I’m not exactly famous for my spiritual side, or for ever having shown any interest in the mystical. In fact, my interest in meditation would surprise a lot of people who knows me well.

I’m the kind of person who likes to do things. Sitting around reciting mantras is not what I would consider a productive activity. I love tasks, and making lists of tasks to do. I organise my tasks in categories and give each its own priority and due date. And don’t even get me started on breaking down a big task in many smaller subtasks. Who doesn’t know the joy of completing all the little subtasks so that the big task can be crossed off? Really, there is very little of what I do that isn’t captured in a task first.

After reading all this you may think I’m a power-house of productivity, that I spend all day crunching through tasks and getting things done. Truth is, that’s rarely the case. After a while my task list grows to a point in which it even stops being feasible: too many things to do, never enough time for doing them. It comes the time when some of the tasks need to be parked away, or dropped altogether, and that’s when being so organised gets too overwhelming and becomes another source of frustration. Completing simple tasks may give you a little boost throughout the day, but realising by the evening that your task list has grown bigger than it was in the morning, it is just depressing.

Meditation is a way to escape all that. A way to shift the focus from “doing” to “being”. If you are thinking: “Being? Seriously?!”, I understand what you mean, that kind of ‘Mr. Miyagi’ language used to put me off too. All it means is that by meditating, you direct all your attentions toward yourself, ignore for a few minutes what is expected of you by others, to listen to what’s going on in your head, to learn what’s really important in your life at that time.

I’m sure you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer before. I didn’t know it was called that too, but it’s the one that goes:

God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

It became popular in the current form after it was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous in their twelve-step program. But that’s beside the point. What’s important is that in many ways that’s what meditation is for. You can find a lot of acceptance in meditation, recognise that there are some things that simply cannot be changed, but more importantly, you can find the “wisdom to know the difference”, and with that wisdom find the determination to change what can and should be changed.

You might be wondering what all this have to do with being a parent. Meditation can help unplug your brain from the confusion of your life, the stress of work, or the frenzy of family life. Meditation has the strange side effect of making people more receptive, and patient. It won’t turn you into Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda overnight, but something does happen.

I also find it’s impossible to learn meditation without being at least a little curious about the various cultures that spread it as a practice: Buddhism, Taoism, Zen. All these philosophies have much to teach to parents. Taoism was kind of teaching therapeutic parenting 500 years before Christ. Can’t believe that? This is a phrase spoken by the Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu:

“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?”

Chinese philosophers are famous for speaking in riddles, but what it refers to is the difference between reacting (with you anger, fears, and anxieties) and responding (notice your anger, but pause, take a breath and consider the situation).

Read the phrase again. It’s something handy to think back to the next time your child is having a meltdown.

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