Pay attention! You need to focus! Can’t you just concentrate?
Sound familiar? Have you heard or said these things before? Yeah, me too. We probably all have. It seems we all need help once in a while being mindful. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to what is happening around and within you with kindness and patience. When you are mindful, your monkey mind (your inner thoughts) settle down and you can focus on the sensations and stimuli happening right now, without wishing they would stay forever or wishing they’d go away. No more multi-tasking. No more to-do lists streaming through your brain.
Sound impossible? Well, it’s not easy. But mindfulness is a practice, like any other, and the more you practice finding and existing in the present moment, the calmer and more settled you will be throughout the day. A simple way to practice being mindful is to notice your breath. Where do you feel it moving in and out? Where does your body expand and contract? Does your breath have a temperature and does it always stay the same? Is your breath smooth? How long is your inhale? Your exhale? Imagine you are a scientist observing your breath in great detail. The rest of the world just falls away. It’s a nice break, isn’t it?
If your mind starts wandering during a mindful practice, don’t worry! It’s perfectly normal. Don’t try to stop your thinking or get frustrated. Gently bring your attention back to your breath (or sound, or picture, or whatever you are focusing on).
Creating art is another way to practice being mindful, and is an especially powerful practice for children. Here are three quick art activities to build stamina in mindfulness practices:
Inside and Out: This activity is best done with two people. Each partner has paper and drawing utensils. Draw a picture of yourself to show what you look like on the outside: your hair, your clothes, your face. Then, add details that show how you feel on the inside. For example, are you feeling happy? Nervous? Curious? Sad? Silly? Somehow add that feeling to your drawing.
On another piece of paper (or on the back of the first one), create a picture of your partner. Include what they look like on the outside and then add details to show how you think they are feeling on the inside.
When both partners are finished, compare all four pictures. How are they the same? Do you see yourself the same way as your partner sees you? Is the drawing of the outside of you more accurate than the drawing of your partner’s feelings?
Thank You: This activity is lovely to do before you go to bed. Before you fall asleep, think about somebody or something you love. Or think of something wonderful that happened to you. Write or draw what you are thinking about. Looking at your picture, take 3 long mindful breaths. That means slowly inhaling through your nose and filling your belly with breath and then breathing out slowly through your mouth. Do this breath 3 times, each time feeling like you are filling your body up with gratitude and love. Then, put your picture next to your bed so it will be the first thing you see in the morning when you wake up. You’ll start the day with a smile, remembering all the good things in your life.
Worry Safe: Everyone has worries, but it’s important to find a way to take a break from worrying. Draw a picture of your worry (or write it down) on a piece of paper. Look around your room for a special place to put your worry. This could be a box or drawer where you can put your worry drawing and find it again. You could even create a special container to hold your worries. Go ahead and put your worry into your Worry Safe because you don’t need your worry when you are playing, or eating, or sleeping. You can keep your worry in your Worry Safe if you want to, but maybe you’ll be able to throw it away when you don’t need it anymore.
For a longer conversation about the connection between art and mindfulness, take a listen to our podcast, Mindful Conversations with KAY!
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, podcast, and beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY) and an online course specifically for families to incorporate these practices in their family’s routine (Yoga for Families).