During a recent meditation retreat, I was asked about how motherhood affected my meditation
practice. My friend Megan was worried that unless she had an established meditation practice prior to childbirth, she would never find the time or energy to do so as a new mother.
Her question forced me to reflect on my life as a new parent nearly three years ago. Back then my daughter was tiny and prone to wail if she was not sucking on my breast or being carried in a sling. So I spent the first six months of her life either nursing her on a rocker-glider, or walking at a snail’s pace with her curled up in a sling.
Prior to Ayla’s birth, I was an avid yogini with a spotty meditation practice. I meditated only in times of crisis, and found that I wasn’t able to concentrate for long periods of time while my world fell apart. But yet another miracle of childbirth is that you are forced to learn to meditate—you have no choice in the matter.
As a newborn, my daughter would fall asleep on my lap and refuse to move an inch for hours at a time. The conditions were absolutely perfect for meditation. The house was empty, the phone didn’t ring much (as I had taken a leave of absence from work) and I was physically trapped in a chair. I had nothing to do but breathe in and out, while gazing at my daughter.
Mommy meditation was a tremendous gift to me. I had spent the better part of my life racing around trying to achieve success and social change, and when I gave birth in my mid-thirties, I was very stuck in my ways. Slowing down was going to be hard for me. As would the transition from thinking solely about myself to thinking mostly about my child.
But learning to meditate with my daughter eased the transition. Meditating while feeling the warm weight of a newborn child on your lap is pure bliss. After tasting Mommy Meditation, I would turn off the phone for long stretches and revel in the quiet perfectness of my new life. Whenever I felt restless, I would gaze into my daughter’s eyes and return to a place of inner calm.
I assumed that raising a newborn was mindless work—but becoming a mother was my first real taste of mindfulness. The gift of new motherhood is that there is no place you would rather be than in the present moment—with the doors of your heart blown open by the love you feel for your child.
After we finished talking, Megan was no longer worried about whether she would be capable of cultivating a meditation practice after giving birth. Instead, she was worried that she wouldn’t want to end the mommy meditation to return to the outside world.