Meditating is often perceived as a solitary pursuit. However, practicing mindfulness meditation can do much to enhance your relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

Mindfulness helps us see more clearly our patterns of behaviour and thinking, and once we have seen them and brought them into our awareness, we are better placed to change the. So, taking the time to practice skills that will help us to be less reactive and more responsive, less distracted and more present, can only be beneficial to those with whom we have contact.

You and your baby

Practicing mindfulness while you are pregnant can be particularly helpful. At this time your body is going through all kinds of changes, both internally and externally and you are likely to be thinking about the future, which can be quite stressful. Practicing mindfulness of breathing in advance of the birth may be helpful too.

Try this exercise

Lie down or sit in a comfortable and supported position, and take your attention to the breath. Take a few moments to focus on the part of the body where you feel the breath most strongly and just feel the sensations of breathing.

Then, place one hand on your belly to connect with your baby and the other over your heart, and take your attention to the palms of your hands. Feel the sensations of touching bare skin or cloth, becoming aware of temperature, of warmth or coolness, and also of any sensations of movement or vibration.

Remember that you are not setting out to feel anything and there is no expectation of feeling anything specific, such as your own or the baby's heartbeat, but rather this is just a process of connecting with each other.

Parenting practice

Parents often struggle more than most to find time for formal practice, but luckily children present endless opportunities for informal practice. Whether we are faced with a crying baby in the middle of the night or a recalcitrant teenager, parents can feel frustrated and angry, as well as a sense of failure. It is in moments like these that practicing mindfulness can be of benefit to both you and your children.

Try this exercise

In moments of difficulty stop and pause. This can be a literal stopping (which might help prevent an automatic response) or a metaphorical one, but the effect is the same.

Pause and come to the body, taking your attention to any sensationsyou feel, being curious about what is arising and where, but letting go of any need to analyze 'why'. Next, notice what emotions are arising - and there are often more that one. For example, anger may be masking fear, so take a few moments repeatedly to ask yourself, 'What is here?' and name it.

Then, becoming aware of the stories you are telling yourself - the 'bad parent', the 'failing child' and so on - acknowledge exactly what you are feeling right now even if it feels innapropriate, politically incorrect, or you feel bad that in this moment you really dislike your child. Be honest about what is arising, acknowledge its presence and breathe with it, allowing the breath to fill the body from the top of your head to the tips of you toes. Let the whole body breath.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions while you are breathing, and acknowledge your love for your child in spite of present-moment feelings. Allow any conflicting feelings to co-exist, supported by the breath. Acknowledge your vulnerability, your frailty, your best efforts, and again, your love for your child.