By Courtney Zentz
Meditate? Me? Yea…. so I tried it once. I was in Tokyo for work and thought, this is a good time, a zen place, “I can do this.”
I lasted 12 seconds before my phone beeped, my mind shot to something else, and I said to myself, “this isn’t for me.”
Fast forward about four years and two kids later, I went to a yoga workshop at our gym. It sounded exciting, and frankly, it was a few hours away alone for some fun with my best friend. We did yoga, a drum circle, and learned all about Japa meditation. I was hooked. The mala beads you use with this meditation reminded me of growing up Catholic and rosary beads. I find similarities to Japa, in that you are saying a prayer or mantra over and over, focusing on that vs. just stillness and your breath in what I look at as traditional meditation, using your breath to control your heart and mind.
The Japa form of meditation I found to be a nice balance for me. I could quiet my mind, repeat “Om Namah Shivaya,” a Hindu mantra meaning “universal consciousness is one,” amongst other translations. You use the mala beads to repeat the mantra 108 times and finish feeling calm, balanced and refreshed. This type of meditation was my jam. I loved it, was hooked, and started to do it frequently, even introducing it to my husband Adam when he couldn’t sleep at night because his mind would race about work. (Although, he tried to chant and decided to make his mantra up at 3 am, which I believe was actually “meatloaf is the greatest” (yes… I am serious) and to which I responded after a chuckle - ‘hey - if that works for you.”
The benefits of calming my mind, finding my breath, making gratitude my attitude, and becoming a bit more aware of my reaction to everyday things were all the results of learning to meditate. It helped me have a total gastrectomy and double mastectomy at 37 from stage 1 stomach cancer caused by an extremely rare genetic mutation called CDH1. Couple that with two toddlers and my own Sleep Consultanting business I ran and needed to help pay the mortgage from, the stress and sudden disruption in our lives were unimaginable, and finding stillness helped me through that; I have no doubt.
Fast forward to March of 2020, when the entire world was shifted into chaos with Covid-19. We were all a bit nervous, my children were sad at the prospect of school not reopening, and my husband and I were trying to process everything in the news that was being shared about this unknown virus. That took a hit on my son, Max, who was five and in Kindergarten. He was old enough to know I was ‘sick’ when I had my surgeries, but ultimately I came home. “Sick” became a trigger for him and also the new word on the street. Are you sick, people are sick, don’t go out or you’ll get sick…. And one day, he thought because I was sick, I was going to die. Talk about a heart-breaking conversation to have with a 5-year-old, “no buddy, mommy isn’t going to die.”
During this time, his anxiety from all of the changes and worry about me was sky-high. He would not go to bed unless he knew I was either in my office or my bedroom, and if I did go downstairs, I would find him sleeping on a step so he could hear me. As a sleep coach, my kids were sleep rockstars, so obviously, I was thrown off by this and saddened at what was happening in his mind. It was then I found the Zenimal.
I ordered my little turtle, and the day it came, it changed our lives. With the idea that it was so easy to use and appealing to tote around, my kids both were in love. We laid together on the bed at bedtime and picked our first meditation, which was ‘sleep’ - and off we went into the journey of calm, listening to founder Anna Macsalka’s soothing voice guide all of us through inhales, exhales, being present and still.
We were hooked. Who knew with the RIGHT meditation, on a screen-free device that our family too could all love meditation and the balance it brought. I didn’t have to worry about my kids turning it off or on. I didn’t have to worry about screens on the phone. Them waking at 5 am just to watch YouTube because I left a device in their room (we are a no devices allowed in any bedroom family) was not a concern. There were nine options, so each night could be different, based on how we felt, where we needed to focus, and how long we had that night before my littles got overtired.
The Zenimal meditation turtle changed our lives. It’s something even in the daytime, I will pop on, we will sit in a circle in the living room, and all find our breath. Using the Zenimal has become a staple in our bedtime routine. We do our bath, jammies, books, and then, we do our ‘ablutions’ as my husband refers to it and come to find out means, to wash away. Washing away, we were. We rid ourselves of the stress from the day, any feelings we didn’t like, any anxiety we had, breathe in…. breathe out and poof, our minds went from overdrive to calm in a matter of minutes.
We travel with it to the beach, to the lake, you name it, that turtle is in my purse. It is also something I believe so strongly in that I now refer every client to it in my toddler and school-aged child work in my sleep coaching business because I feel so strongly in the power of meditation now and the calm I see first-hand come over my kids.
As a world, children are often overstimulated, staring now at devices all day and often triggering into over-tired because they aren’t sleeping the right amount. Help bring back a state of calm and peace into your home to balance the heavy anxiety and emotions that the world is carrying around. Our favorite meditation is sleep, with a close second being gratitude, but whatever meditation you gravitate towards, you will do so each night with pleasure.
Thank you for changing our life, my role as a mother, and our family’s overall happiness.
Courtney Zentz is an Award-Winning Author, Baby Sleep Expert, and Founder of Tiny Transitions. Her background as a Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Lactation Counselor, Postpartum Doula, and Sleep Coach to her team of Sleep Consultants around the world provides parents with a solution to their sleep struggles backed by science and balanced with your love and support.
Tiny Transitions’ mission is to teach healthy sleep hygiene and parenting education to parents and their babies, toddlers, and young adults who struggle to sleep through private sleep consultations and corporate speaking engagements to support everyone being the best version of themselves.
Named by Tuck as a Top 200 Sleep Professional in the United States, Courtney is a 4x "Best of Philadelphia" Sleep Consultant and hosts The Kids Sleep Show podcast. She is on the Pediatric Sleep Council at Purple and writes & contributes to NBC, Fatherly, Yahoo, Thrive Global, Medium, Romper, Parentology, The Sleep Sense Show, and Bustle, among others in the field of Pediatric Sleep.
Courtney resides just outside Philadelphia, with her husband Adam and two children, Max and Sovella. She has always felt passionate about making sleep & healthy living a priority in her family's life, and Tiny Transitions looks forward to working with you. Setup a Free Preliminary Sleep Evaluation with Courtney or a member of her Slumber Squad®.