The daily ritual that makes me a calmer, more present dad

After becoming a dad, I really started to lean on meditation. It helps me get a moment for myself and be the best version of myself that I can be.

Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column in which real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their lives. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, parenting will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. Just ask Zack, who is 41 years old and lives in Miami. He’s a busy guy: he owns a nightclub and recently published a children’s book, Made for Me, while also raising two kids with his wife. Zack maintains balance via a twice-daily meditation routine that he says keeps him zen even in moments of extreme parenting chaos.

I always knew I wanted to be a dad. But I often overlooked just how challenging it was going to be. I specifically remember my wife being pregnant. I was excited. And then, a couple of nights before the baby was due, I thought Oh my god, I’m going to be a father. I started to go through a whirlwind of emotions. I was always a person that enjoyed my own time. After becoming a dad, I really started to lean on meditation. It helps me get a moment for myself and be the best version of myself that I can be. It helps me be a better dad, person, friend, colleague — everything.

I practice transcendental meditation. I do it in the morning and try to do it in the evening. I rarely miss a morning session. It’s the first thing I do in the after I wake up, before I shower. I would say I do the second session probably 90 percent of the time, but I am guilty of sometimes missing it, because the days get crazy and busy. The rare times that I do, or that my schedule doesn’t allow it, I feel it.

During my meditation sessions, which are 15 minutes each, I welcome any thoughts that come into my mind, but I really just try to clear it. I just try to provide myself some clarity for the moment. People often think that, to meditate, there has to be complete silence or that you have to be in a spa-like environment, but you really can do it anywhere.

It’s so incredibly helpful. There are times where, especially with two kids, chaos exists — obviously — and it’s very easy to get upset. But babies are babies and kids are kids. They don’t know the ways of the world. So I use meditation as a tool to excuse myself for 15 minutes, gather myself, and make sure that I’m composed.

Without meditation, I could lose my temper. You’re allowed to lose your cool and if you don’t have kids. There’s no one there that you’re a role model for. But when you have kids, you’re always setting an example. At the end of the day, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be proud that I set a good example for them. Meditation helps with that.

Early on after becoming a dad, there were days when I would lose my cool and wasn’t a good role model. I’d go to sleep or look in the mirror at the end of the day and it would bother me. So I made sure to learn from those times and really focus on my meditation.

Now, when chaos ensues — which, it does, — whether it’s in the car in traffic, or if the kids are hyper and screaming and want to have the toy that the other one wants and you have to try to have a full day at work, I’m able to handle it better.

The little screams? I can handle them, If someone spills something on the new couch or whatever? Meditation helps me remember that it’s a material thing. It’s not the end of the world. I use meditation as a method to escape, come back in 15 minutes, and be the best man and father that I can be.

What I love most about meditation is that it allows me to take 30 minutes a day to clear my mind. It helps me be more productive and balanced. It allows me to set my priorities and really keep a firm grasp on what it is that I want to accomplish that day, that week, that month, that year.

There’s nothing in life where you’re needed like parenting. You might feel needed at work. But, you’re not really truly needed in the same way. That child is born and brought into this world and needs you. Meditation helps me be my best self for them.

This article was originally posted on Fatherly.com.