobody is trying to get your attention. As a mom of three, this is my favorite part. Surprisingly, meditations are one of the few places that people actually adhere to the “no mobile” rule.

5)You are doing something great for yourself. There are immediate effects on your body and mind but the results can also have a larger effect, such as reducing stress, PTSD, depression, anxiety and pain.

6)You may be having a positive effect on the world around you. Studies have shown that large group meditations have a positive effect on the community around them. If you take a large group of people and they are all thinking about peace and love, the positive energy is bound to trickle down to others.

7)You can meet great people. There is no judgement, no exclusivity or rudeness. You will be greeted by kind people who are glad you came.

8)It gives you a new insight into Dubai. Many meditation venues are devoid of the typical glitz and glamour of Dubai. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the special culture and spirituality present in our vibrant city.

9)Meditation, even if you don’t feel like it’s working, changes the way you think and feel over time, and change is an important thing for us as humans. As many people say, change is the only constant in life.

10)There really aren’t any rules. You will hear people around you shifting or coughing, you might even hear some snoring. My advice is to arrive early, find a comfortable spot, leave your phone at home or in the car and relax!

Some Meditation Venues in Dubai

http://illuminations.ae/apps/mindbody/list-schedule
http://lifenone.com/schedules/
https://www.facebook.com/TaijituHouseOfOM/?fref=ts
https://www.facebook.com/groups/zarinegongmeditations/

Lastly, if the sound of a group meditation is too overwhelming for you, I can’t stress the amazing side effects of developing a short daily meditation practice at home enough. Think you don’t have time?
Do you have time to sit for five- ten minutes a day with your phone on silent and breath deeply?
If you don’t, you might need to reassess your lifestyle 🙂 I keep headphones in my purse and use windows of time to meditate using guided apps instead of wasting time doing other things that I thought were relaxing (news, anyone?!). I have noticed that I feel more rested, relaxed and calm since incorporating these moments of mindfulness into my life.

These are my favorite apps, they are so easy to use and help me make time for meditation, everyday. Buddhify is the first one I downloaded, and it’s great for beginners, the meditations are short and categorized by specific purposes.

http://buddhify.com

http://www.meditationstudioapp.com

https://www.headspace.com