Building a Mindfulness Practice When Life and Divorce Keep Getting in the Way
Many people recognize the value of taking a moment and a deep breath, and getting our emotions under control when a situation is triggering. We know that’s what we should do, but the stresses and pressures of life get in the way before we’re able to slow down and relax.
How can we find time and space to build the mindfulness practice that we know would help us when we’re working, going through a divorce, single parenting children, and dealing with all of life’s other demands?
Joree Rose is a licensed marriage and family therapist, mindfulness and meditation teacher, author, and speaker. In this, the fourth in a four-part series on the benefits of practicing mindfulness while going through a divorce, she offers advice on how to make time and space for awareness, breathing, and intentional thought.
“When I started years ago, meditation still felt pretty woo-woo and not very mainstream,” Joree said. “I’ll be honest, I was a little judgmental and thinking, ‘That’s not who I am.’ I was a busy stay-at-home mom at the time of two young girls, and I wasn’t the type who meditated. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do when I was going to meditate. I did not understand the purpose.”
Joree said that when she began exploring mindfulness, the common wisdom held that a meditation practice needed to last 20 to 40 minutes every day. She didn’t see how she could fit that into her already full, noisy day.
“I didn’t have 20 to 40 minutes a day, and if I did, it might not be spent in meditation,” Joree said. “So, I very compassionately said, I know that’s not going to work for me. I had to meet myself where I was at.”
For Joree, that meant taking advantage of the times when she was in her car alone. She would turn off the radio, put down her phone, and focus on her breathing while I was driving.
“I would consciously say the words, “breathing in, breathing out” inside my mind as I connected with my breaths,” she said.
Doing that allowed her to be aware of her surroundings.
“I really looked around. I noticed the colors of the hills. I noticed the colors of the cars around me. I noticed that there were flowers blooming, what kind of trees there were. It’s so simple; it sounds almost silly.”
As she did this, she increasingly found that when she got to wherever she was going, she felt more peaceful, calmer, and more present. She used that time in the car to mentally transition between activities and that transition time allowed her to be more mentally present in each place she went.
In time, her meditation practice grew, and she found more ways and times to incorporate mindfulness into her life. Soon, she was creating space at home in the mornings to have a sitting-down, eyes-closed practice.
Now, she teaches others to begin their own mindfulness practice by starting with their eyes open when driving. This simple, approachable style of meditation allows people to meet themselves quite literally where they’re at, and that allows more people to succeed in their practice.
“I’m not going to tell you that you need to do 20 to 40 minutes a day because I still don’t do that, even though I have a well-established practice. But I think people can find 30 seconds to a minute, maybe one, two or three times throughout their day to slow down, to create some space for stillness and silence, and to connect with their breath intentionally, and to just notice whatever is arising with compassion, instead of judgment,” Joree said.
Joree also teaches clients to use a strategy she calls STOP, an acronym for Slow Down; Take a Breath; Observe; and Proceed. She says that STOP is something people can do practically anywhere by simply observing their thoughts, emotions, sensations, and distractions.
The benefits of a mindfulness practice are especially helpful for people going through a divorce, Joree said, and her mindfulness practice helped her tremendously during her own divorce five years ago.
“For people thinking about or in the middle of marital conflict or conflict of any kind, it’s so important to come from a place of choice and personal control. I think that meditation and mindfulness can be so helpful with that,” Joree said.
But it’s important, she said, for people to let go of expectations that their own mindfulness practice will start smoothly.
“People assume to meditate means to have a clear mind, or that they’ll feel peaceful in a meditation or be zen-like afterwards or during, and that’s not the case. Rarely do we actually feel peaceful or have a clear mind, especially in the beginning of a practice. So, get rid of those assumptions as a route marker for a successful meditation. To me, it’s successful if you’ve created a space for it. Whatever happens, happens.”