Mindful

Last week, my daughter and I were traveling on the East Coast when she started coughing. We decided to take a “watchful waiting” approach for a couple days to see if it would clear up. After two nights of much coughing and little sleep, the only thing that had become clear was that the cough was getting worse. Fortunately, the next day, my sister who works in a medical clinic helped us get an appointment with a pediatrician, who diagnosed her with pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics.

Waiting in the clinic waiting room before our appointment, I sat with the other mothers and little ones, ranging in age from a few months to early teens. Moms held their babies, and older kids leaned on their moms, heads resting on shoulders or laps. I could see in the mothers’ eyes the concern and fatigue that comes from caring for a sick child.

Parenting is amazing, beautiful, and rewarding, and it is hard work, even on the best of days. Add illness or injury to your child, and it’s even harder. Add one’s own mental health vulnerabilities to anxiety or depression, and it’s harder still. Kids lean on moms, and it’s important for moms to have something to lean on too.

Kids lean on moms, and it’s important for moms to have something to lean on too.

Which is why I worked for many years with my colleague Sherryl Goodman to design an eight week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy course for mothers. It’s called MBCT-PD (PD is for perinatal, which refers to the months during pregnancy and after becoming a parent), and it’s designed to resonate with pregnant and postpartum women who have histories of depression. We teach moms to lean on the support of mindfulness practice on the good days, and to lean on it even more on the tough days.

The loving-kindness practice that we teach in MBCT with moms who have a history of depression has been a touchstone for many during hard times. We share a portion of the guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg here with you with our wish that you and your children are well and live with ease.

Loving-kindness Meditation For Moms

  • We always start with loving-kindness for oneself as a mother, repeating the phrases: “May I be filled with loving-kindness. May I treat myself with kindness in good times and in hard times. May I be well and live with ease.” Then, we move to sharing that foundation of care with one’s child:
  • Bring your baby to mind. If you are a mother to be, bring to your awareness your baby growing within. If you are a mother, bring your baby to mind or perhaps look at your baby in your arms, sitting or sleeping. Share this loving-kindness with your baby.
  • You can say gently to yourself:
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”
    You can gently repeat these phrases over and over again.
  • Hold each phrase in your attention and connect to it. As best you can, let your mind rest in the phrases.
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”
  • Feel the meaning of what you are saying, yet without trying to force anything. And whenever you find your attention has wandered, it’s okay. When you recognize you’ve lost touch with the moment, you can always gently let go and begin again. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where your mind has gone, it doesn’t matter. We have a capacity to renew, to start over, to come back.
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”
    You can use your baby’s name or the phrase, “my baby”, whichever seems right to you.
  • Gather all your attention behind one phrase at a time. You don’t have to try to make anything happen or fabricate or manufacture any special feeling, but rather shepherd your attention back to these phrases. Whenever you find your attention has wandered, don’t judge yourself, and be as completely present behind one phrase as you can be.
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”
  • Experience this sense of being connected to your baby and inviting love and care for your baby, exactly as they are in this moment.
    “May my baby be surrounded with loving-kindness. May I respond to my baby with kindness in good times and in hard times. May my baby be well and live with ease.”

No matter how long it’s been, no matter where your mind has gone, it doesn’t matter. We have a capacity to renew, to start over, to come back.

Sona Dimidjian is collaborating with Sherryl H. Goodman on the forthcoming book, The Mindful Path to Well Being During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood, with audio guided meditations by Sharon Salzberg, Guilford Press.
Sona Dimidjian

Dr. Sona Dimidjian is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Director of CU CREST. Her research addresses the treatment and prevention of depression, with a particular focus on the mental health of women during pregnancy and postpartum. Her forthcoming book: The Mindful Path to Well Being During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood, by Sona Dimidjian and Sherryl H. Goodman, with audio guided meditations by Sharon Salzberg, will be published by Guilford Press.

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