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.Read More
In this week’s blog, part one of a series, Lea looks at creating a special place, be it in the family home or the classroom where calm is fostered as a practical example of bringing a slower, calmer practice to all our lives.Read More
One of our challenges is to seek, accept and nurture our children’s true selves as we help them become the best version of themselves on all levels, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. This is different to encouraging them to be the person who can make the most money or have the most prestigious career, as western society often demands. If it is truly not in a person’s nature to be following a particular career-orientated path then it is likely disconnection from themselves and a withering of their spirit will result.Read More
I like to think of it as letting the ‘why’ in your life be a guiding force. It can be a powerful reminder to keep us going when we find ourselves losing motivation. It is something for all of us to think about, not only adults but children too.Read More
Mindful living is becoming something we strive towards more and more in modern life, but how can we teach children mindfulness? Mindfulness is certainly not something just reserved for adults, the art of connecting with the present moment, taking our time to do things slowly and appreciating the little things is something we should be teaching children from a young age, an invaluable life skill for so many reasons. And where better to learn such a great skill for life than at school? Here we present five easy ideas to help teachers incorporate mindfulness exercises and activities into the classroom.
1. Quick Grounding Meditation
Introduce a daily ritual of taking two minutes at the start of the class’ day and again after lunch to help yourself and the kids in your class to ground, ready to learn!
What do we mean by grounding? Grounding means connecting to our own bodies, the earth and our connection to it, getting out of your head and into the body in the present moment. Signs of being ungrounded include hyperactivity, racing thoughts, inability to sit still, inability to concentrate, sound familiar in the classroom with your students?
Begin by sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat on the floor hip distance apart (shoes on or off). Make sure your nice and comfortable and then become still, like a tree. Take a slow deep breath in and out, and another breath in, and out, and one more in and out. Close down your eyes. Bring your attention to your body. Focus on the weight on your body as you sit on the chair. Now bring your attention to your feet and think about your feet as being very very heavy. Can you feel the heaviness of your feet? Feel the weight pulling downwards towards the floor. Now focus on the soles of your feet. Feel the contact of your feet with the floor and the earth beneath it. Continue to focus on the soles of the feet silently feeling the connection to the earth for the remaining time.
The aim of this exercise is to get the student to focus their attention, quiet down and settle their minds ready for a successful class full of learning.
2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating involves paying attention to the food you are eating, how it feels in your body, being grateful for the nourishment you’re giving your body and noticing when you are full or still hungry. Any opportunity for kids to practice mindfulness is a good thing, to be able to practice paying attention to the present moment and take joy from simple activities can only be positive! But mindful eating has the added bonus of helping kids to develop a healthy relationship with food, to pay attention to their bodies and not just eat mindlessly, either too much or too little.
To encourage this in the classroom, you could practice this exercise with kids a couple of times in the classroom, or simply explain the exercise, then remind and encourage them to try it when they are out in the playground. Questions they can ask themselves:
What colour is your food?
What is the texture of your food? Is it soft or hard? Light or heavy? Sticky or dry?
What flavours can you taste in your food?
What are the ingredients in your food?
How does it feel in your body as you eat it? Can you feel it moving from your mouth to your stomach or not?
Think of a way to make it into a game and you’ll have an even better chance of getting this exercise adopted at mealtimes at school or at home.
3. Mindful Art
You could argue that a lot of the kind of art children create is mindful anyway, most children are great at using art to express themselves authentically, putting on paper their emotions or the situations playing on their minds, without even knowing it!
To incorporate mindful art-making into the classroom, we simply need to make time to create without an end goal in mind, creating for the sake of creating and focusing on the present moment and the paper in front of you, the act of putting pen, crayon, pencil or paint to paper, or even sculpting with clay.
Why not put on some relaxing music, give out some paper and ask the children in your class to draw how they are feeling right now. Or if you’d prefer to do something more structured, you could ask students to draw around a repetitive, calming, easy theme like bubbles, triangles, waves, leaves, squares, dots, any shape or likeness you think the kids in your class could recreate easily depending on their age. Making time and giving kids permission to engage in the calming, grounding act of art-making is a great way to practice mindfulness.
4. Easy Yoga
Getting kids into a gentle, calming, healthy practice like yoga from a young age can’t be a bad idea! And making time in the classroom, even just 20 minutes (or 10) whenever you can fit it into your class’ schedule, is enough. Yoga asanas, the physical postures of the broader yoga philosophy, allow us to connect with our bodies, calm our minds through regulated breathing and increase our flexibility and the health of our bodies overall. This is an exercise that appears in our children’s mindfulness book, Making Mindful Magic, available in our online store and on Amazon US and UK.
Some easy yoga poses that children can easily connect with and remember, owing to their gentleness and animal or familiar names and shapes include:
- Cat Pose
- Cow Pose
- Bridge Pose
- Cobra Pose
- Corpse Pose
- Downward Facing Dog
- Cow Face Pose
- Tree pose
More information on the poses, including pictures on the Yoga Journal! You don’t need yoga mats to do such simple poses, a patch of grass or carpet will do just fine for this easy level.
5. Nature Appreciation
This is a theme that also appears in our book, Making Mindful Magic, often; taking the time to appreciate nature. Stopping to notice all the beautiful creations in nature, from the trees to the waves, to the leaves, to the grass and the sky, to insects and birds, is an easy way to help children to connect with the grounding energy of nature, to appreciate the simple, free things in life. A way to incorporate this theme into the classroom could include a short nature walk somewhere on the school grounds to collect leaves, flowers, pebbles, blades of grass, and taking them back to the classroom, spending time appreciating the colours, shapes, names of each thing collected, perhaps turning them into a collage, gluing them on the page and writing or drawing around this theme.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our suggestions for easy mindfulness exercises for children to use in the classroom, and of course, these are all exercises not just reserved for teachers and educators but are ideas you could adapt for home, your therapy practice or studio as well.
I have often wondered what has brought me to my passion for mindfulness and mindful living. I often say it is my own exploration into spirituality that has brought me to it but it doesn’t really explain why that is an important passion to even have.
Recently I have come to realise more fully that mindfulness is the avenue for opening up space in our lives as we slow it down and become more purposeful and aware of what we are doing so we are open for what life is really about, what are own particular purpose for being here is.
Mindfulness is purposefully going about our daily lives in a calm, uncluttered state, without the constant need to be doing, but rather making time and appreciating the ‘being’ instead. There are times when life is so busy that it’s hard but we can also easily lose sight of the need for any reflective, quiet time unless we make a purposeful effort to seek it. By making mindfulness a priority then we are consciously opening ourselves to the possibilities that surround us, the subliminal messages that show us the way forward to what we are seeking. So many people are seeking, they often are looking in the wrong places. They are looking in material possessions as their answer or in adrenalin as their answer whilst ignoring what is often sitting right under their noses. Finding what is under our noses can be found through self-reflection and listening to our intuition, and mindfulness is a vehicle for finding it.
We can easily become totally overwhelmed by the day to day trial of what we call living and forget, in the process, the whole big picture of our lives. It is easy to lose our trust in our own perspective and intuition if we are constantly running to everyone else’s agenda. If we try to run our own agenda perhaps in timeframe and priority then we are far more able to make decisions and actions that more whole-heartedly and honestly reflect ourselves and it is in doing this that we discover ourselves and our own true nature and this then gives us clues and shows us the way to discover why we are here and what our purpose is.
This then is why children and mindfulness are such an important combination. It seems, very few of us, from my generation spent or indeed were encouraged to learn very much about our true nature and purpose in life. If we as caregivers can install the need for mindfulness then a generation will be positively affected to make time for self-reflection and with it will come the practice to trust oneself and ones’ abilities, to fathom our gifts and what makes us contented and fulfilled. These are the signposts to seeking our true purpose for being here. It seems to me that much heartache can be at least reduced if not alleviated by seeking ourselves through this process.
As supporters and promoters of mindfulness for kids, at home and at school, and the role that passing on a mindful approach to life can have on children, we’re always on the lookout for others around the world that share our enthusiasm and beliefs.
We’ve collected up our some of our favourite organisations and initiatives we’ve come across on Instagram and the internet to inspire you and share examples of people creating change in their communities by teaching kids a more mindful way of living.
Here are five of our favourites:
1. Whole Beings Holistic education centre for kids
Burleigh, Gold Coast, Australia
Whole Beings was founded by two teachers who also happen to be sisters, who believe that the mind, body, and spirit of a child should be nurtured holistically to help them grow into all that they can be. Peace, compassion and gratitude, a connection to the natural world and the community are all part of their belief system they pass on to the children they teach.
A holistic non-standard approach to educating each individual learner for who they are is employed here with all their students. Whole Beings have offerings for young children to play, learn and create as well as after-school programs for school-aged children and teens to nurture each child's spiritual growth, guide them to use kindness, positive affirmations, and EFT as a mindfulness tool. Whole Beings’ revolutionary approach to education makes us excited for the future of education systems and all the possibilities we have available to us if we dare to think outside the box!
2. Wymbin Yoga Yoga, wellness and meditation classes for kids
We connect very strongly with Wymbin Yoga’s reason for being, based on ‘a deep belief that by starting with today's youth, we can start to change the world.’ We started Making Mindful Magic because of an awakening in our own lives of the powers of mindful living and everything that comes with it but realised that the place to start was with our children.
Wymbin is a children and youth yoga studio that focuses on providing families with wellness education, movement-based classes, and an inclusive community environment in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. They believe that through all these initiatives they can help kids flourish and grow!
Wymbin Yoga offers a variety of classes for kids including different variations & styles of yoga, dance, movement, meditation, and mindfulness including some very cool sounding parent and child classes families can do together.
3. Holistic Life Foundation
Implementing daily meditation and movement practices in schools and providing high-quality yoga and mindfulness education to individuals and communities.
The Holistic Life Foundation is a Baltimore-based non-profit organization committed to nurturing the wellness of children and adults in underserved communities. Through a holistic approach helping children to develop their inner lives through yoga, mindfulness, and self-care, they’ve served 14 different schools in the Baltimore area.
The Holistic Life Foundation come in and train the students over a short period of time to lead their own classmates in stretches, breathing exercises, centering exercises and meditation. Students continue to lead their classes through these exercises regularly once the foundation has done their job, meaning these practices are sustained over long periods of time leading to happy, healthy, stress-free, relaxed, and peaceful students.
We found this incredible organisation through a great article on CNN talking about how The Holistic Life Foundation helped a school replace detention with a Mindful Moment Room to help kids re-centre and think about what they’d done instead of being punished.
4. The Hutto Project Choir for children of displaced populations living in a refugee camp
In 2016, The Hutto Project came into an emergency refugee camp outside Berlin with the objective of creating a creative music and performance program for the asylum-seeking children living in the camp. For the duration of the project, which has now ended as the camp is no longer in operation, they provided space, time, and musical instruction — 90 minutes, three times a week — for children ages three to fourteen from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Moldova, and Vietnam. Together, they explored music theory and performance, created original choral music and movement pieces, and collaborated with artists of all disciplines and ages.
The objective of the initiative which we wholeheartedly applaud and agree with, was about providing consistency to these children, displaced from their homes, countries and everything they knew, fostering self-expression, and building bridges between the many cultures living in the small community.
They found that structure also had a big impact on the kids, whose days were otherwise free-form, chaotic, and random in the absence of a formal schooling program in the camp. We believe strongly in the power of music and creative expression as important parts of mindful living for kids, music can even act as meditation as we wrote about recently in our post on 5 Easy Ways to use Music as a Mindfulness and Meditation Tool for Kids.
5. Jamie’s Food Revolution Mindful eating, healthy food and food education for kids
UK, USA and Australia
Access to good, fresh, real food and the basic skills to cook it has the power to transform kids’ lives, and that’s what the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation is all about. Jamie’s Food Revolution aims to improve the health and happiness of future generations, through the food they eat. From their food education programmes to their national and international campaigns that influence policy on key issues, they aim to revolutionise the way people feed themselves and their families.
Two of Jamie’s projects we love are; the Kitchen Garden Project, empowering primary school teachers to integrate growing and cooking into the school day, and the Ministry of Foods practical and hands-on community-based cooking programme that teaches people of all ages how to cook. Food is the only fuel we give our bodies, and part of a mindful approach to life is being mindful of the food we eat and how we eat it, looking after our bodies, minds and spirits and giving us and our kids the best chance to thrive and grow.
Music can be a powerful, practical tool to bring mindfulness and meditation into our lives as well as our children’s lives. Here we present five easy ways to use music as a tool for mindfulness and meditation with the children in your lives, be it at home or in the classroom. Read our recent more general posts on music for meditation and mindfulness here and here for more tips and information on the links between these two calming, positive practices!
1. As a tool to calm children
In our ebook (find it here), music is used as a tool to calm children in preparation for a better night’s sleep. In the same way, music can be used anytime as a tool for calming children down, to a place where it is easier to be peaceful and more focused on the present moment in much the same way meditation is used. In the article above you’ll find suggestions for some pieces, you might like to try.
2. As a tool to help concentration
By bringing our minds to a calm, peaceful place we can help children become better at focusing on the task at hand. During our workshops music is always used as a part of that process, using finger plays with younger children and action, interactive songs with older ones. If you’re in the classroom use action songs to re-focus after the often highs experienced during lunch break or if you’re at home, try them before homework time. The very act of putting together words and actions in song requires being fully in the present moment and re-grounds us for better concentration. We like this link here for some ideas on finger plays and action rhymes for young children and you’ll find some good examples to use with older kids here
Remember any song can be an action song – just add some arm movements. Get the kids to make them up if you’re not feeling too creative or just because kids have brilliant ideas!
3. As a tool for kids to feel their emotions
Just like meditation and sitting quietly are important ways for each of us to connect with our inner selves, listening to emotive music is a tool you can use with your children to help them connect with themselves. Our recent blogs, and last week's about Letting Go talk about why this is so important for emotional well-being and mental health and its early establishment in children is a gift for ongoing healthy lives. After some quiet, deep breathing to bring focus to the moment, try any of these songs that may help children find quiet space within themselves for self-reflection
4. As a tool to use with dance for self-release and self-love
Music is an inspiration and accompaniment for free dance which itself is a cathartic tool to release deep emotions and to focus on the present moment in much the same way as meditation. Children love to move – it is almost a pre-requite of childhood so use music to help establish dance as a tool for self-expression, self-love and self-release. Any of the above pieces (in tool 3) can be used for moving in free dance. We need to establish as adults that there are no rules for free dance and self-expression, it is all good! It releases the soul and acknowledges an acceptance of ourselves and others in a most profound and healing way and without judgment we can be fully ourselves in the present moment.
5. As a tool to write about our feelings and thoughts.
Journaling is long held method for connecting with the present moment. You can use emotive music pieces to encourage children to focus inwardly in a similar way to meditation used before writing. A little quiet listening to music before writing about feelings is a great way to focus. You can use fstimulus statements like, ‘When I listen to this music I feel…..” or “When I listen to this music it helps me remember …..” Very young children can draw instead of writing with similar results. Again the emotive music in Tool 3 could be used but experiment and try different styles and pieces – most likely different emotions and situations will be evoked.
‘In the ancient cultures of India, Egypt, and Greece, music played a therapeutic role in the lives of people. It was created and performed with the intention of bringing about well-being and health. By the Middle Ages, the idea of music as entertainment took over. But down through the centuries, many industrious, stubborn and creative souls have kept alive the use of sound and music as medicine for the body, mind, and spirit.’ Jeffrey Thompson
Let’s be part of making music, medicine for the soul – for ourselves and our children!
Developing a routine of self-reflection is beneficial for adults and children alike. Making time for self-reflection and self-awareness activities for children at home and in the classroom helps kids to gain a better understanding of both the world around them and especially themselves.
I love this quote from Jennifer Porter, ‘Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning.’ A lot goes unnoticed without time for reflection, many opportunities are lost to assimilate what happens into our thought process without it.
If we quieten our minds enough to allow self-reflection we can also grow in our understanding of ourselves and this helps us move towards self- acceptance and self-love which are so very important to our emotional health and well-being. Children’s need for this is as great as adults and what a gift to them and the society they will be functioning in as adults, to be making space for self-reflection from an early age. If children are encouraged to believe self-reflection is not only acceptable but necessary, then we are all winning.
Our five top ways to encourage children to self-reflect are these:
1. Be a good example as an adult. Do you project the image of the adult in their lives who is always busy, always having to do, rather than be? Are you the person who sits and reflects without any agenda? If you are then bravo! If you aren’t, then think about making time in your own life for self-reflection and tell your children that are you are having quiet reflection time.
2. Help them find the time in their own lives. Don’t schedule every second of their lives or be perturbed that they may be bored if they have free time – it is every child’s right to be bored and to fill it with time just to reflect and to be!
3 Make a Family Time for self-reflection – it can be part of a sit and do nothing time or it can come with a simple question – maybe thinking about how you feel now or how you felt during your day? Start small, like 2 minutes and build it up from there.
4 Make journal writing a part of their routine. Very young children can use non-written ways to write a journal, drawing about their feelings or dictating to a parent can be used if they are too young to write themselves. You don’t have to solve the problem, you can be merely the one who gives comfort and validation to a feeling. It can of course be about positive feelings, not just difficult ones. It may be a time when they can accept a situation or decide they can do something about it. What is important is they know its ok to self-reflect and ponder life. They will love the independent and powerful feeling it gives them!
5 Encourage gratitude Ask the question often, ‘What are you grateful for?” You can start by sharing what you are grateful for so they get the ideas. This notion of gratitude can often put in perspective those difficult situations as being perhaps not as huge as they may have thought when weighed against the positive things in their lives.
Self-reflection helps us realise some things are out of our control and need to be accepted as a part of our life’s journey. It gives us the space to recognise who we are and to, therefore, accept and love ourselves. It can steer us into thinking what it is about our life that makes us happiest, who are the people and experiences that give us the most joy and peace in our lives. If we are comfortable exploring who we really are then we can better use and trust our own guidance and intuition.
Free time for thinking allows us to access that part of ourselves that we can so often deny, that part that keeps our hidden feelings, our hurt feelings, the ones we are always trying to keep down there deep inside so we don’t have to face them. Letting ourselves have time so they can come up and surface and to feel comfortable enough to sit with them and deal with them is a healthy habit to develop especially in a child as it can be carried into adulthood where the hurts from our childhood can fester!
Self-reflection is for everyone! It’s a time for getting to know yourself better and to accept yourself. It’s not a time to explore the idea of being perfect, that leads nowhere positive but learning to accept and trust yourself is a gift best learned as early as possible!
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!
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
DAY FIVE: Colour a Mandela
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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………?
This weekend was a musical extravaganza for me –on Friday night I went to a ukulele jam session at a local café and then Saturday my choir performed with a number of others in an incredible afternoon of a combined choir experience. It made me feel happy and uplifted for sure as all those endorphins flooded into my body and soul but it also reminded me how mindful making music really is! I think it’s virtually impossible to not be present when you are making music of any sort!
That’s a gift for any person and any family to embrace! Last week I wrote about the need to share in a simple way our values and passions with our children. My blog told the story of a friend, a dedicated dad who shares his mindfulness passion by engaging his daughter through verbalising what he sees, what he hears, what sensations he’s feeling as they ride his bike together and she reciprocates and the passion grows very organically and without a lot of effort, but with a lot of purpose!
You can do the same with the children in your life with singing and music! This is not about how musical you are either - there are a myriad of youtube experiences from which you can learn a simple children’s song, the internet is full of them! Or you can choose a song they sing at school or kindy, find it on youtube and use it until you can sing it together alone. If it has actions – even better! You are riveted in the present moment when you sing an action song! How about the Hokey Pokey – you remember ‘You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…..” Find it here
When I do workshops with kids, I always include a finger play or action song – you can see a little bit of Incy Wincer Spider below...
You can use musical instruments for mindfulness in a similar way – you don’t need expensive, authentic instruments for this either, although if they are at your place already go right aheadand use them. If you don’t’ you can make music from a myriad of home-made ‘instruments’ – rice filled jars make wonderful maracas! You can also easily make home-made drums with empty cans, sturdy brown paper and rubber bands. Bells inside whisks are pretty amazing and check this out for a myriad of other ideas - https://au.pinterest.com/explore/homemade-musical-instruments/?lp=true Find some music you all like and play along together. Pretty simple isn’t it and there you are sharing the gift of mindfulness with the children in your lives!
Most of us love listening to music but there is active and passive listening and only one is mindful, although both are highly enjoyable! Passive listening allows you to go about your business with music playing in the background but active listening through which you can purposefully set aside some time to sit and listen and engage with music, invites us to be mindful. This is something you can easily share with the children in your lives. I favour something that aligns with the emotions so you can feel freely and to let more feelings arise. The point here is to let yourself be reactive to what you hear – it can be through movement and dance or you can sit and let the feelings that arise to just be held withininstead of trying to supress them which is never helpful in the long term.
Caring and sharing are closely linked – we all care about our children, use whatever opportunities that arise to share your passion to be mindful. Music adds such a wonderful, connected opportunity to being mindful so making time to include it in family life makes a whole lot of sense!
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.
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.
How being a mindful parent can help kid’s independence
Yesterday was Mother’s Day in my part of the world and it got me thinking about a variety of mothering issues that we all face. One of them is how much we should do for our kids?
As a mother I would say that I did too much for my children, going in to bat for them when problems arose. Looking back I wonder why? Maybe it was based on protecting them from pain but maybe also it was a better reflection on me if they were successful and didn’t stumble. Ouch!
In the long run experiencing pain and being allowed to live their own lives, mindfully being in their own moment, living the experiences they are meant to live, teaches them resilience and self-reliance which are big factors in building self-confidence.
I was once asked by a friend how to build self-confidence in children. As a former early childhood teacher who had studied child psychology perhaps they thought I had the answers. For my own children I think It would have been more helpful if I was more mindful to paying attention to where they were in their own life journey to independence and to allow them to find their own answers more often and to suffer the consequences of their own choices.
Now I’d answer my friend’s question by saying trusting them to deal with their own lives from as early an age as possible is really important – be the mindful parent and watch for when you can comfortably ‘look on’.
That definitely does not mean we start ignoring our kids – it’s just the opposite! We pay a lot of mindful attention to what they are doing and what stage they are at but then letting them make choices or even ignoring choices but living the consequences themselves rather than us trying to protect them and to dictate what happens in their story!
And that can be really challenging – believe me I know!
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.
What does it mean to live mindfully? Why should we care if our children are mindful? How can we help them become more mindful?
Being mindful or living in the present means we will most likely lead to an authentic and grounded life.
When we are comfortable living a life we believe in, exposing our true selves then magically we are free from everyone else’s expectations.
We are connected to firstly ourselves but also to nature and the people we value in our lives because they will value us for our true selves, not a version that seeks to please others expectations.
Teenage years are fraught with problems of influence. Unless they know their own minds and truth, they can easily be influenced by other’s minds and truths.
Children brought up to value authenticity may very well be immune from the influence of others. They will value the opinions of those they recognise as having a similar value base.