So, you want to know about what this “mindfulness” is all about…wonderful!
One of the best ways to understand what mindfulness is, is to experience it.
1) Find a comfortable position, either lying down on your back or sitting. If sitting then uncross your legs and keep your back straight, letting your shoulders drop, releasing any tension.
2) Close your eyes (or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, then find a spot on the floor near you and keep your eyelids soft while looking downward)
3) Now focus your attention on your breath. Simply pay attention to your in-breath and out-breath.
4) Bring your attention to your belly and feel your belly rise and expand with every breath.
5) Continue focusing on the experience of breathing…the in-breath and out-breath and the rise and fall of your belly. Imagine that you are “riding the waves” of your breath.
6) You may notice your mind wandering often with many different thoughts. When this happens just notice the thought that comes along without any judgement of the thought or yourself, and then gently bring your attention back to your breath, and the present moment you are in.
Continue for several minutes, or as long as you would like….
If this was your first experience with mindfulness or any breathing exercise, it can feel silly to follow your breath. Yet, the practice of this sometimes silly, sometimes seemingly boring and/or frustrating activity can provide the clarity, compassion and wisdom we want for ourselves and our children. There are many ways to be mindful, like mindfulness of breath (in the exercise above), but we can also be mindful ie. pay attention to our emotions and body sensations too.
Mindfulness is simply paying attention to this moment, right now. Noticing not only your breath, but what you are hearing, seeing (this page), what emotions you may have and what body sensations you are experiencing. The point is just to watch and observe this moment without judgment of any thoughts, sights, sounds or feelings you may have.
There is nothing to strive for, no goal to be met, just being aware.
Brief History of Mindfulness:
Back in the 1970’s Jon Kabat Zinn brought mindfulness to our western culture. He defines mindfulness as, ” moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness”. Mindfulness has been at the heart of Buddhist meditation for over 2500 years, yet mindfulness is not a religion, but a way of being in the world. In our Western culture today, mindfulness is being used in many different settings such as hospitals, schools, sports, prisons, community centers and in our homes. Mindfulness is even making its way into Congress with one politician, Tim Ryan, who recently wrote a book called, A Mindful Nation about his experience of mindfulness and how we can bring mindfulness more into our mainstream culture. In recent years there have numerous studies to show the varied benefits of mindfulness in general and more specifically with children and in our schools.
Benefits of Mindfulness:
- Body and Emotion regulation: when our bodies and emotions are balanced and appropriate in our lives
- Insight: “self-knowing awareness”…this is key to building positive social connections
- Attunement with others, i.e.”resonance”. This leads to the other person’s experience of “feeling felt”, of being understood. When children become more “tuned in” to themselves, they are more “tuned in” to others around them
- Empathy: allow us to see from the stance of another person’s experience, imagining others’ reality and perspective
- Better Impulse Control/Response Flexibility: the capacity to pause before taking action (this is key with children and teens!); being able to consider a variety of possible options and to choose among them.
- Fear modulation: our ability to calm and soothe, and even unlearn, our own fears
- Intuition: access to awareness of the wisdom of the body
- Increased Attention Span: practice of paying attention can build our attention muscles in our brains
- Morality: taking into consideration the larger picture, imagining and acting on what’s best for the larger group rather than just ourselves
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and how you can use this practice as a parent, Join Mindful Kids and Families and begin to focus on how to parent more intentionally!
Research Studies on Mindfulness:
*The benefits described above come from The Mindful Brain by Daniel Siegel, MD
2008: Hooker and Fodor; Teaching Mindfulness to children:
2009: Inner Resilience Program Piloted by S. Burlingame VT School District in 2008-2009
2010: Effects of Mindful Awareness Practices on Executive Functions in Elementary School Children
2012: Mindfulness in the Classroom; How it Helps Kids Regulate Behavior and Focus on Learning