Mindful

There’s a common misperception that practicing mindfulness imposes another idealized picture of what our lives as parents or lovers or close friends or leaders at work should be: Always calm, always in control, and always knowing what to do, like a stereotype from an old TV show. We can’t help but fall short of this idealized vision. Recognizing that view itself is something to notice, and then we can practice setting it aside.

Our relationships, our career, the way our kids turn out—these rarely match the pictures in our minds.

Maybe you love your spouse but he never remembers to take out the trash. Or your daughter is happier as an artist than a dentist. Or you were going be that boss who always stays calm but instead often loses your cool. Here’s a reflection that may help you align your view of what is with what’s really there.

Our relationships, our career, the way our kids turn out—these rarely match the pictures in our minds.


One note of caution about family: If it’s too intense to contemplate your family life, skip this exercise. Mindfulness can be used around trauma but ideally when integrated into some kind of therapy.


1. For the next week, notice when something isn’t fitting into your view of what your life “should” look like. Try writing it down.

2. After a week, look at your list. Notice first those things actually under your influence, such as logistics or a miscommunication that requires resolution. Of course, don’t judge yourself if you haven’t actually quite figured out how you’re going to manage, but recognize that you could when the time comes.

3. Now, set solid intentions that seem appropriate:

I’m going to try to schedule more family meals. I’m going to get the team together for informal eye-level chats.

For things that are not actually under your influence, how realistic is your picture of the situation right now? When you find your experience overly weighted by feeling you or someone or something “should” be better or different, pause. Focus your attention instead on a few breaths, or an activity with your loved ones, or another brief mindfulness practice.

Instead of treading down that rutted road again, take a moment to actively seek out whatever there is to enjoy as an imperfect person, living in an imperfect family, during any particularly imperfect day.

Take a moment to actively seek out whatever there is to enjoy as an imperfect person, living in an imperfect family, during any particularly imperfect day.

 

This practice is part of a feature article titled, “Living with, and Loving, Your Imperfect Life,” which appeared in the June 2016 issue of Mindful magazine.
Mark Bertin

Dr. Mark Bertin is a developmental behavioral pediatrician and author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution. He is an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York Medical College, on the faculty of the Windward Teacher Training Institute, and on the editorial advisory board of Common Sense Media.

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