How and Why to Put Yourself First

Yesterday I was interviewing Hal Runkel, founder of the Scream Free Institute, for an article I’m writing for Parents magazine. I asked him what causes parents to lose their resolve and give in to kids when they whine, for instance, for a bowl of ice cream before dinner.

“Fatigue,” he said. He went on to say that fatigue is often what causes us to lose our tempers, too.

I felt as if Runkel knew my life story. Yes, fatigue. It’s what  leads me to clean my kid’s room rather than get her to do it. It’s what causes every sarcastic and hurtful quip to come out of my mouth. It’s what leads to me distancing myself from my husband. It’s also what causes me to feel overwhelmed and too-dull-to-communicate when, at 6:30 p.m., I’m trying to find my car keys so I can get to meditation class, but the dogs are barking, my kid is tossing a baseball against the ceiling, and an editor is calling me with an emergency question on a story.

I’m guessing you can relate. If you can’t relate, then I covet your life. And, yes, I do have a hook right by the door for my car keys. I still lose them. Go figure. I’m sure it’s someone else’s fault. (The last line was a joke.)

Runkel then went on to say that everything we do for ourselves–exercise, sleep, relaxation–we’re really doing for our kids. That’s because these activities make us better parents–parents who are more consistent, less emotional and better disciplinarians who are a lot less likely to lose things like car keys and dog leashes. So we shouldn’t feel guilty about our yoga classes.

It got me thinking about meditation. When I meditate twice a day–first thing in the morning and again at night before bed–I am a better me. I am more loving and patient, and I’m a lot less likely to bite someone’s head off.

Yet, many times, I skip it because it’s hard to meditate while one is talking on the phone to one’s husband who is telling her that he accidentally left his cell phone at home and is wondering if she has time to find it and bring it to him at work.

That’s just one example of many. Mornings here are anything but a paradise, but that’s just my impure, stressed out, negative mind talking.

Thanks to Runkel’s advice, though, I did meditate this morning. And I did it while the dogs were barking from the other room where I’d barricaded them. I also did it while my kid yelled at the dogs for barking. All the while, I smiled and thought, “I am doing this for them. I am doing this for them.”

And it was true.

Afterward, I was in a great mood, which came in handy when I could not find the dog’s leash or my house keys. It also came in handy when my kid accused me of intentionally hiding her library book when I had merely picked it up off the floor and put it in her book shelf while I had been cleaning her room on the day I had been too tired to ask her to do it herself.

Whenever I write about meditation, people ask me for resources. Here are some options.

  1. Come to the meditation class that I teach on Tuesday nights in Bethlehem, Pa. I would love to meet you.
  2. Purchase this great meditation kit now being offered by Angela Artemis and Steve Aitchison. It includes a meditation booklet and several guided meditations that will help you reduce stress, be more compassionate, and get in touch with your goals. As an added incentive, I make money off every purchase, so consider it a gift for me and a nice thing you are doing for your family. There’s no guilt in that.
  3. If you sign up for Tim Brownson’s newsletter, you can get his meditation guide for free.
  4. Use this guided meditation CD collection from the New Kadampa Buddhism tradition.


6 comments… add one

  • Angela P. April 12, 2012, 10:26 am

    Loosing the car keys makes me snicker. I have made a game with my husband over lost car keys. I have a bowl on the counter that all the car/house keys go in when we come in the house. He is notorious for leaving them in his pocket, setting them down on the bathroom sink, putting them on a shelf, etc. My rule is if I have to find his keys he has to either buy or make dinner.

    On a serious note I could not agree more about fatigue. I am the rudest snarkiest person when I have not had enough rest.

  • Liz April 12, 2012, 10:28 am

    Alisa – Great post! I have been learning to meditate over the past year but struggle to “be still” for the same reasons you mentioned: kids, work … basically life. But you’ve motivated me to make it a priority. My sanity depends on it!

  • Beth April 12, 2012, 10:36 am

    I couldn’t agree more about fatigue! I know my own tiredness is the cause of unnecessary bickering and complaining on more occasions than I would like to admit! I have been working on trying to get more sleep and finding ways to make that happen. I’m one of those people that can’t get my mind to stop going when I lay down in bed. I have just started reading a little about meditation to help with this. Thanks for the post!
    Beth´s last blog post ..My Duh Moment (or Meal Planning Lunches)

  • Steph Auteri April 12, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Yoga and meditation make me a better wife, that’s for damn sure. :)
    Steph Auteri´s last blog post ..How to Make Your Marketing Copy POP!

  • Jan Stevens April 14, 2012, 10:04 am

    I can’t say enough about making sure that you set aside enough time for yourself during the day for you to be able to do things that you want to do. A lot of people, mothers especially, see this as an act of selfishness, and maybe it is. But that’s alright because we all need to be a little selfish sometimes. In the end, it makes us a better person — a better person for ourselves and a better person to the people around us.

  • Rose Byrd April 17, 2012, 10:44 am

    Meditation is such a wonderful life-saver! If I had not gotten up at 4:00-4:30 a.m. on weekday mornings while raising my family and just spaced out for at least 20 minutes, I never would have made it. Like you, there were still frantic moments afterwards, but I was able to laugh most of them off. Nowadays, meditation is what brings a fresh new awareness of the joy of just BEING back to me every morning and reminds me every evening before going to bed. Wonderful post here,Alisa!
    Rose Byrd´s last blog post ..Inspiration: Building Bridges…


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