Let’s face it, no matter how patient or zen we try to be, some days parenting can be hard—and finding balance—even harder! Lucky for us, mindfulness teacher Jackie Stewart chatted with us about meditating and how her own practice has changed since her 2-year-old son, Phoenix, has been on the scene.
Baybala: How would you describe your philosophy or approach to mindfulness and meditation?
Jackie: It’s all about connection. It’s engaging our capacity for awareness and tapping into our ability to love—both internally (self-connection), and externally (connection through our relationships and environment). Oftentimes, it’s challenging to feel connected to anything around us, if we’re not connected with ourselves first.
Baybala: How did you first get involved with meditation?
Jackie: I was first introduced to meditation in college while spending a weekend at the Zen Mountain Center in Southern California. I was taking a course called Leading as a Way of Serving, and our entire class went as a team building exercise. That weekend exposed me to some of the most personal and intimate aspects of my mind that I didn’t know were there. I became aware of the internal commentary that so much of my life was filtered through, and it gave me some space to actually see how much influence it had. It was an opening into being able to actually work with the circumstances in my life, rather than feeling overcome by them.
Baybala: Did your practice change after you had kids? If so, how?
Jackie: LOL, my practice absolutely changed after having a baby. I went from having a formal meditation practice ranging from 45-60 minutes a day, to a more in the moment mindfulness practice sprinkled into diaper changes, breastfeeding, and baby gazing (when you just stare in awe at the perfection of a brand new human being). My practice became all these intermittent opportunities to stay open, present, and engaged with what was happening right in front of me.
Baybala: Any tips for other moms trying to staying on track, starting or improving their meditation practice?
Jackie: Be gentle with yourself. Many of us struggle with a vision of what we think meditation, a calm mind, or being a patient person is supposed to look like. This causes us to view ourselves through a very critical lens, and doesn’t give us much space to discover the tenderness and courage that can be revealed in this practice.
- Start with some guidance. Whether that’s working personally with a teacher, going into a center, or the convenience of an app. Guided meditations can offer a foundation and structure for practice. Come and practice together with me on Monday evenings at MNDFL in NYC, or on the Journey LIVE app every weekday morning at 8am EST.
- Give yourself 10 minutes a day. Real benefits are established by developing healthy habits, so set yourself up with the consistency of a daily practice. Sometimes working it into another part of your daily routine can be helpful in building it in as something you just do, like brushing your teeth.
- Get creative. Try different styles, teachers, ways of sitting, and even where you practice to see what feels most supportive for you. In my first year of postpartum, my practice happened everywhere from the bathroom floor to the stairwell of my building. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity to make self-care happen.
Baybala: Do you have suggestions for introducing meditation to kids?
Jackie: The most honest way I can answer this question is to have a meditation practice of your own, and let your kids become curious about what you’re doing. By modeling the act of slowing down and taking care of your own experience, your kids may ask questions about it or express an interest in joining you. I think this is a beautiful and organic introduction for kids, and also keeps us accountable for the very thing we’re hoping to share with them.
Baybala: Any other suggestions or thoughts on meditation or motherhood that you’d like to share?
Jackie: I personally think meditation has the potential to transform our entire approach to parenting. It has helped me reflect on all the ways that I felt cared for and loved as a child, and also all the ways in which I felt rejected or hurt by the way I interpreted other people’s actions. It gives us a chance to show up for ourselves and heal all the parts of us that might still be wounded from our own childhood, and then we can intentionally parent from a place of wholeness, rather than a place of unexamined fragmentation. In a sense, we’re re-parenting ourselves as we emerge as the inspired parents we know we can be.
Baybala: One of the guiding principles of our brand is to live with intention. Our clothes are designed to allow women to have more time to be present with their families. What are the little (or big) things you do to try and find those moments with your kids?
Jackie: I’m a believer of quality over quantity, especially when it comes to presence because you’re either checked in or checked out. When I return from even a few hours away from my son, I make sure that we have at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted reconnection time. That means I’m down on the floor engaged with whatever he’s doing. Sometimes he wants me to play trucks with him, sometimes he wants me to watch him balance something. I take his lead on whatever we do, and check my own agenda at the door. It’s our time to just BE together.