4 April 2016, by Jim Lim
I just got back from a 10-day Mindfulness getaway. I had to surrender my phone, laptop and all digital devices that may distract me from being in the present. The initial few days were agonising and I had huge withdrawal symptoms. I felt so “cut off” from the rest of the world. Suddenly, I had so much time at my disposal. It felt uneasy. It was very difficult to stay in the present.
What is Mindfulness? From my learning, it means to pay attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally. It is about learning awareness in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings with a curious and open mind, without judgement. Research has shown that being mindful can have an impact on concentration, impulse control, decision-making and self-care. However, it is a discipline and needs to be exercised in our everyday lives.
When I discovered Mindfulness about a year ago, I knew that it was something that our world desperately needs. In fact, our society is fast becoming a mindless place, where we are always chasing after the “next shiny thing”. Perhaps we are spending too much time worrying and fretting about something that has passed. Or maybe we are feeling drained and tired from “having so much on our plates”. Everything moves so fast and we are hyper-connected in every way imaginable – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatspp, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Wechat, Evernote. I began to realise that not many lived in the present anymore. Our actions and behaviour are so driven by the endless chatter in our heads that is based either in the past or the future. I recoiled in shock as I knew that this is the world that my children will be growing up in.
During my time away, as I got past the difficult initial few days, I had time to be acutely aware of the present and did a lot of looking in. I realised that a lot of my parenting, though with good intentions, had my own interests at the core. If I am willing to peel off the layers of “I am doing this for their own good” or “I am just doing the right things to raise you as good children” or “Every good father should be doing this”, the innermost core of my parenting had me as the centre.
I was parenting my children based on my beliefs and what I thought of myself as a father. I did not spend enough time thinking about how my children should be brought up in their own strengths and personalities. Every time I said I was doing something for them, I was actually doing it for myself. My idea of what I should do as a father. In essence, I was parenting based on the chatter in my head. These chatter were based on worries from past experiences or fear from a future I cannot see. I did not have an awareness of what my children really needed. I knew that this was the chief source of many of my frustrations with modern parenting. I learnt I needed to be a Mindful Parent.
Now that I am back in Singapore, I can sense within me a different orientation towards parenting. I will be curiously aware of what is going through my head and heart whenever I am interacting with my children. I want to be present in every moment, enjoying their love and company. And I will be mindful about what they tell me and show to me, so as to really find out who they want to be and can be. Soon, I hope I can help to slow down my children’s already fast-paced world and allow them to discover themselves!