Z is for Zen

You probably have heard about the art of Zen, Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, and other concepts that have made their way into the spotlight in recent years. Yoga has exploded in popularity over just the last few years in the United States, and it seems there's no end in sight to the growing interest in spirituality and mindfulness!

Zen is defined as follows:

a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition, or a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.
— Merriam-Webster

However, Zen itself is a Japanese word that translates to "ultimate meditation." Zen and Buddhism are not religions, although this can be debated. They are more of philosophies, principles for life, ideas to be considered and applied if we so choose. This post is not meant to teach Zen, as that is culturally significant and would be disrespectful. I merely hope to share some benefits of the major tenets of Zen practices, meaning mindfulness, simplicity, and meditation.

I personally believe, having used these ideas in practice myself, that they are incredibly valuable for pregnant women and young families. So I'd like to close my ABC blog series with a post covering through a brief explanation of what Zen principles we can apply to our day to day lives and what benefits we might experience!

 
Zen during pregnancy meditation
 

Meditation

The simplest form of adding zen into day to day life is meditation. Sitting quietly every day can teach us many things about ourselves, our bodies, our minds, our emotions, even our breathing. With daily practice, meditation can help one to become less reactive and more observant of the world around us.

For a woman experiencing physiological changes and the stresses of pregnancy, including her own emotions and mental state, finding a few quiet moments each day to scan the body and then sit in silence can be a wonderful practice.

The practice of spending time in reflection and silence was introduced as way to overcome suffering and ignorance. This process takes place through the development of self-awareness, insight, and by ultimately unveiling the true nature of reality. This core essence of nature and the experience of reality is where Zen is brought to life.
— Mind Body Vortex
 
Mindful moments morning pregnancy
 

Mindful Moments

Foraying into what Zen means to me, taking our time with mundane actions and thoughtfully moving through the day can bring joy and slow down an otherwise hectic mind. When making coffee or tea in the morning, sit down and let your mind wander while the water is brewing and your mug is steeping. Make it just the way you like it, and give yourself the time to enjoy it while it's hot. Avoid the urge to scroll on your smartphone or start making to do lists until the mug has cooled.

My kids actually know this rule! After breakfast I'll fill my cup and they will watch the level in my coffee mug until asking for big things of the day to begin. Your family will come to respect the little moments in life that matter to you. You can apply this to quiet time in the car, mommy bath time, yoga, etc. within reason or by engaging adult help. It's important for moms to take this time to slow down and decompress so we can be present for our loved ones.

 
Kids toys minimalism
 

Minimalism

Seeking simplicity in life could also be considered following Zen principles. In looking to be mindful, we can appreciate our possessions and what each of them does for us. This ties into slowly moving through daily mundane actions, such as drinking coffee or folding laundry. When I practice minimalism, I can engage with my favorite things and experience joy in that, and I reduce stress because I limit chores and work caring for things I'm not using every day.

As women and as moms, we take on a lot. Simplifying my life gives me the time to cook more at home, practice yoga, be present with the kids, and talk with my spouse in the mornings. I think that we have to actively make time for whatever is important to us, and sometimes that means eliminating things that are distracting us. Here's another post I've written on minimalism and parenting!

I’m a big fan of this Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. If you haven’t seen it yet and are curious about minimalism, she is truly a delight to watch and teaches her own unique approach to organizing and enjoying life at home.

One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.
— Tenzin Palmo
 
happy pregnant woman outside

Time Outdoors

Spending time in the outdoors is a way of reducing stress and anxiety, and science agrees that it's helpful for everything from easing depression symptoms to reducing high blood pressure. For pregnant women, time outside can be beneficial by increasing Vitamin D intake, boosting general health and wellness, and reducing stress levels.

One study found that walks in the forest were associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder...The presence of water made the positive effects even stronger, the findings suggested.
— Kevin Loria, Business Insider

So if you're feeling overwhelmed and it's a nice day out, it may be helpful to head to a park, trail, or beach nearby and take a little walk. I would recommend some type of outdoor activity at least once a week, even in winter weather. It's best to get some time outside every day if you can manage it.

 

In closing, I hope that these ideas can help you find peace in your daily life and have a happy, healthy pregnancy and postpartum. Consultations and classes are available for families seeking support in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Thanks for reading this post, and if you've been following these ABC blog posts, a very special from-the-bottom-of-my-heart thank you for your support.

Warmly,

Lyndsay

Loria, Kevin. “Being Outside Can Improve Memory, Fight Depression, and Lower Blood Pressure - Here Are 12 Science-Backed Reasons to Spend More Time Outdoors.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 22 Apr. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/why-spending-more-time-outside-is-healthy-2017-7.

Nicole, et al. “50 Minimalism Quotes... Through the Centuries.” Becoming Minimalist, 30 May 2015, www.becomingminimalist.com/minimalism-quotes/.

Saltman, Bethany. “Lessons From a Zen Mommy: Be a More Mellow Mom.” Parents, Parents, www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/zen-mommy-lessons-be-a-more-mellow-mom/.

“What Does It Mean to Be Zen? | Mind Body Vortex.” Meditation Tools and Resources, 8 Aug. 2017, www.mindbodyvortex.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-zen/.

“Zen.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Zen.

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