Participants are writing posts about what mindfulness mean to them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Several years before I became a mother, I became a Registered Nurse. I worked through a Bachelors program in Nursing, received my degree, and passed the NCLEX licensure exam to become an RN. I felt very prepared from my schooling for working as a nurse, but I had no idea how much on-the-job learning there would be. I certainly never anticipated that it would have such an effect on my life today.
In my first full-time nursing position, I was working 12-hour night shifts (7:00 PM to 7:30 AM) mostly taking care of surgical patients. While I was good at my job, I often felt like I wasn't able to connect with my patients the way I wanted to. I always felt like I was rushing around to get everything accomplished within my shift (while still being able to take a lunch break). My patient load was heavy. Though my teammates and I helped each other out a lot, I still felt like I wasn't getting to spend the kind of time with my patients that I wanted (and needed) to for me to feel like I was practicing nursing with integrity.
I went to talk to a nurse mentor of mine, and he gave me some excellent advice. He told me it sounded like I needed to work on being more mindful during my time at work. He suggested that I develop a short ritual that I would perform before entering a patient's room, something that would help me leave my list of things "to do" at the door and allow me to be fully present with them in that moment. He talked me through a ritual he used to practice when he was a floor nurse (before becoming a nurse educator) and he challenged me to work it, or something like it, into my routine during my shift.
I left our meeting feeling like his insights to my work frustration were totally on point. I reflected about our conversation for a long while that day. I realized how easy it was to fall into the habit of identifying each of my patients (both in my mind and to my coworkers) by their room number. It was equally tempting to refer to them by the surgery they had just had to distinguish them from each other. Though this kind of shorthand was an effective way for me to organize my work in my mind, it wasn't the best way to honor my patients; it didn't give them the dignity they deserved. I decided I was going to work hard at being more mindful of that, and more present in each moment during my nursing practice.
Over the next week, I made an effort to implement a mindfulness exercise during my shifts: I would pause a moment before entering a patient's room, placing my hand on the door frame by their room number. I would take a deep breath, say the patient's name to myself, and picture their face (not their surgical site) in my mind. Only then would I enter the room, making sure to be aware of the energy that I was about to bring into their space of healing.
I noticed that I began to feel more satisfaction in my work. My mindfulness exercise didn't add any significant amount of time to my work, and I was still able to get everything accomplished. In fact, I began to feel like I was being more efficient! Taking that moment outside the patients' doors was helping me to remember everything I was supposed to do on that trip into their room, so I was making fewer return trips for forgotten items.
The mindfulness practice not only helped me to feel better about my work, but I noticed after a few shifts that it had changed the way I was interacting with my patients. I was making more eye contact. I was better understanding and remembering their responses to my questions. I was aware when someone would speak to me as I was on my way out of the room, and I made a point to turn back around and look them in the eyes to answer them, even if it was simply to say, "You're welcome."
This simple ritual of pausing to honor the person in the room—instead of just treating the patient—completely transformed my nursing practice, and it affects my mothering now, too. It's all too easy to look at young people and forget that they're doing the best they can, and also that they're relying on us (older people with more developed nervous systems and coping skills) to help them get the rest of the way.
When I'm beginning to feel frustrated with Daniel, I take a moment to look at his face and see his personhood instead of focusing on the thing he's doing that's difficult for me to cope with (screaming, usually). I look at his small features and fill up with compassion and empathy for this child who simply doesn't yet have all the tools he needs to communicate effectively.
I pause to breathe outside his room when he wakes up from his nap earlier than I'd like, being aware of my heart rate, my facial expression, and my tone of voice before I open his door to greet him. I remember that he has his own bodily rhythms and his own individual challenges to work through as well. I remind myself that it's my job to help facilitate his sleep, not to try to change him or make him fit into my (or anyone else's) schedule.
That simple mindfulness ritual I practiced in my job helped me to become more aware of how what I bring to a situation affects both me and the others around me. I hadn't paid much attention to those things before I had that important conversation with my nurse mentor, but now it's part of my awareness in pretty much everything I do.
Visit the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- An Alternative Approach to Parenting Mindfully Through Present Moment Awareness Amy at Peace 4 Parents offers an experience of present moment awareness as a pathway to mindful parenting.
- Define: Mindful Alicia C. at McCrenshaw describes the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings for Engaged Buddhism and attempts to describe how she can apply them to her non-Buddhist life on her new journey toward mindfulness.
- This is what mindfulness looks like in my life Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama describes what mindfulness looks like in her life in the form of poetry.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Becoming a Mindful Mother Erin at it's OK shares her definition of mindfulness, and her struggle to develop a regular practice.
- How Meditation Makes Me a More Mindful Mother Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her methods for sneaking meditation into each and every day in an effort to dig deep and be the most mindful mother possible.
- A Simple Practice Kat at My Mental Oddities outlines a simple practice with children
- Our Family Mission Statement Patti @ Jazzy Mama writes about how living mindfully means living intentionally. She created her Family Mission Statement to help her family stay focused on their goals and values.
- I REALLY Miss Being Mindful! Tracie of Purposeful Practices shares what it’s like to find and then lose your mindfulness practice.
- My Job Made Me a Mindful Mother Amy at Anktangle tells a story about how a mindfulness practice she used to utilize in her job as a nurse still impacts the way she mothers her son today.
- Now Amanda at Let's Take the Metro shows how mindfulness is all about living in the moment.
- Stepping into the Unknown To Rachael at The Variegated Life, mindfulness is a way of stepping into the unknown.
- Derailed Kelly of Becoming Crunchy explores what mindfulness looks like in her new, somewhat more hectic life.
- Mindful Mama Zoie at TouchstoneZ learns to stop struggling by being present with uncomfortable realizations.