A More Minimalist Mindful Life

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Recently I saw a documentary, ‘The Minimalists’ – which highlights primarily the work  of two friends, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn who have books, a website and lectures that support the concept of minimalism. They are a pair of young, former high-flyers who discovered that despite their amazing jobs and top salaries and the myriad of possessions they had accumulated, they were far from content and happy. They subsequently abandoned these lives to take up the challenge of living with a very small footprint.

Their message definitely resonated with me as ‘simplify’ has become a big goal in my own life.  For many years life was very complicated and burdensome and I’m now in a place where things are far simpler. I was kept busy doing a myriad of things to support the multitude of ‘stuff’ going on in my life and it felt heavy and at times drama-filled and even out of control. So much time, energy and money are involved in maintaining a life like that! It can mean we sacrifice what we consider truly important – people, both others and ourselves. 

So to continue with ‘The Minimalists’ Ryan and Joshua simplifed their working lives so they could be more in control, more in the moment, work less and be less stressed but they also embarked on a major downsizing in their possessions and I feel myself being drawn to this concept as well. And it isn’t about giving away everything you love and existing in a life without esoteric pleasure. Instead they explained that they have fewer versions of everything but absolutely love what they do have! For example, instead of having twenty shirts that are ‘ok’, they have six they absolutely ‘adore’! I love this idea too – how freeing to look in your wardrobe and be happy to wear anything in it!  I’ve still got some way to go – my wardrobe is way too big!  I wear perhaps 20% of my wardrobe but every outing and every day involves wading through it all to make the decision of what to wear! I feel a new project coming on!

They weren’t the only minimalists featured in the documentary, they shared a myriad of people living in a very similar way. One was a permanent traveller whose total life possessions were in two small carry bags. There was another who had chosen to abandon the big house for a tiny one so she could reduce her expenses, work less and lead a simpler, more connected life. Another segment featured a young family and the parents decided to minimalize their personal possessions and household items substantially. However, they felt the kids didn’t need to be so strict with their own personal stuff so were using their own example of how they live to positively influence their children towards leading a less materialistic life. I admire that gentle parenting approach – it’s thoughtful on many levels and joins the other people featured in a common theme of mindful living. 

‘Love people and use Things’ –Joshua Fields Millburn made this comment of undeniable wisdom in the documentary.  It keeps going around in my head.  I understand that most probably we all agree with this sentiment in an intellectual sense but do we actually live our lives according to it?  For me that is at its essence what this is about – it’s about honouring people – ourselves and others and to treat possessions as what they really are – things to be gratefully used! If we make mindful decisions about how to live our lives, how much attention we place on accumulating ‘things’ we will find far more time, energy and yes even money for the things that matter – people and that includes ourselves as well as others.

 

Mindfulness is For Everyone to Share

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Last week I held a workshop for parents and children at a playgroup. Many were very small so it was as much for the parents as it was for kids! I used Making Mindful Magic as a basis and parents and children did these experiences from the book together. It was a wonderful reminder to me of why this all started for me – the goal was and remains to bring adults and children together so they can live a more mindful life, one where it is normal to take life slower and more purposefully rather than the constant rushed life that can easily become normal!

As we all shared the mindful experiences, adults and children alike and as I spoke with parents afterwards, I realised more and more that we all need these mindful moments and reminders. I’ve been told by many adults that they use the book for themselves as much as for their children. I love to hear this and it, of course, illustrates the point that as adults we need to be aware that being mindful needs our attention and by taking the time to practice, the more it becomes embedded in our lives and flows down to our children.  

Especially at the beginning and with kids, we need a plan to put mindful moments into practice!  It maybe sounds very formal and in a way, the antithesis of being spontaneously mindful but actually diarising a mindful experience is a really good way to begin to remind us to be mindful! So, what if we all knew that at the start and end of every day we would sit, adults and children, for 2 minutes and be still and quiet and to breathe slowly and calmly?  What difference do you think that could make to a household or a classroom? I think those couple of minutes could make a huge difference with little effort. You can start this as early as you like with your child. If you sit still and breathe calmly yourself and ignore any call for attention, I believe they too will adopt this practice as their own because that’s their normal. They come to think, it’s just what happens in my life, I know it and I do it. 

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You can not only be the example but you can be the coach as well – try wrapping yourself around them from behind and being the security blanket that keeps them in place. You can use props – timing bells to start and finish, a cushion which is always the ‘sit quietly cushion’, a special crystal to hold that tells them it’s time to ‘sit quietly’, slow, calm music to set the mood. The reward is everyone leads a less stressful life as being in this calm moment becomes almost addictive as we search for me of and that’s how it can become our ‘normal’!

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I like to think our book, Making Mindful Magic is for everyone and I hope you can use it as a conversation starter, a motivator and tool to create your own mindful experiences with the children in your lives. You’ll find a guide for adults at the back of the book if you’d like a little more background or theory. Visit our website to buy the book and have a ‘hold it in your hand’ reminder to leave on the coffee table and you’ll also find there more ideas and resources. I also invite you to Join us every Friday on Instagram - we're @makingmindfulmagic - for our Weekly Mindful Activity. You’re always welcome and we love sharing!  Being educated about mindfulness and practicing it as an adult invites us to share the gift with our children!

Living in the Present Opens us to Experience Life 

 Salt Flats 01 By Steve Back

Salt Flats 01 By Steve Back

I often receive messages into my heart that everything will be as it should, that opportunities with people and experiences will arise and all I really need to do is keep the portal open to receiving them. Being present enough to recognise and receive them is the challenge. 

On a personal level, the universe sends me frequent messages to keep my options open! It bombards me often with advice. When I’m walking out and about I hear, ‘Smile.’ When I’m meeting new people I hear, ‘Be accepting of who you find.’ A new opportunity or experience may arise and I hear, ‘Be open to new things.’  I’m feeling the need to be open to life, to keep the portal open and let life stream in! And I need to be present for that to happen.

It’s not easy to fall into judgment when you view life in this way because people, places and experiences become things you encounter; there seems little point in judging. Every day I move closer into the belief that life happens, that all will be revealed in the fullness of time and whatever is part of my life plan will happen and grow or wither, accordingly. The challenge is again to be mindful that this is how I want to view life. 

It reminds me of a story my son tells. It’s about a spiritual guru who was constantly being asked questions about what the secret to his contentment and happiness was. In the end his simple, yet profound answer was, ‘I’m okay with whatever happens!’ When you think about it, it’s a brilliant life philosophy and one I’m trying to incorporate into mine.

Life is also full of the unexpected and sometimes we can be upset when challenges and opportunities that come our way are not exactly as we had anticipated. Like many of my generation, I had a pretty solid plan of how my life was supposed to look and for a long time I kept to the plan. Now, not so much! I believe the universe had other plans for me and my own plans became overturned. Interesting because as I became more open to letting go of the plan, the more interesting life became with new opportunities presenting themselves.  The more present I am, the more I see them and the braver I become in accepting them and living through them with some working out and others not so much. 

Not that I think my earlier life experiences were wasted – far from it!  The learnings that took place in that earlier life are so useful to me now, but in a way that I hadn’t predicted. Life skills are life skills and will always be useful no matter what path our life takes.

It’s easy in our attempt to set ourselves goals that we actually lose sight of all that life offers in the present moment. By keeping ourselves open to whatever comes our way we are really allowing the universe to help move us through instead of spending time thinking about what could have been and imagining what might be – better to open to what is, in my opinion!  I’m coming to trust the universe to inspire me and move me forward. I encourage myself to give up the blinkers and I aspire to be brave enough to be open to what life offers. 

Being mindful will help me move to that place. To keep the portal open means to be in the present moment. We can’t see what’s there if we are constantly thinking about the future or the past. Those opportunities can easily pass us by if we aren’t looking for them in the here and now.

Building Mindfulness in Children

Last week-end I had lunch with a group of people who I don’t know really well but I see once a month as part of an interest group. One of the women gave me a compliment that meant a lot to me. Without knowing my passion for mindfulness, she said, ‘You always seem so calm’. It got me thinking about cultivating that because other than my regular morning routine I hadn’t done anything else deliberately mindful that morning. I think you become calmer because you have a desire to be and as you practice more and more often to be mindful, it slowly filters into your everyday life. Being calm just feels normal eventually. Of course, there are times when we are reactive and agitated but over time these become fewer in frequency and shorter in duration.

Last week’s blog was pretty much about that theme and when we focus on children at home or school it makes total logical sense to invite them to participate in mindful experiences as almost a medium that will ultimately deliver them into a self-induced mindful way of living their lives.

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With this in mind, we’ve introduced a weekly mindful activity into our social media regime. Mostly they will be easy and inexpensive and always fun! They will be delivered on a Friday in case you need to plan for the experience and it also opens the opportunity for it to be given some priority in family life in much the same ways as swimming lessons – maybe put it in your diary or make a sign and stick it on the fridge. Perhaps it could then become a bit of a random game you can play once you have collected a number of ‘mindful experience cards’ and can be done however often you can.  In my workshops (link here) as a parting gift I give each child a card with a mindful activity written on it. I invite them to not only do the activity but also to use it as a reminder to be mindful by putting it in a prominent place at home – maybe on the fridge or noticeboard.

As you might have already decided for yourself – encouraging mindfulness is not hard. It just needs in the first place for us as adults to be mindful enough ourselves to remember it as a priority and to provide not only the example to be mindful but also opportunities for our kids to practice being mindful. We are then also offering them the opportunity for that feeling of peace and calm to become a part of who they want to be. Peaceful, calm children who become peaceful, calm adults may be the perfect antidote to the increasingly crazy world we live in.

Starting a Mindful Routine 

Starting a regular mindful practice in your life need not be daunting and can slowly be built into your existing structure – not only for adults but for kids too and not only at home but in the classroom as well! Here’s a little of my own story and how I built my own mindful routine.

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I’m writing this on a Wednesday, the morning I start my day with an early morning Tai Chi class on the banks of the Brisbane River with an earnest Chinese woman whose traditional, reverent practice is an example in opening to the new day’s energy.  I like to start my day with a mindful routine and part of it is some physical activity. My routine helps ground me and focuses me on finding the calm place within myself. I’m fortunate that I am able now to indulge in self-care to this level but it wasn’t always like this and I most definitely built up to it and had to make initial adjustments to my thinking and way of life!

When I first learnt Transcendental Meditation 10 years ago the thought of setting aside 20 minutes every morning and every afternoon for quiet meditation quite honestly terrified me. I was the one who got out of bed at the last minute, luxuriating for as long as I could in the cosy warmth. What to do? I started getting up earlier to fit in meditation time. The afternoons were also hard. It was generally such a busy time – with 3 kids after school meant lots of commitments including feeding a family of five every night for dinner! Again – what to do? I started preparing for bed earlier and incorporating the meditation into my bedtime routine.

What I found as I became more entrenched in my mindful routine was that I craved the time because once you start, you begin to reap the rewards of self-medicating with the quiet routine and its absence leaves you devoid of the benefits. I then began wanting longer times for an escape into the quiet and peaceful so added more elements to my routine. I now enjoy calm, soothing music, burn some incense among other things and have established a quiet place to enhance my practice.

Start small and build up as much as you want and within the restraints of your own life. Bring your kids along with you for the journey, be it at home or in the classroom and the security felt with the structure will be the first reward. The next reward will be a calmer, quieter home or classroom and in the long term, the benefits will be children and adults who are less stressed, more focused and healthier and happier.

My morning mindful routine (40-50 minutes), ten years later now looks like this:

 

Transcendental Meditation 

Yoga/walk/tai chi

Journaling

 

But yours can look anyway you like and will depend on your time availability, the age of your children and the other commitments you may have. There is no right way to establish a mindful routine. Maybe a morning routine either at home or school, could look something like this or you can begin with just one element of it:

 

Sit quietly for a few minutes, focusing on your breathing

Put on calming music

10 minutes of yoga poses

Think of 5 thing that makes you feel grateful

 

Perhaps as part of your bedtime or after lunch at school routine you could use a guided meditation.

The point of course is to value the routine and the need for quiet time and that you will overtime become more motivated and able to incorporate being mindful into all of your day. You can find resources to help you establish and add to your own mindful routine on our website including our new guided meditation 'Connecting With Your Quiet Place Inside.'

NB I’m not perfect and neither will you be! We’re human after all and need to celebrate our flaws as part of our real authentic selves. If you miss your routine – accept it and yourself and instead of beating up on yourself, think of tomorrow as a new day ready to be embraced with doing the best we can! 

 

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The Naturally Mindful Synergy of Kids and Nature

It is part of our basic belief at Making Mindful Magic that being in nature offers all of us and especially children free, authentic, inspiring opportunities for mindfulness and that is reflected in the many experiences set in nature in our book, Making Mindful Magic. 

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Slow Living, Mindfully

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A couple of weeks ago I spent a mindful afternoon with a group of children and their parents at a local yoga studio sharing my new children’s workshop, Slow Down, Mindfully. The session offers children and families an opportunity to experience a period of time where they can be calm, go slow and basically take a step back from the busy lives so many of us seem to live today. All of us experienced some downtime and enjoyed the energy in the room that reflected our goal.

For the record, I was not a perfect example of mindful mothering. It was a pretty busy household when I was a mother to three small children and it is only now that they are adults that I can view that life as heavy with school and after-school activities. When homework and play dates were thrown into the mix, I wish I’d had the awareness then, to put aside more time for slow, quiet experiences. Having said that I revel in the way they have now established lives for themselves which embrace meditation, time in nature and slow purposeful engagement so perhaps I’m being too hard on myself! 

But I digress! What we all enjoyed in that workshop afternoon was an opportunity to experience being slow, being calm, being present and paying attention. There was music and movement, art activities, a guided meditation and opportunities and experiences for grounding and being in the present moment, some from my book, Making Mindful Magic.

I loved that so many parents came and joined in with their children. That is what sharing your own truth with your children is all about. I understand that’s not always possible but it was a great opportunity for those parents to show and share what they value in life. Certainly, kids are never always on board with being quiet and slow and calm but I really believe there are times for even the most boisterous child, when living in the slow lane is a blessed relief and the more often they partake, the more obvious it will be to them that some slow and calm time is an important part of their lives.

I actively encourage parents to attend the sessions not only as a powerful example but also because they can see some ways to bring the slow, the calm and the quiet to family life, even if it’s only for a short time every day. The results will be worth the small effort of setting aside that quiet time. You don’t need to be any sort of expert but what is required is a desire to offer mindful moments to your children be that as a teacher, parent, grandparent or carer of any type. Your own example of being slow, centred and calm is also a powerful example and can positively reflect in children’s lives. 

I am not saying I’m an expert mindfulness practitioner, by the way. I’m motivated by my own personal experience of the benefits of mindfulness and a desire to share that in a practical way. I’ve been meditating for the last ten years and know first-hand how life-changing, making time to be slow and calm can be. By adding my teaching skills to the mix, I’m sharing mindful experiences that are practical, easy, fun and inexpensive and abundantly appropriate to use in everyday life. 

You’ll find many resources on our website to help parents and teachers share mindfulness with their children. You can find out more about hosting a workshop here. We’d love to work with you.

Offering Opportunities for Mindfulness to Children

I’ve started running a new mindfulness workshop for kids. I call it Slow Down …. Mindfully. I strongly believe kids don’t need complicated theory but instead learn from the experiential so this workshop is very practical and designed to give them a taste of how it feels to be mindful. 

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Mindfully Working Together

 By Marion Barraud

By Marion Barraud

We’ve done some revamping of our website and one of the new elements we’ve created is a ‘Work with Us’ tab. (put the link here) Those of us who are working to create change on an organic level are part of a big universal picture to create a world that can be better for all of us. Our individual influence increases when we collaborate and work together to spread our message further.

Strange how things can trigger us into thinking more openly and broadly. Recently my choir has been rehearsing to perform the Michael Jackson song, Heal the World, (can we put in a link here?) for a Rotary International conference. Just physically singing this song is an inspiration in itself but the sense of group well-being it fosters literally brings goosebumps to me. The fact we are singing this for a Rotary event is even more significant – here is a group who have at their core the goal to make the world a better place. And they do it by joining forces and working collaboratively!

Our offer to collaborate with others in our digital neighbourhood is part of this knowledge that things happen more significantly and with more universal joy and understanding if we work together. Our following isn’t huge but it’s building and that is where many of our followers are as well.  What we have in common is a genuine desire to make the world a better place. 

We’ve been thrilled by the response we’ve received and we’ll be doing more sharing with our peers so you can also learn about the inspiring work others are doing. By engaging with them as well, we widen our own experiences and opportunities for growth for ourselves and our children. The flow-on effect and the very real opportunity we have to together change the world is very real if we continue to broaden our umbrella of understanding.

We also love the connection we feel when we engage with like-minded souls; it’s a very human need to be part of a whole. We weren’t designed to be without it. It’s a little like creating our own digital community where we can share experiences and it’s uplifting to think that much-maligned technology in this case, can work towards social interaction in a very positive way.

We at Making Mindful Magic, have a mission to bring mindfulness to children and families by inspiring the significant adults in children’s lives – the parents, the teachers, the care-givers - to experience a slower, calmer, more focused way of living and to bring that message to the children in their lives. We know there are many others who share our passion and invite you to join us on the journey.

 
 Lift each other up by libby vanderploeg

Lift each other up by libby vanderploeg

 

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