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.

Slow Living, Mindfully

Childs pose 3.jpg

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.

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Seven-day Challenge for Better Sleeping  E-book

Helping children get to sleep each night is no easy task! We've all been there – it's past bedtime, your child is refusing to go to bd, bouncing off the walls and showing no signs of slowing down. But with some simple mindfulness exercises that can become part of your daily bedtime ritual, you can help your children sleep better when bedtime comes around, featured in our free eBook available for download below.

Last week we offered our challenge for better sleep and calmer nights, Seven-day Challenge for Calm Nights via Instagram if you’ve followed us on our social media. We hope you found something that resonates with your family to add to your regular bedtime routine. That’s the thing with routines – they need to be personal and you need to own them! Whatever you choose to maintain a quiet calmness before bed, an important thing is to remember why you are trying to grow a pattern of winding down before bed-time? Why bother keeping a routine and pattern at all?

I love this quote from the Dalai Lama who in his usual succinct yet simple way, invites us to focus on obtaining wholesome sleep by beginning that pattern before we go to sleep and we think a regular calming routine is the best way to achieve it.

 “If you can cultivate wholesome mental states prior to sleep and allow them to continue right into sleep without getting distracted, then sleep itself becomes wholesome.”

Children (and adults for that matter) who maintain a regular pattern of quality sleep generally are better able to cope with life’s challenges and tend to remain calmer in the face of their regular lives. They are generally easier to live with and experience less irritable and explosive outbursts.  In addition, concentration levels are improved with a better ability to maintain present moment focus. If fostering mindful children is a part of your parenting plan, then quality sleep for your children will be an important consideration for you. So it is definitely worth putting in the effort to establishing a good routine for bedtime. 

With that in mind, we’ve created a downloadable eBook so you can refer to it and use it anytime you choose. Sign up to our newsletter below to get your free copy. I wish you calm, blissful nights and contented, mindful children!

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PRINTABLE EBOOK - Seven-day Challenge for Calm Nights - BELOW by signing up for our monthly mindfulness tips for you, your family or your class. 

When you sign up, you also get free access to our FREE 'Go Walking in Nature' Meditation script and audio file as part of our Seven-day Challenge! 

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Seven Days to Calmer Nights

It’s school holidays in my part of the world and if you’ve been reading my recent blog posts you’ll know I recognise that a change in routine can be unsettling as well excitement inducing – not a great combination for calm bedtimes for young ones!  With that in mind, we’ve created the 'Seven-day Challenge for Calm Nights'  centred around activities that can help bring your kids back to a more balanced place, one that is calmer and less exciting and readier for a good night’s sleep. They are designed to focus minds in the present moment – a mindful progression to calmness and a better night’s sleep!

Of course, it’s also perfect to use these experiences regularly – not just when we are out of routine. They can become part of establishing a routine for bedtime if that hasn’t been a big part of your household. Children need routine in their lives to help them feel secure and untroubled and the bed-time routine is one of the most important for a calm transition from the day’s busyness to a state of relaxation. As adults we can recognise this in our own lives – trying to sleep while we are still investing in our thoughts and worries does not a great night’s sleep make! Children, who these days lead busy lives themselves are also vulnerable to poor sleep and need to be encouraged to let go of the day’s activities to prepare for sleeping! Good sleep is one of life’s greatest gifts! 

Here are a couple of tried and true things to start your routine – a bed time story (nothing too exciting)- we would, of course, recommend our book Making Mindful Magic (available here), a simple lullaby and hugs and kisses (of course) were favourites in my household!  I created this lullaby to use with my own children when they were young.

Lullaby and goodnight

You are Mummy’s little darling

Close your eyes and goodnight

And I’ll see you 

In the morning 

 

I’ve recently become acquainted with a couple of inspiring young women (www.thegoodnightco.com) who are making it their mission to improve quality of sleep. They have just launched into improving children’s sleeping and now have available a beautiful box called, Mind Time Kids in which they are using chakra clearing as a tool for helping kids get a better night’s sleep! 

We’ll be posting daily for the next seven days on our Instagram and Facebook pages an experience a day to promote calmer nights. Join us and Give these experiences a try and keep the ones that resonate with your family and build them into your night-time routine! 

You can modify this challenge any way you choose of course and use it over and over by finding different versions of the experience – eg changing the music used for listening or the mandala for colouring - it’s easy! You can incorporate any into a regular night-time routine – for holidays and any days! Enjoy, relax and sleep well!

 

 

Resources for the Seven-day Challenge for Calm Nights

 

DAY TWO: Listen to our 'Go Walking in Nature'  Guided Mediation

DAY FOUR: Listen to Rolling Waves 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvxwaacXTUA  

DAY FIVE: Colour a Mandela

http://www.sparklingbuds.com/free-mandala-coloring-pages/

We love this description by Cat Hawkins about the benefits of colouring a mandala. http://shaktimandala.co.uk/mandalabenefits/  

DAY SIX: Immerse in calming music 

Classical music that is slow and rhythmical www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAqLStH6E6s

Acoustic guitar music  www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGP6aJ4PBbo

Marconi Union's 8 minute trance-inducing tune, “Weightless” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfcAVejslrU

Any lullaby  www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYvyCkMZ_FY 

 

DAY SEVEN: Alanna’s bedtime routine

Alanna recommends these poses be done in this sequence with gentle slow breathing, for a few minutes each for children and up to 10-15 minutes for adults (great bedtime routine for everyone)!

 

Child’s Pose

Begin by kneeling then drop the bottom back to your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down to the floor and forward, arms outstretched with head on the floor.

Cat Cow Pose

Begin on all fours. Inhale as the belly is dropped and look up, raising your tail bone upwards(Cow). Exhale as the chin is tucked to the chest and the mid-back raised to the sky with your tailbone under (Cat). Continue these positions with a neutral spine between the movements.

Standing Forward Pose

Start by standing with the feet together. Bend forward from the hips, not the lower back, bending the knees enough to allow the palms to press flat on the floor with the head touching the knees, if possible. To end, bend the knees keeping the back straight, the arms out to the sides and move up back into standing.

Legs up the Wall

Start by sitting with your left side against the wall. Turn your body to the left and bring your legs up onto the wall. Lower your back to the floor and lie down. Move your bottom close to the wall. Your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up. 

Happy Baby Pose

Lie on your back with both knees into your chest and put arms through the inside of the knees. Hold onto the outside edge of each foot.  Tuck the chin into the chest and head on the floor. Press the tailbone down into the floor and push the heels up and pull back with the arms. Press the shoulders and the back of the neck down into the floor, trying to get the back and whole spine flat to the floor.

Corpse Pose

Lie on your back, arms and legs open. Close the eyes, and take slow deep breaths through the nose. Allow your whole body to become soft and relaxed. To finish slowly move up to a seated position.

 

Seven Days of Small Ways to Ground and be Mindful

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Rock on Red, 1971, oil on canvas, 30 x 26 inches

Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Rock on Red, 1971, oil on canvas, 30 x 26 inches

Are you feeling grounded and connected to yourself or like most of us do you need ways to bring yourself back to yourself? After my blog post last week offering five ways to re-ground after a time out of routine, I felt the need to pay particular attention to a simple thing every day for a week that was especially focused on helping me to feel centred, to feel connected with my real self and to feel especially in tune with nature. This week I’m going to share with you how that week looked for me and to offer you the challenge to devise something similar for yourself– just one thing a day that will help keep you present and grounded. In my part of the world it’s school holidays, a perfect time to engage with your children and encourage them to participate too. It can be a daily focus while you have a little more time than usual. I’m hoping you’ll discover that it actually takes very little time to incorporate this practice into your regular life – it just takes a commitment to do it and the self-knowledge that mindful activities make you feel calmer, less stressed and more connected to the real you! 

I posted on Instagram the grounding tool I used each day for a week:

 

Day 1 | Cook Whole food

I made a simple pumpkin soup– pumpkin, leek, cashews, ginger. I took the time to take it slow and focused fully and carefully on the task at hand, cutting, smelling the aromas, enjoying the stirring, allowing it to simmer for a long time.  I felt nurtured and centred as I followed on with the slow theme and leisurely relished its warmth as I ate.

 

 

Day 2 | Connect with a Sunset

Sunsets are one of my favourite things. They inspire me so much and remind me how amazing nature really is. When I feel connected with nature, I feel connected with me!

 

 

Day 3 | Accept Nature’s Invitation

There was nature calling me again to engage with it – to come down the path, to sit in the winter sunshine and feel a part of the real world of nature. All it takes is a commitment to notice what is in your immediate surrounds and then to take a few minutes to open to it. 

 
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Day 4 | Listen to the Wind in the Trees

Using all our senses is part of being in the present moment and to be mindful. To really listen to the rustling trees made me feel very calm and peaceful and energised in a way that felt inspiring.

 

 

Day 5 | Sit under a Giant Tree

There is something very profound about sitting on the earth under a tree – I felt the pull from above and below as I sat peacefully and felt connected to the earth. I carefully took the time to follow the shadows cast by the magnificent canopy – a calming and mindful moment.

 

 

Day 6 | Read a Spiritual Book

One of my very favourite books is Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. When I feel scattered I randomly open it and it always offers me a chapter that fits perfectly with me and brings me back to my inner self and connection. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 | Engage in something creative

It’s hard to think of anything else when you are making art, or music, or dance or writing from your heart or whatever it is that means being creative for you. Just opening my pastel box almost forces me into the present moment like no other! 

Seven days of purposefully setting aside a little time to engage in a mindful activity gave me the feeling of being grounded and connected that I was seeking. Perhaps you feel motivated to do the same and to encourage the children in your lives to participate too. We’d love to see and hear about any ways you engaged. Post here………? 

Sharing the gift of Mindfulness with Our Children

We recently changed our name from Making Mindful Children to Making Mindful Magic, the reason being we became increasingly aware that mindful children need mindful adults in their lives. That’s where and how it starts if we are to encourage and foster a new generation of mindful souls! Many of our posts and blogs challenge adults to think mindfully, to be in the present moment, thoughtfully living each experience as it comes and to be mindful enough to make choices in our lives that reflect our own values. When we are mindful ourselves we become open to paying the gift forward.

Where and how do we start sharing these values and beliefs with the children in our lives? It starts at the very grass-roots level of being the person you want your children to be, to provide experiences that show them what you value and to encourage them to value those things too so they can bring them into their own lives as they grow. If we’re talking about mindfulness as one of the values that we want to share then be the person who values slow, quiet time, who appreciates the need togive purposeful attention to your children and to your own activities and to make choices that reflect your values.

It can start simply with sharing. I know a very connected young father who passionately and regularly shares his beliefs with his children. He told me the simple story of when out bike riding with his three-year-old as his passenger, he shares his passion for being present with her. His story inspired me to write this verse, so moved was I by this unpretentious but effective way of sharing ideals and fostering passion.

 
   Poem by  Lea McKnoulty , Watercolour & pencil original artwork by   Mathilde Cinq-Mars Illustration

   Poem by Lea McKnoulty, Watercolour & pencil original artwork by Mathilde Cinq-Mars Illustration

 

This is what we love, the simple ways of sharing the gift of mindfulness with the children in your lives. We like to think our book Making Mindful Magic is a tool you can use to begin and to foster the act of sharing your passion for mindfulness. It's available on our website here in Australia and on Amazon in the UK, here and in the US, here

 

 

Being Your Real Self

The idea of truly living your own truth has been on my mind a lot lately! Many ‘Big Picture’ changes have happened in my life over the last 12 months and I know part of it is because I more than ever before want to live and make choices that are a reflection of who I really am. From my own perspective I know I spent a good part of my life living a version of myself, living a number of roles that in many ways had far more to do with keeping everyone else happy than with fulfilling my own life purpose and interests. As a woman of my generation that is not unusual.

It is an interesting thought to explore in terms of parenting as our children can be very different from us in temperament and interests. As parents, we can find ourselves walking a fine line between encouraging children into expectations of how we want them to be and behaviours that we find appealing or even comforting at the extreme and the other side that is encouraging them to find an environment that is appealing and fulfilling and comfortable for them.

Currently, I’m reading a wonderful book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. In one of the chapters the author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes uses the story of women as seals, who shed their skin and come out from time to time to play, to make her point. During one of these outings of shedding the skin, one of the women has her skin stolen by a man who convinces her to abandon her natural ways and come and live with him as he promises to protect her and look after her if she chooses him. She agrees and for a while, all is well but after a period of time she seeks her original skin and to return to her seal life as she feels withered and lost, losing her energy and vitality. I won’t finish the story for you as it is a book well worth reading and one I hope you will read but the point is if we are not prepared to live our own truth and revel in it then we are really living as a shadow of ourselves and the people we attract into our lives are those who are attracted to our false self, not our real self. The hope of life being ultimately fulfilling seems remote if lived under those conditions.

This, of course, brings up parenting challenges as we walk the line between encouraging the development of the real nature of our children or encouraging the version we find more socially acceptable. I have an unproven theory that if more of us were to be our real selves then more of us would be more contented as we would feel more self-fulfilled. Instead of swimming upstream against the current we could more leisurely go with the flow of our lives offering more opportunities for genuine contentment and fellowship with others who more comfortably fit with us. But if we aren’t brave enough to be our real ourselves or even look for that person and encourage our children to do the same then we and they will most likely continue to be swimming upstream against the natural flow and find it difficult to make connections with themselves and with those who are really part of their tribe. To find ourselves and our tribe we must first be prepared to open up to who we really are.

I recently have made opportunities in my life for a lot of self-reflection with and without guidance and support. The number one issue that keeps arising is my failure, until this point in my life to really feel I was living my own life. I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way, ones I needed to experience from in order to learn but I am now feeling my authentic self rising more and more often and it feels powerful and satisfying and brings me happiness. Opening up to your real self can be a huge challenge, it isn’t always comfortable to be the person who isn’t agreeing with everything for the comfort of others and there are many others with a vested interest in you remaining the person who fits in, who doesn’t challenge the status quo who just does what is expected of her. And the best thing is this opening up to your self is part of a continuum, start with wherever you feel comfortable and take it as slowly or quickly as you like. The speed of your journey of self-discovery is part of acknowledging your real self as well after all. 

via www.holisticshop.co.uk

via www.holisticshop.co.uk