Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mindfulness Meditation for Kids & Families

When we practice paying attention on purpose to the unfolding of our lives, we see the ordinary miracles that give our lives meaning.  

Cultivating this mindful awareness promotes a deeper and more enduring sense of well-being found though simply being with whatever is happening in the present moment, with a recognition that it will pass and be replaced by a new experience in the next moment. (1) 

With mindfulness, we can feel our connection to the world, see that the light always follows the dark, and know that happiness is available right here in our everyday lives.  When we encourage our children to develop moment-to-moment awareness, we give them the opportunity to understand the greater context from which their lives emerge.We give them the opportunity to discover happiness moment by moment and day by day.

But how do we begin cultivating moment-to-moment awareness?  One tried and true method is through a daily meditation practice.  By sitting for just a few minutes each day, we can discipline our mind into becoming more connected to the present moment -- and less prone to becoming lost in worry and planning. 

Here are a few tips to get you and your kids started:
  • Find a quiet corner in your house and sit comfortably on the floor.  Consider placing a couch cushion on the floor and sitting cross legged there.
  • Relax your eyes.  Focus downward and a few feet in front of you.
  • Focus your attention on your breath and breath normally.  Feel your breath in your nostrils as you inhale and exhale.
  • Notice what you feel.  Becoming aware of your experience (whatever that is) is the most important thing.  Hold yourself in compassion with non-judgmental acceptance.
  • As your thoughts arise, try watching them rather than letting your mind drift away with them.  When you realize that your mind has wandered, bring your focus back to your breath again. 
The rule of thumb is that kids can generally sit for up to as many minutes as they are old.  Still, go with what works for you and your family.  For adults, try starting with just five or ten minutes.  

With practice, you'll be able to sit longer and bring the focused, relaxed attention cultivated on your pillow into your daily life.

(1) Kabat-Zinn 2003; Wallace and Shapiro 2006
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