It’s taken me many years to come to realize the power of meditation. I remember growing up, my mother would tell me to take deep breaths to help me calm down, but it wasn’t until high school when I actually put her advice into practice. It was before an exam, and I was nervous- I remember walking into the girls bathroom, looking in the mirror and telling myself to take 10 deep breaths. Focusing on my breath has been one of the surest ways for me to realize how I am actually feeling… anytime, day or night.
Anytime I feel frustrated, taking deep breaths has been one of the best go-to tools for helping calm myself down (and I’m sure has prevented me from saying things I would later regret). As a mother, there are many moments when part of me would like to just blurt out “HURRY UP!”… but we all know that that never really helps any situation with a child (other than an emergency perhaps). I remember a few months ago my son and I were having a trying morning. He needed a lot of encouragement to get himself dressed and ready for school, and I was short on patience. I could feel my skin starting to boil…. but instead of erupting like a volcano, I sat down next to him and said: “I need to take 5 deep breaths.” I sat there and counted my 5 breaths. He looked at me with confusion, yet seemed interested in what I was doing. We were able to get ourselves ready for the day, and out the door. Suddenly, while walking to the car I was feeling frustrated again. I didn’t say anything this time. I helped him get in the car and walked around to shut the trunk, when all of a sudden I heard his little voice say, “Next time I think you need to take 6 breaths.” I instantly started laughing, because it was SO true! How thankful I was (and continue to be) for this little person to help remind me of the important things in life!
Today I was able to find some time to sit on my meditation cushion. Oh, how I have missed that cushion! It’s small, red, and from Vermont. Wonderful! I didn’t sit for a long time, but just allowed myself to be there, with a faint scent of incense burning next to me. While sitting there, I realized that this particular spot is basically like my very own “recharging station”. You see, we all put an incredible amount of energy OUT… to our families, friends, jobs, strangers, to learning and reading, cooking, exercising… but when and how do we FILL BACK UP?
Adults and children are not very different… it seems like people think that children are different, or don’t need the same things that adults do. But in many ways, we are very much alike. To keep what I am saying simple, I am just speaking in terms of self-care and meditation. Children lead VERY busy lives… between school, friends, extra-curricular activities, team sports, jobs, homework, and family time… there’s not a whole lot of time for kids to dive back into their own hearts and find out what IS going on with THEM. Creating time and space to slow down, even for 10 minutes a day, doesn’t have to be a “hippie” or “weirdo” thing that people do either. It doesn’t mean you’re a crunchy-granola person or that your kids are going to become that way. There are many professional athletes, as well as successful business men & women who have used mindfulness practices to get to where they are today. I had a coach in high school who used to talk to all the basketball players about Anthony Robbins– he would put us all in scenarios where we’d be under pressure during game time, and help us deal with that feeling.
I feel that it is not only beneficial, but also extremely important that children learn methods and skills for calming down, coping with change or difficult emotions/feelings, and learning how to digest information before exploding in harmful ways onto others.
So, how do you begin introducing concepts of mindfulness and meditation to children? Well, there are lots of amazing resources out there… I particularly love the fun game called Breathing Buddies (which I did not develop, just happily use and share with others). All your child needs for Breathing Buddies is a small or medium-sized stuffed animal. Invite them to lay down on their back, and gently place the Breathing Buddy on their belly. Ask them to take some breaths in and out… and have them watch how their Breathing Buddy rises and falls with each breath. Then invite them to take some deep breaths, slow breaths, fast breaths… just do this a few times so they can begin to see the power of their breath. Breath = Power. It fuels our bodies and minds… so we want our breath to be calm and strong. Have fun with this… it can also be a nice before bedtime activity for you and your child. Click HERE to watch a short video clip where Daniel Goleman explains how the simple act of using a breathing buddy helps children develop attention training and inner self management training.
What are some ways you have used or introduced meditation to children? I’d love to hear from you!