What is mindfulness?
According to Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Essentially, it means being fully present and aware of ourselves, our surroundings, and our inner worlds without getting overwhelmed.
Why should everybody practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is something that anyone can naturally do and become good at it. In fact, society has shaped us in such a way that we’ve forgotten how it feels to be still and just observe. Instead, the modern world demands us to react constantly and rapidly. Since 1979, when Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the methodology has gone through hundreds of studies. All the benefits of implementing mindfulness into one’s life have been noted in schools, prisons, hospitals, kindergartens, corporate environments and so on.
What’s so wonderful about mindfulness is how simple it is. In fact, it does not require any change, any transformation or change of beliefs. It requires you, your body, and a bracket of time. What it does is it makes us calmer, more innovative, grateful, inspired, motivated, empathic, healthy and in general a wonderful, present human being that is in tune with its nature and its core. Sounds wonderful, right?
Navigating childhood in a mindful manner
Growing up is tough business. Infants struggle with expressing their needs. Toddlers search for ways to define themselves, handle walking, master speaking, and understand the mystical world surrounding them. Once a kid grows into a teenager, a whole new world of existential questions falls onto them. Mindfulness, while growing up, is a tool that can come in handful when a child is faced with situations that cause uncertainty, anxiety, anger, and sadness.
Imagine taking advantage of having a rapidly changing brain of a kid that is capable of learning languages, mimics, sports, art and so much more in a matter of months! By implementing mindful practices into their lives early, we not only model mindfulness, but we also help them develop a stable and mature capacity to react and understand the world. There have been several studies published in recent years, dealing with the impact that mindfulness has on children. To sum it up, all of them concluded that mindfulness improves cognitive capabilities, lower aggression, and anxiety, as well as improve working memory, attention span, and ability to focus.
How to teach your child mindfulness
First of all – don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t need fancy apps, incenses, and yoga equipment for mindfulness practice. All you need is some safe, warm space where you and your little one(s) can find a moment of peace. You can communicate this kind of practice as a way to recharge batteries, as a way to make friends with our bodies and talk to the body, or maybe just a form of rest.
Sit down and close both of your eyes. Imagine that there is an elevator inside your body and imagine going from the very top (the head) all the way down (to the toes). To keep the child’s attention, guide them through different floors (being different parts of their body). Depending on your preferences, you can also include some chakra or anatomy lesson in there.
Sit facing each other and count your breaths. Some prefer having their eyes open to truly experience the sensation of breathing together. Be conscious of breathing movement and quietly chant the number of breaths. To make things more fun, your little one can be challenged by choosing a mantra to repeat after a series of breaths.
Lay down on the ground, get warm and comfy. Observe the clouds moving across the sky. Let the child pay attention to them, the way they move, their speed, direction, and shapes. This will be an amazing subtle lecture on the everchanging nature of things.
This technique is as close to meditation as it can get. Sit down and let your body calm down. Then listen and pay attention to all the sounds – the distant ones and the close ones. After the session, let the child explain what interesting sounds they’ve heard.
You can implement any of these techniques into their bedtime routine. Not only will it work well long-term, but it will also help them fall asleep faster.
The lovely lady in the photo is our lovely AYATANA member Viktoria.
Written by Masha