Mindfulness is a term you may be hearing a lot lately as it is being brought into everyday conversations, in response to our stressful lifestyles, and increased alienation from other people. This is due to many reasons, not the least of which are our busy lives, work hours, use of technology, cell phones, texting, and video games, just to name a few. Mindfulness is paying attention to the here and now with acceptance and non-judgement, kindness and curiosity.
Mindfulness Meditation has been a part of Hatha Yoga practices for thousands of years, so it’s not new, but thankfully is being rediscovered. It’s for all of us: children, teens and adults.
Have you ever found yourself repeatedly telling a child to “stop doing that?” It’s no wonder they either continue doing it or find some way to avoid not doing it. What we really need to do is teach them how to stop. This brings it back to you, the parent, to start integrating mindfulness into your own life, by practicing and showing your kids how to respond rather than react. By being compassionate first to yourself, you are resolving your buzzing thoughts, which will magically get passed on to others. Try an experiment: pick a time during the day and check where your mind is, past, future or the present?
Many seeds of mindfulness are planted early in life, but need to be tended and nurtured. As children, we lay on the grass staring up at the blue sky, watching clouds, hearing birds chirping, noticing the breeze gently caressing our face. Nowadays, we enjoy the moment, but most of us never learn how to integrate this into our life. Notice what you are doing already to set an example to children, teens or other adults. What do you do daily for self-care, relaxation and reflection?
Our children also need to be encouraged to have time to themselves to reset. As parents, we spend hours driving our children to countless extra-curricular classes and sports activities, as well as driving ourselves to the gym to work out on the way home from our jobs, texting frantically to communicate and at end of the day feeling more burned out than ever. Through mindfulness practice we can learn to stop – Stop, Take a breath, Observe and Proceed (STOP). Sometimes we don’t realize that all of the extras we take on can have issues attached, whether it’s with a coach, a team mate, feeling inadequate, comparing ourselves to others, and so on. So, the tough parts of the day don’t always end after school, they can confront us wherever we go and in our interactions with others.
Coming from a place of mindful self-compassion it’s important that we check in throughout the day to appreciate the taste of food, notice our bodies, and notice where our thoughts are and bringing them back to an anchor. Our anchor is often our breath, but an anchor can be a colour, a body part, a word, there are endless choices. I encourage you to take a moment in the morning before checking your e-mail, and think of the acronym R.A.I.N.: Recognize and be with your feelings, Allow your feelings to be as they are, Investigate your emotions by becoming curious as to why you feel the way you do, and Notice the troubled thoughts are Not you, it’s not personal to you.
Mindfulness is not about being self-indulgent, weak, selfish, irresponsible, or having self-pity. On the contrary, it’s about not beating ourselves up when we fail and being more likely to try again. It’s about taking more responsibility for ourselves and our families. It improves our perspective and brings awareness that we are not alone. As we take action we gain perspective and empathy for others. It has been said that 80% of life is just showing up. All we have to do is SHOW UP, and be in the present! The words medicine and meditation are both derived from the same Sanskrit word for “Inner Measure.”
May you experience an inner measure of mindfulness and self-compassion this week as you go about your life with intentionality. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and be introduced to how you incorporate it into your everyday life, I’d love to have you at my Introduction to Mindfulness class on Friday, July 28th at 8 pm. Register today and I hope to see you then!