Episode 44: Does Mindfulness Make You a Better Parent? with Hunter Clarke-Fields






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Brief summary of show:


Does mindfulness make you a better parent?

How can we use mindfulness to help us yell less and be more present?

If you’re like me, you’re a busy mama who may not always have time to find stillness and ground yourself, which is why I’m excited to share this conversation with Hunter Clarke-Fields with you.

Hunter, MSAE, RYT, is a mindful mama mentor. Hunter is the creator of the Mindful Parenting course, host of the Mindful Mama podcast and widely-followed author of Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids.

She helps parents bring more calm and peace into their daily lives. Hunter has over twenty years of experience in meditation practices and has taught mindfulness to thousands worldwide.


Listen in as we talk about:

  • [00:01:54] The power behind mindfulness

  • [00:09:18] How to heal generational patterns of yelling within our families

  • [00:11:54] Tips to learn mindfulness and heal our own patterns

  • [00:13:17] How to become aware of our triggers

  • [00:15:19] Ways to build a mindfulness practice that you can actually incorporate into your schedule


Resources

Connect with Hunter


Connect with Me




View Transcript for this Episode


[00:00:00] Natalie: Thanks so much for listening today. This topic is one that most of us can relate to overwhelm overcommitment and stress as a busy person, as a mom.


[00:00:09] How do we push that reset button? When we feel like life is just too much and we need some peace? Well, I can't tell you how often I used to feel this way. In fact, I'll admit I still do. We all do. It's very normal. It's how we react and how we recognize that. Tension and how we actually do something about it.


[00:00:31] You are going to love my guest today. Her name is hunter Clark fields, and she is the author of raising good humans, a mindful guide to breaking the cycle of reactive parenting and raising kind confident kids. So hunter is going to give us ways that we can bring more calm into our daily lives and we all need.


[00:00:55] In every way, we need a whole lot more of it. Before we get [00:01:00] started. I want to thank you for listening each week. And if you haven't done so already, would you hit the subscribe button on your podcast player?


[00:01:06] That way you can have each weekly episode ready to play and also sharing these podcasts with friends. A whole lot to me as my goal is to help more people with topics just like this, that matter and help us live more fulfilling and healthier lives. Okay. Let's get on to the interview now with hunter Clark fields.



[00:01:32] Natalie: hunter. One of my pillars of this podcast and my website is mindset um, health family mindset. And I think it's a really hard thing as a parent to get our mindset, right. I mean, as an individual, as a working mom, that can be difficult, but let's talk about how you apply your mindset to parenting and why that's so important.


[00:01:54] Hunter: well, when I think of mindset, I mean, I think of mindfulness and mindfulness is you know, [00:02:00] this attitude of kindness and curiosity, and really being present, right. Bringing this attitude of kindness and curiosity to the present moment. it helps every single thing we do because in my work, the more I'm present with, you know, right here right now, I'm, I'm more focused.


[00:02:18] I'm clearer. I get things done faster. You know, I'm not distracted by all the rumination and things like that. And then with my family, That mindset of kindness and curiosity. It's so, so helpful because as parents we're like, we're often on autopilot, we're labeling, we're taking mental shortcuts with our kids.


[00:02:38] We're not really being present. And so we're saying. You're the athletic one. You're the, smart one. Right. And we don't really give our kids room to be who they are and accept who they are. And if we can bring the mindset of curiosity and non-judgment into this moment, like, We can then say instead, who are you?


[00:02:58] You know, we [00:03:00] can be accepting of who they are instead of trying to make them into something. We can say, who are you right now? How can I be curious about you? Can I be interested in you? And I really think that, Love loving somebody. You know, if you think back to when you just really fell in love with somebody, it's like, you're just so interested in them, right?


[00:03:21] You're giving them so much attention. And if we can be attentive, if we can, we really be present and we can really be curious and interested in our kids, that means we're, we're accepting them for who they are. We're not saying you have to be X, Y, or Z. We're saying, who are you? So we're accepting them. And that feeling of like, love and acceptance.


[00:03:42] If my kids can have that. in their bodies and hearts and minds, as they move forward into adulthood, they can do anything. And I know that if they can accept themselves for who they are, and then that starts with me loving and accepting them for who they are.


[00:03:56] Natalie: One thing I talk about a lot and I think about a [00:04:00] lot is being present.


[00:04:03] I feel like there is always something else in my mind when I'm trying to be present. So, you sit down with your child, you're trying to have a conversation and then you just drift off into this. Oh, what are we going to have for dinner? I'm listening. Yep. Oh yes. That sounds. And then yet I'm still thinking about dinner and coming back around to that.


[00:04:22] How do you learn to be more present? And is that what you consider? Being more mindful.


[00:04:29] Hunter: Yes. Yes, absolutely. And it is a muscle that you can develop the, what you can't develop that. Okay. Yes, yes, absolutely

[00:04:39] Natalie: hopeless.


[00:04:40] Hunter: Cause no, no, no, no, no. Everybody's like that everybody's minds are like crazy pants but we can start to become more of a master of our minds. And by that, I don't mean that we stop our thoughts, but that we can start to direct our attention in more purposeful ways. [00:05:00] So our minds and our attention is. It's like a puppy, right? And that puppy is like an untrained puppy and it's over here and it's over here and it's up there and it's like, where are we going?


[00:05:09] And you're trying to walk this puppy along and say, here, we're going this way. And it's just the untrained mind is sometimes they call it the monkey mind is just all over the place and that's totally, totally normal. And then what happens is Over with time and practice. Another metaphor I like is kind of the idea of training a horse, like a horse.


[00:05:32] If you're trying to train a green horse, they'll wander all over the place and you just gently bring them back to the path. You bring them back to the path, you bring them back to the path, right. Then eventually they start to go along the path. And it's the same with our minds where the practice of mindfulness.


[00:05:49] uh, first we sit and we see how crazy and chaotic our minds are and that's totally normal. And then after a while we sit and we still see like, oh, my mind is wandering. My mind is wandering. [00:06:00] Then we bring it back. Then as we start to bring our attention back, that's like, That, that moment in the gym where you're like doing a rap, right.


[00:06:08] And you're building the muscle of attention and then it does start to get stronger so that you can hold your attention in the present moment for longer and longer. It's not like, so at this point I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for like 17 years. And so. I still have you know, my mind thinks right, the mind thinks just as the ears here in the eyes.


[00:06:31] See, but I can bring my attention back very quickly and easily to the present moment when I choose to and what happens. At first, when would the untrained mind, you know, the mind thinks, and we're lost for, you know, 15 minutes, but over time we just bring it back, bring it back and we can start to, be able to hold our attention where we want to hold our attention for longer.


[00:06:53] And it is absolutely. We have neuroplasticity. It's absolutely something that you can grow[00:07:00] and it's. The studies of the MRI studies, there's actual physical changes that happen in the brain. It's really, so obviously we can apply this to our work-life to our family. There are a lot of different ways you know, even at work, you can say I'm in a meeting and my mind wanders here, and I'm trying so hard to pay attention, my mind wanders here.


[00:07:25] Hunter: Yeah, absolutely. So, and that's the thing, the thing about training the mind is like Every single thing in our lives is filtered through our minds, everything right. We take in through our five senses and everything is filtered through the mind.

[00:07:39] And over time we have habits and, and things, and the kind of lens gets dirty. And what mindfulness does, it helps us to kind of clean the lens. we, then we have a muscle, we are able to direct our attention it with more clarity and more purpose in the way we want to, rather than kind of being, I kind of think of it as like, [00:08:00] Jon Kabat-Zinn has a great quote about this.


[00:08:02] You can't stop the waves, right? Like life is going to happen. The mind's going to wander emotions happen, but you can learn to surf. So before. Mindfulness. You're kind of like, I, at least for me, I was kind of scattered by the winds of my emotions and my thoughts, and I would get pushed and pulled all over the place.

[00:08:19] And with a mindfulness practice, like I'm more steady. Like I'm like a mountain when I would like to be, you know, I can be very grounded. It really grounds you to be able to choose, to be able to be present when you want it. Well, I love

[00:08:31] Natalie: how you apply mindfulness to parenting and it's good for all of us in every way, but I have always thought.


[00:08:40] And one of the reasons I, I left my career of 28 years was I wanted to be a better parent. And I simply couldn't do that. Getting up in the middle of the night to be a morning show anchor. So when the stakes are high, Which I think of our family and our kids as when the stakes are the highest, we want to be good for them.

[00:08:57] We want to do right by them. [00:09:00] And this applies to that. Like, if I don't do it for me, I want to do it for them. I don't want to teach them these things. So in a lot of what I'm hearing you say, we're modeling this to them. We're showing them I'm going to do this. Therefore, you're learning this and it's going to help you throughout your life.


[00:09:18] Hunter: Exactly. I mean, when we transform and heal things in ourselves, we can start to transmit that healing and vice versa, what we don't transform, we transmit. Right. And so though, that's when I, you know, that idea of generational patterns like in my family when there's a, a wicked temp, We could temper when I was, my daughter was two, I was like, it came forth and I was like frustrated.

[00:09:46] And I was yelling at her and I could see I was scaring at her and it broke my heart. And that was for me when the stakes were super high, like, this was exactly what I didn't want to do, because this was my father's temper. And I [00:10:00] could see that this was a pattern, right. That he had not been able to heal this thing in him.


[00:10:07] And so he transmitted it to me and the way he transmitted it to me, it was that I learned as a little kid, if I had big upset feelings that I would be met with an explosive temper from my father and it was not okay to have be, have upset feelings. So then when my daughter was two, she had her upset feelings.


[00:10:28] It felt. Unacceptable to me in my bones. Right. Because that was conditioned in me. That was a generational pattern. And then my temper came out and I could just see, oh my God, I'm doing the same exact thing. And it's not because of a choice. It's because of suffering. Right? Like my dad had this suffering from his father and mother and, and who knows how far down the line.


[00:10:50] Right. And if I didn't transform it, I was going to transmit it to her. So My best chance to stop. This was [00:11:00] to look at myself. Dive deeper into these practices of mindfulness to study my heart, my mind, and my nervous system so that I didn't give her all my baggage. So I didn't hurt our relationship in that way.

[00:11:14] And that's the thing I'm most proud of in my life is that, I mean, I still yell sometimes. Like, I'm definitely, there's a temper in there, but not in the way I know it could have. And how do you,


[00:11:26] Natalie: how do you think people can become more aware of these things? Like for some people they might yell and then not realize they feel yucky about it, but they might not realize, wait a minute, I'm doing that because I feel this way and it's generational.


[00:11:39] And like how do you suggest we become more aware first and then beyond that, Learn mindfulness. I know you talk about that in your book, and I love that. But let's start with just becoming aware of what triggers.


[00:11:54] Hunter: Yeah. I mean, this is challenging work. So we have, we have questions like this. We do this in [00:12:00] mindful parenting.


[00:12:00] Right? Cause I want people to be able to walk through these stages, but it can be something that you do with a therapist. It can be, you know, you could pick up you'd raising good humans and answer those questions there in your journal. Right? Like, but it's about starting to look back and say how was I parented?


[00:12:17] You know, how did my parents respond to me when this happened? You know, when did I, did I feel safe? Are there any times I didn't feel safe and then there's a whole series of questions in there that are, very much inspired by another great resource, which is parenting from the inside out by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartsell.

[00:12:35] And the idea of starting to say. How, how has my past coming forward into the future? Because we aren't just, blank slates. We kind of have this idea that we can just choose how we want to be, but we are. A whole bunch of, you know, there are all these causes and conditions within us that we didn't choose, but they're there and these are the cards we dealt.


[00:12:55] So we might as well know what we're dealing with. Right. And understand ourselves better. [00:13:00] Yeah.


[00:13:00] Natalie: What would you offer to people if they want to start making change right away? Like I know I'm not the best I can be. What would you offer to them in your practice of mindfulness as a parent or just as a, woman, a working mom, parent of any kind.


[00:13:15] What would you offer? They start with,

[00:13:17] Hunter: people start with different things, and I always encourage people to have a mindfulness practice, but I also think an incredibly powerful practice is a practice of starting to offer ourselves compassion and loving kindness. So we, the reason why I offer this is because we want to grow and change.


[00:13:36] We want to do things and yet. Do those grow and change, right? Any growth is outside of our comfort zone. That's the definition of growth fixed. we're going to make mistakes. We're going to be human. And when we're harsh on ourselves, when we're mean to ourselves inside, then we're not to want to go out of that comfort zone again.


[00:13:57] Right. Because you got met with this harsh mean voice [00:14:00] inside. So if we can be kinder to ourselves, it can be a foundation for a lot of meaningful change. So if we can say to ourselves, like put a hand on our heart and say, May I be, may I be safe? May I be happy, maybe healthy. May I live with these?


[00:14:19] Or just may I be peaceful? May I be happy if we can start to wish ourselves some kindness start to wish ourselves peace, wish ourselves happiness and try to offer ourselves some also some kind words and compassion when we are inevitably human and mess up, And we focus on that for, you know, two weeks, for a month.

[00:14:42] Every day we say to ourselves, may I be peaceful, maybe happy, maybe safe. That can be really transformative as far as giving us the. The groundedness and the, the heartfulness to be able to take other steps.


[00:14:58] Natalie: One thing I know you talk about in [00:15:00] your podcast and your website is learning to meditate. I think that's a really challenging thing for people who have never done that.


[00:15:07] It's uncomfortable. It's like I don't have the time for this. Just the thought of it can be overwhelming. Can you give just a brief example of what that might mean that doesn't have to be overwhelming?


[00:15:19] Hunter: it doesn't have to be a lot. it is true that it is like, we don't want to sit in silence with ourselves.


[00:15:24] Like it's kind of goes against our evolutionary training, right. To always be thinking about the future and survival and all of those things. In fact, they did some study. At some university where they put people in a room for 15 minutes by themselves with nothing to do or they could sit by themselves with nothing to do, or they could like give themselves mild electric shocks.


[00:15:46] 80% of people gave themselves mild electric shock.

[00:15:49] Natalie: Want to be alone with themselves, or that's

[00:15:51] Hunter: really sad. I know it says that. Okay. But it's not so scary once you just kind of dive in, it does feel a little like diving [00:16:00] in, but you just have to get in the way. And I recommend people start with a guided meditation and it's not, it doesn't have to be hard.


[00:16:07] So, I mean, even we can do like a 32nd meditation here and just like, see how it feels. Can we try it? Okay. Okay. So just wherever you are, sit comfortably, sit alert, soften, or close your eyes and just feel your breath. Come in your nose, into your belly. Feel your belly, expand and feel your breath. And then feel your breath.

[00:16:29] Come in, expand your belly and just feel it come out just one more time. Just feel your breath. Come in

[00:16:43] and feel your breath.


[00:16:48] And then you can also practice with sounds. You can start to hear sounds, see how they arise and fall and touch. There's many, many ways to practice, but if you've breathed with me [00:17:00] for those three,

[00:17:01] Natalie: so much of it is breathing and being aware of your breath.

[00:17:05] Hunter: Is that right? Breath is a great anchor for many, many people.

[00:17:09] And for some people, breath is not that supportive can make them a little anxious so they can use another sensation in the present moment, like sound or touch. But it's just about resting with that sensation. And probably after those three. Remind would have wandered and that's okay. But you can start with a 60 seconds of a meditation.


[00:17:34] You can start with five minutes and I really recommend people start really, really small and just get comfortable, right? Like it's like, You don't learn to swim by just jumping, jumping into the deep end of the pool that you weighed in for a little while you get used to the water you get comfortable.


[00:17:49] And that's what I invite people to do is become comfortable with just sitting and not doing for a minute or two and see what that feels [00:18:00] like. And once you discovered that's not so scary. All the amazing benefits can can really be a draw. I really encourage people to give themselves some like good, positive motivation.


[00:18:12] If I do it for six days this week, I'll give myself a sign up for a massage, you know? And then after a while, the, the benefits like better sleep, less anxiety, less depression, greater wellbeing. Less reactivity, greater clarity, all those start to feed your practice on. So all of those things sound amazing.

[00:18:33] Like if that's all it takes, how long, what do you think is a good amount of time


[00:18:37] Hunter: and zero side effects and free?

[00:18:41] Natalie: I mean, you'll still get all those other things done. If you just take it as a matter of fact, you'll probably be more effective in the time that you are present and trying to get things done when you've spent some time meditating.

[00:18:53] Hunter: It's true. You do end up having more time in your life. But you asked me something just how much

[00:18:58] Natalie: time do you think [00:19:00] it really takes? Like for I'm a busy mom with three kids and I teach and I work and I'm like, I can't fit one more thing in, can I do five minutes? Is that going to give me the benefit or do you need to.

[00:19:11] 10 20 minutes to really be effective.

[00:19:14] Hunter: That's a really good question. And scientists are trying to figure that out right now. And so there's, it's still a little bit up in the air question. So I would say, establish a habit with five minutes, right? And then when you've established a habit, maybe you did a month with.

[00:19:31] Jumped to 10 minutes and then staring at 10 minutes, however long you want. There is some evidence that maybe like eight minutes is like the optimal dose, right. But it is a dose dependent activity. Meaning. The more you practice, the more you feel, all those like affects, which is why the Dalai Lama is so happy and chill.

[00:19:52] Right. but there's evidence that you can feel, you know, you can have that, calming effect, that grounding effect [00:20:00] that less reactivity and less anxiety and depression, all of that with, you know, about even five minutes, five or 10 minutes a day.

[00:20:07] Natalie: Yeah. Do you think it matters? When do you think doing it?

[00:20:11] First thing, I mean, for me, if I really want to get something done, I have to schedule it in and before the whole day starts, but can it be any time of day?

[00:20:19] Hunter: no, it can be absolutely be anytime of day. It absolutely can be. So if you, if you're the type of person, you can take a break at work and do that and sort of at the same time every day, that's awesome.

[00:20:30] More power to you. Once my day gets going, I can't, it's, it's really hard for me to stop it unless I'm like teaching my lesson. So I get that, boost. But I do it before I do. Well, I, you know, I splashed some water on my face and I P that's all I do before I miss

[00:20:46] Natalie: straight in yet. Can't do those things first.

[00:20:48] Hunter: Yeah, I do that. That's all I do before I meditate, because then life doesn't get in the way. Although I do know some people who do it at the end of the day and they really enjoy that. I find [00:21:00] a more of a. Glass of wine at dinner kind of person. And I like a little Netflix at the end of the day. I don't have to personally, I have the willpower for the end of the day, but a lot of people find that really helpful.

[00:21:11] I love that,

[00:21:12] Natalie: oh, I'm going to start right away. Feel like there are so many benefits that we overlook. And, and I know you talk so much about parenting and I want to encourage people after reading your book and listening to your podcast, that this applies to parenting. So many ways. And so I encourage people to get your book and I'll put that in the show notes, but where can people get more information on you and follow you?

[00:21:34] Because I know you're really active in several.

[00:21:37] Hunter: Sure. You can find me@mindfulmamamentor.com. You can find out about mindful parenting there. The mindful mama podcast, I did a whole series of free five minute guided meditations on the mindful mama podcast. In 2020, you can find those And on social media, you can find me at Instagram at mindful mama mentor.

[00:21:57] Natalie: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your [00:22:00] time. I really appreciate, I know you're busy with your two kids and everything you're doing, and I hope that we can do this again, and maybe we'll do some more guided meditation because as uncomfortable as it is at first I know the benefits. I know they're huge.

[00:22:13] So thanks so much. Really good to talk to you today. Yeah.

[00:22:16]Hunter: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.





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