“Mindfulness- A state of active, open, intentional attention on the present.”
“Mindfulness” seems to be a popular buzz word going around lately, but really it’s something that ancient civilizations knew and practiced. Our “monkey minds” (as Buddhists call it) are all the thoughts we have going on, like crazy monkeys swinging from tree to tree. How do we quiet our minds and live in the moment? Why is that something we’d even want to do? Nobody’s got time for that! The world is fast with instant gratification apps and get it now features, and yet you’re reading this blog because somehow you know a monkey mind is not what you want for yourself and your children. How can we bring the ancient art of mindfulness to the present?
In the Bible there is a passage that says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Stillness is the verb we’re after. Let’s try it. Stop for a minute and take in all the sounds around you. Try to isolate each unique thing you hear. Close your eyes if you need to focus more. If you’re outside-did you hear the wind blow? If you’re inside, can you hear the hum of the computer? Let your mind search until it’s found what it’s hearing, label it, and then let it go. Breathe. Your journey to mindfulness has begun.
How do we get our children started on becoming mindful? Truthfully, I think they’re already there and we can learn so much by watching them. Have you ever witnessed them play in all their imagination? They know how to block everything else out and be in the moment. They don’t care about the room to clean, the dog running around the house – unless it’s eating their play land- or the bills that need to get paid. Sure there is a lack of knowledge on some of those things, but the idea is still the same. Build on their natural gift. Give them the words and knowledge to know they are being mindful, present, and intentional.
Here are some ways for you and your kids to practice mindfulness everyday:
Practice pranayama (the Sanskrit word for breathing). There are many breathing techniques that provide portable stress management wherever you are. Bunny Breathing is easy to do and energizing! Take three quick inhalations through your nose and one long exhalation through your mouth. Repeat. You feel better already, right? With your children, pretend your sniffing vegetables or a sweet flower in the garden. Kidding Around Yoga has a blog article explaining 10 different breathing practices for kids (and adults).
Listen without judging
Take in what you hear without placing any thought or judgment on it. We all have our worldviews and experiences that are with us. It doesn’t mean we want all of that ruling us. This isn’t a time to attach any of that to what you hear. As a matter of fact, when any of those thoughts pop up, let them go! There’s a lot of energy that gets wasted on outside things rather then placing your attention on the present. Find the present and be there. As thoughts arise, just label them as “thoughts” or “lists”, or even “music lyrics”. Don’t get frustrated or angry with the thoughts, just let them bubble up and fade away. If you’re guiding your child, use a single object to ponder on, like a candle. Practice tratak, or candle-gazing to settle down before bed.
Go for a walk. Is that too much for your busy schedule at this time? Then literally just walk out your front door and look out and up. Look up at the clouds or out at the grass or at a bush. Bend down get close and pay attention to what you see. Look at the colors. Are there ants? Where are they going? Do a leaf rubbing with a crayon and a piece of paper. You can bring that rubbing inside and stick it on the fridge. Commemorate the moment; engage in the simplicity of the moment. It’s just a matter of noticing what’s around you, not what’s swirling around on the inside.
“Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Fish don’t try to swim they just swim.”
At first it may feel like you are trying to be mindful. Eventually, it will be something you just do. The journey to just doing and being will happen through the conscious decisions you make in your daily life. Today, right where you are, you can be present. You can be mindful – active, open and intentionally aware of the present.