10/07/2013 04:42 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2013

The Sacred in Our Sacrifices

I stood in my kitchen one morning, my kids at the table having breakfast, and I caught a glimpse of our reflection in the window. Phone in hand, I was distanced from my kids -- physically and mentally -- missing this opportunity to connect with them before they left for school. We know these moments are fleeting and precious as our kids grow up -- these opportunities to look into our children's eyes, to wish them a good morning and remind them, in word and deed, that they are loved and seen before they head out into the world. Yet there I stood, glancing down at my phone, glancing up, glancing down, glancing up. Fully present to no one.

During a recent Third Metric panel conversation moderated by Arianna Huffington, I reflected on that moment in my kitchen and now, my growing appreciation for the relationship between the sacred and the sacrifices we make. I find it especially intriguing that sacred and sacrifice have the same root: sacer, meaning holy. The words are also akin to sanctum, to set apart -- like the sacred space in a temple.

How might we transform the choices we make, the sacrifices we make, and appreciate that they are part of creating sacred spaces for others and ourselves?

In the midst of computer screen time, smartphone use and browsing my iPad, I realized I had stopped looking deeply into my children's eyes. The realization shocked me. Habitually glancing down then up like a crazed ground hog, distracted, half present, checking things off my to-do list.

That morning, I put my phone down and went to sit with my kids at the table. In the following days and weeks, I stopped looking at my phone during their breakfast time. Sometimes I would sit at the table with them, sometimes I would have a cup of coffee in a nearby chair listening to them talk with one another, present to the rhythms of their conversations, their plans for the day ahead.

I also made a point of tucking them into bed at night with a specific ritual: a kiss on the left cheek, right cheek and left again, then touching my forehead to theirs and looking deeply into their eyes. No phones, no computers, just a bit of time to connect and create a space for them to be fully seen, a sacred space for us to come back to each night.

There are many times when I am drawn into compelling issues at work, and I choose to disengage to protect the sacred space I've created with my kids. This can feel like a sacrifice. There are other times when I choose to sacrifice time with my kids for important business and do so with an intention to make the work time sacred as well. (For instance, we collect everyone's cell phones prior to our board meetings and redistribute them after we adjourn. A different type of ritual to create sacred space.)

Only by looking up from my phone, catching a glimpse of my reflection in the window that morning, did I come to appreciate the opportunity to create the sacred in these small sacrifices. Even as my kids have grown older, some of them now coming home from college only for a few days here and there, I protect this sacred "set apart" time, these rituals with them. It nourishes us all. And the sacrifices are worth it.

For more by Pat Christen, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.