From Hot Mess to Mindful Mom

From Hot Mess to Mindful Mom

When I began spending just a few minutes a day on myself and filling up my reserves, I was able to bring a more joyful, centered, and energized version of myself to my family and the world.

Q: How did you get into meditation?
A: The best way I can explain it is that the Universe pushed me into it. It was part of my journey and path, only I didn’t know it yet!
I was at an event at my synagogue that truthfully I didn’t feel like going to, but my dear friend was chairing it and I wanted to support her. There was a young rabbi speaking, and my friend leaned over during his talk and told me that his sister was a famous medium. I had never thought about mediums before so I probably said something like “cool,” and didn’t give it a second thought.
Two weeks later I was having dinner with a camp friend in Los Angeles whom I hadn’t seen in years. She told me that she had recently had an incredible reading with a medium, and it was the very same one I had recently heard about. I still wasn’t really putting anything together, I only thought it was a funny coincidence.
The next week I was speaking with a friend who said her mother had just had a reading with a medium, and wouldn’t you know it….it was the same one I kept hearing about!
I literally put my hands in the air, and said, “Universe, I have probably missed every sign you have ever given me until now, but I will talk to this woman!”
I had to wait six months to get an appointment, but my reading was a life-changing experience in many ways. The very last thing that she said to me was that I should meditate. I had never thought about meditation before, but I am excellent at following directions so I decided to give it a try. It was the beginning of the most incredible journey ever.
Q: You talk about your “hot mess” phase. What was that like?
A: Before self-care became a staple in my life, I had what I call “martyr syndrome.” I thought that if I put everyone’s needs before my own, and I was last on my list, it meant I was doing things right. I thought I was proving my love to my family. The problem was, my family got an overwhelmed, exhausted, and depleted version of me. That Ali is not fun at all!
When I began spending just a few minutes a day on myself and filling up my reserves, I was able to bring a more joyful, centered, and energized version of myself to my family and the world. 
Q: How has your life changed with meditation?
A: This article would be ten pages long if I got into all of it, so I will highlight a few things that were the most life-changing. I definitely became less reactive and more responsive. This means that I stopped yelling so much and then feeling horrible for hours afterward. Instead I learned how to pause, breathe, and move forward in a situation. Since I am human though, I am not perfect at this one hundred percent of the time! Self-compassion and compassion for others has become a huge part of my life. I realize now that every situation and experience, good or bad, is helping me to become the best version of myself. I have to learn the lessons I am supposed to from the hard ones, and celebrate the good ones.
Meditation helped me to feel more confident and connected to my intuition. My sleep improved, and my feeling of overall wellbeing. I tell people that meditation is the best thing that ever happened to me! This is why I became so passionate about sharing and teaching this incredible self-care and self-help tool. When I saw the transformation in my own life and family, I knew these tools were too good to keep to myself. I had a burning desire to share them so I became a certified meditation teacher. 
Q: In your newest book “One Minute to Zen” you talk a lot about one-minute meditations. What are they exactly?
A: Life is never going to stop being stressful. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a meditation teacher. Life never stops. It is impossible to never feel stressed or overwhelmed, and putting that expectation on ourselves is pointless, and, frankly, not fair. The most important thing is how quickly you can recover from stress. Does it send you into a tailspin for hours, or can you quickly come back to center?
I like to say that all hell can break loose in one minute, so we need tools to come back to center as quickly as possible. That is where one minute meditations come in. We can have a few tools in our back pocket to use anytime we feel stressed, anxious. overwhelmed, depleted, angry or frustrated that can help us come back to center quickly. My new book “One Minute to Zen” has thirty-five one-minute meditation tools so there is something for everyone. 
One-minute meditations are the glue that bind my days together. I use them whenever I feel stressed, if my kids are fighting, someone cuts me off on the freeway, or I pick the slowest line at the grocery store. I use them all the time because they work! They help you to recalibrate body, mind and spirit, and to bring your attention back to the present moment.  
Q: How do these tools help parents looking to be more present in their day-to-day life? 
A: With practice, one-minute meditations become second nature. The more you use them, the faster you can pull them out of your toolbox when you need them. Here’s an example - I used to quickly yell a consequence when my kids were acting up, without thinking if it made sense. I was so reactive, and then I felt like I was stuck with whatever I said. I almost always regretted my choice!
Now, if I occasionally need to give my kids a consequence, I will tell them I need a minute. I will do a one-minute meditation to calm my body down, in order to think more clearly. I can then choose a meaningful consequence that actually makes sense.
There are times, even as a teacher and practitioner of all of these tools, that I find my mind wandering when my kids are telling me a story, or we are playing a game. It happens to all of us! I will immediately use a tool to come back to center quickly so I can be as engaged as possible. In a few years my kids may not care about sharing every detail of their day with me, so I want to soak up every single second now. In these situations I use the mantra “this moment.” On the inhale I silently repeat “this” and on the exhale “moment” a few times. It reminds me to be here now and to truly enjoy this moment. 
Q: What are one or two one-minute meditations that can really help parents? 
A: You really can’t go wrong with any of them in the book. It’s really so personal which you gravitate toward, but I’ll share two of my favorites, one for parents, and one to use with your kiddos.  
For parents:  Do a quick body scan
When I feel stress, I immediately feel my shoulders tense. You too? You may also feel your tummy tighten or your hands clench. This is our body talking to us. 
When I feel stress in my body, I know it’s a perfect time to do a body scan. Focusing on each part of my body helps me to release tension and come back to center rather quickly.
You can do this at a traffic light, as a stressful meeting is kicking off, or before bed, to release any tension that has built up in your body during the day. 
Doing a body scan is simple—start at your head and work your way toward your toes. As you run through each body part, you simply focus on relaxing that part of you. You will spend approximately three seconds on each major body part, allowing you to relax your whole body in about one minute.

​Here’s how:

  1. Depending on where you are and the situation, you may sit up or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes and take a nice long deep breath
  3. Spend approximately three seconds releasing any tension from each of the following body parts:

               Left arm
               Right arm
               Left hand
               Right hand
               Right leg
               Left leg
               Right foot
               Left foot
    4. Take a nice deep breath in and out, and if your eyes are closed, open them.
The great thing about a body scan is that you cannot mess up. If you miss a body part, it’s no big deal. This is a low pressure tool. It’s always interesting to see where you are holding tension. I never thought of my cheeks as I place I would need to relax, but it’s amazing how much tension I am always holding there. Keep an open mind, and let your body do its thing.
For kids: Balloon in the Belly
I instruct my clients, during parts of meditation, to really breathe into their belly, or to take “belly breaths.” The easiest way to understand how to do this is to imagine you are blowing up a balloon in your belly on the inhale, and then let all the air out of the balloon on the exhale. This ensures that you are taking a full, deep breath.
Kids love balloons so it’s a great visualization for them. They can pick their favorite color balloon, or pick a color based on their feelings in the moment. They can simply practice blowing up and releasing the balloon for a minute, or you can guide them to extend this practice two ways.
Let go of a worry
If they have something weighing on their mind, or they are feeling anxious, frustrated, overwhelmed, or stressed in any way, on the last inhale of the practice they can imagine putting their worry inside of the balloon. On the exhale they can imagine their balloon floating into the blue sky with their worry inside, carrying it far, far way. This can feel like a great release. 
Make a wish
They can also imagine a wish filling their balloon on their last inhale, and on their last exhale the balloon can carry their wish up into the sky.  
Everyone can benefit from bringing more mindful pauses into their day, and using one-minute meditations as a way to come back to center in the face of stress.
I hope everyone gets a copy of “One Minute to Zen” so that they can live their very best, most joyful life!

Ali Katz is a best-selling author, motivational speaker, self-care and mindful parenting coach, and a meditation expert.
Her mission is to inspire mothers across the globe to leave overwhelm, stress and guilt behind, and to embrace a life full of balance, presence, and joy.
Ali's latest book, One Minute to Zen: Go From Hot Mess to Mindful Mom in One Minute or Less,  comes out November 4th.  Grab your copy to get Ali's tip for dealing with stress in one minute, the same amount of time it can take for all hell to break loose!

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