Headspace Founder Andy Puddicombe is the founder of the Headspace organisation – the only Clinical Mindfulness Consultant in the UK with Medical Advisory Committee clearance for private practice and full registration with the UK Healthcare and Care Quality Commissions. Described by the New York Times as “doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver did for food”, Andy talks to us about the importance of meditation.
I remember one of my meditation teachers saying to us once, that if we ever decided to leave the monastery and live a so-called ‘normal life’, we should try to have children. Needless to say, this wasn’t because he had concerns about the dwindling population of the planet, but because he believed, and rightly so, that when it comes to learning selflessness and compassion, there’s nothing like looking after a family. I was reminded of this yesterday when a Headspacer tweeted in to ask how it’s possible for parents to meditate when looking after a young child.
I guess flexibility is the first word that comes to mind. In those early days it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have any kind of defined schedule (unless you’re extremely lucky) and so your life will revolve around the wants and needs of the baby. Of course, it helps if there are two of you, so that you can take it in turns to meditate. As tempting as it might be to just crash out when you get the opportunity, it’s worth remembering that the rest you’ll get from meditation is of a far higher quality and is likely to leave you feeling much more refreshed.
In terms of remembering to do practice each day, try to associate the exercise with the baby in some way. So, perhaps when you’re rocking them to sleep you’re reminded to follow the breath, or when they take a nap during the day, that becomes your cue to take out a bit of quality time for yourself. However you decide to do it, it will take a degree of discipline for sure and you’ll need to be highly motivated. But it will be worth every bit of it.
As much as possible though, I’d recommend focusing more on mindfulness or ‘meditation in action’. Remember, meditation is about awareness, about being present. What better way to be present than focusing on the wellbeing and demands of a baby? It’s also about selflessness, not being so concerned with our own feelings and thoughts that we become unhappy or stressed. So, by focusing on the needs of the child, it allows us less time to become self-absorbed. But of course meditation is also about developing empathy for others, and, as frustrating as it might be when they won’t stop crying or won’t go to sleep, it‘s difficult not to connect with that feeling of compassion when you’re holding something so delicate and beautiful as a baby. And if we could justlearn how to extend that same feeling to others in our life, then things can begin to look very, very different.
Andy Puddicombe is a registered Clinical Mindfulness Consultant and Former Buddhist Monk. He is the author of Get Some Headspace and founder of Headspace, a project that aims to make meditation accessible and easy-to-learn.