After my son was born, I had a hard time not being in physical contact with him at all times. I distinctly remember that first day when he was taken away for a four-minute check-up. I cried, grew restless, and once he was back in my arms, felt the relief of being complete again. Like every new parent and baby, we were profoundly connected. My body was his resting place, his bed, his food, his warmth.
It wasn’t until a month or so into our new life together that I started to really sense my body as separate from his. I recall the moment the achiness in my back got so loud I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and I reluctantly decided I would take 10 minutes to practice a little yoga by myself. It was overwhelming. Being alone with my body was like an entirely new world. My body felt so different and had so much to say. When I finished, I felt like a black and white page fully colored in with rich and vibrant colors. Ten minutes! I was amazed.
Sticking to the task of “taking 10” grew into more of a regular thing, and I could start to tell the difference on the days I didn’t make that time for myself. It was no easy task, and the reluctance was louder or softer depending on the day, but each time I overcame the initial discomfort of leaving to be with myself, I was always glad I did. I came back to parenting with fullness, compassion and joy.
Instead of taking 10 minutes to disconnect and zone out, try taking 10 minutes to enliven and connect to your full self. The result? Coming back to the privilege of parenting more alive, grounded, clear and present. Here are five of my favorite 10-minute practices that I have found to be effective, easy and cost-free ways to reconnect with myself. (One caveat: your children need to be cared for by someone else during these 10-minute practices, so that you can really tune into just you.)
1. 10 minute time-out: Get a timer. Go in a room that has a door. Close the door. Set your timer for 10 minutes. Close your eyes. Let your body be in charge, and start to move any way your body wants to move. Let go of any thoughts like “I should do this…” and let your body decide. Be gentle and playful. When your timer goes off, take a big breath in and out, notice whatever is happening, and give yourself a smile. What are you most aware of now?
2. Walk it out: When do you ever get to walk around without carrying anything? If you’re a parent, chances are, never. Grab your keys and nothing else. If you decide you really need your phone, commit to no talking or texting while you walk. Get outside and simply stroll. Walk in a non-hurried, relaxed way and look around. Really take in your neighborhood. This isn’t decision-making or planning-time, it’s being-alone-outside-your-home time. See, feel and listen to what’s around you. What do you see?
3. My body, my bath: Make your bath the perfect temperature. If you can, light a candle, and turn the lights low. (If you’re in NYC, a bath might not be possible. If so, just adjust this to a reasonably-timed shower.) Be in the warm water and let these 10 minutes be for your body. Listen to your body with the same kind attention you would for your child. Notice any feelings, thoughts or sensations, and just let them be there. The idea is not to fix or change anything, it is to simply be present to yourself with kindness. Keep bringing your attention back to sensing your body. What’s it like to be gentle with yourself?
4. Journaling: Get some paper, a favorite pen and a timer. Set your timer for 10 minutes, and start writing. See if you can write whatever comes up right onto the paper. Maybe it isn’t in the form of a sentence, no worries, just write words or even draw. The practice is to keep your pen moving. Slow down, move fast, just don’t stop. When you are coming close to the end of your 10 minutes, take some time to look over what is on your page. What truth is it showing you?
5. Nourishing myself: So many of us parents end up scrounging around for quick leftovers or half-eaten toddler meals, eat it in four minutes and call it dinner. This is a practice in truly nourishing yourself. It might involve cooking an intricate meal or buying a favorite treat. Whatever you choose, make it a loving choice. Make your place then sit and eat -- by yourself without any distractions. Use all 10 minutes to eat slowly and quietly, and notice, taste and savor the flavors and textures. Breathe between bites. How does it feel to feed yourself?
Do have trouble finding time for you? Which of these practices do you think you might be able to stick with?