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09 May 2024

How meditation improved my family life

Liz Smith

Just a normal person

My life is not particularly remarkable in any way, but its commonness is what I hope makes it relatable. I am in my late 30’s, married and a mum of 2 humans and one dog. I work 32 hours a week, as does my husband and a huge proportion of our meagre NHS wages goes on childcare.
Though we have an amazing support network around us, everyone’s lives are busy, so ultimately everything falls to my husband and I to manage. My life is chaotic, messy, noisy and stressful. I feel as if I am always running, always late for something and always chasing something that needs doing yesterday. I’m exhausted pretty much all the time.

we are not as limited as we feel

I think it’s normal as a parent to feel as if you have limited capacity, and as humans I suppose that’s true for all of us. I do believe though that we are not as limited as we feel and with training and practice we can be more, give more and achieve more than we give ourselves credit for. For me, Dharma, Buddha’s teachings, is that training and I am only able to cope with life because my meditation practice increases my capacity to do so. It also offers me hope on the darkest of days that there is a way out of the endless, mundane drudgery of never ending laundry, of obnoxiously loud toys, of being surrounded by problems that I can’t fix both at work and at home and never having longer than 10 minutes to myself to think straight. Being a working parent is impossible, there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything and so nothing is done properly, leaving a trail of inadequacy and guilt behind. Dharma reassures me that this is not because I am lacking in any way, it is the nature of samsara, ordinary life, and samsara is the nature of suffering. It also teaches me how to transform the banalities and pain of my life into my path to liberation, my one way ticket out of the suffering of my own creation.

Busy working mum

I challenged myself to meditate

It's probably helpful at this stage to flashback to the beginning and how I found Dharma in the first place.
After my son was born in 2018, I struggled with postnatal depression. I had the usual Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and antidepressants which helped, alongside a lot of wonderful support from health visitors, friends and family. I returned to work quite early and found that my mood continued to be up and down. Then one day, I needed to help a colleague sort out some annual leave so they could go on a month-long meditation retreat followed by a fire puja. I was intrigued, fire puja?!?!?! I didn’t know what that was but it sounded awesome! I also struggled to comprehend how someone could meditate 4 times a day for a whole month. I barely managed 5 minutes of breathing meditation and regularly claimed ‘I can’t meditate, my brain is too busy’. My colleague happily answered all of my questions and explained that she had been a practising Buddhist for 20 years.
I challenged myself to meditate for 10 minutes a day while she was on her retreat and by about 2 weeks in I was desperate for her to get back so I could share my new found enthusiasm with someone. Just 10 minutes of breathing meditation and I was calmer, happier and more focussed than I had ever been! I cared more about other people, I listened better and found I could help them more without expending my own energy as much. I became a much nicer mum to my then 2 year old. I felt confident I had found the answer to my problems.

Liz Smith & Family

Starting to see what Dharma had to offer

My colleague gently suggested that I had made a start but breathing meditation is limited in the benefits it can bring. She offered to take me to the Meditation Centre she was a member of and I agreed, though I was confident that I had all I needed.

Just weeks before the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic, I went to the Kadampa meditation centre in Southampton for the first time. I heard a visiting teacher talk about the 11 reversals and I’m not sure I understood very much of it at the time! I kept on meditating and my friend gently, persistently kept talking to me about Dharma and suggesting books that I read. I started to see how much more Dharma had to offer and after she gave me the New Meditation Handbook, I started to try and meditate on my own. Not content with this, she pushed me just a little bit more and asked if I would join the Foundation Programme study class, once a week. “I can’t commit to 2 hours a week!!! I’m a mum! I’m really, really busy!” She talked me into a taster session and I still attend weekly, nearly 4 years later.


If we change our minds we can change our world

I now go to the meditation centre in person and my Thursday evenings are my sanctuary from the rest of my life. They help me cope in so many different ways. The more Dharma I learn, the more I see how it applies to all aspects of life and how it holds the answers to all my problems. I still struggle with my mood at times, though when I get low, I have the tools I need to manage it. I can calmly accept where my mind is, understand that it will pass and seek comfort and refuge in the Buddhas. Then, when I feel able, meditation is there to help me heal and keep me well. I don’t meditate daily, though I constantly strive to build this habit, the Foundation Programme keeps me anchored to Dharma and I get a ‘dose’ of teachings once a week at the very least.

Buddha taught that all phenomena are the nature of the mind and do not exist outside of our own minds. This means we can be in charge of what we experience; so my parental burnout isn’t actually real, though it feels like it most days! It’s a state of mind and through applying Buddha’s teachings I can change my mind and my world. I will still have children and they won’t magically become beautifully behaved or quiet, I won’t suddenly have oodles of spare time for self-care. I will have something better, a mind of love and wisdom and compassion so powerful that I will enjoy every second of my chaotic, noisy life, because it allows me to learn and grow and one day to benefit all other living beings.

To all the parents and caregivers out there who feel like they can never do or be enough, please don’t misinterpret the last paragraph as smug. My mind is far from those states most of the time which is precisely why I rely on Buddha and the Dharma, his teachings. My faith tells me that I will achieve that level of peace and calm with enough practice. I just have a LOT of practice to do……

Liz attends Kadampa Meditation Center Southampton
Find a Kadampa Center near you.

Share Your Dharma Journey

If you have a personal story about the positive impact of Dharma in your life and would like to share it with the community, please feel free to reach out to us. You can submit your story by emailing it to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you and sharing your inspiring journey with others.