Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kids Meditation: Creative Intentions

Amelie & the dolly of loving-kindness
I've had a slew of emails and comments lately from mamas who would like turn their kids onto a meditation practice.  Something I've discovered is that keeping it fun, short and on their level is absolutley essential.  It also helps if you bring a little creativity to the zafu. 

Try this exercise with your kids to nurture their creativity while setting an intention for the day.  Ask your child to sit with his or eyes closed and take a few normal breaths.  Encourage him to listen for all of the sounds he can hear and notice all of the things he feels.  Keep in mind that kids can usually sit for as many minutes as they are old -- but don't be too rigid about this.  Then invite him to look within for a totem to "bring back" and keep with him throughout the day.  Some of our favorites have been the love-bugs of compassion and the dolly of loving-kindness.

Younger children might enjoy creating a story with his or her totem and acting it out using natural toys and play-silks.  This totem is a useful tool for reminding us to act mindfully. 

If you are participating in our 14 Day Meditation Challenge, consider adding this exercise to your daily routine.  If you are a homeschooling family, consider adding this to your morning circle.  If you try this practice with your kids, be sure to come back here and share your experience with us.   Much gratitude and peace to all.

Day Two: Meditation Challenge {five tips for supporting your practice}

Because everything is connected, everything we do off of the pillow effects what happens on the pillow.  Here are five tips for supporting your practice.

1.) Create an environment of calm.  De-clutter the counter-tops, tidy your bookshelves, and organize your closet.  Encourage your kids to play with only one toy at a time.  Unplug the television.  Resist the urge to check emails and social networks first thing in the morning.  Consider these two weeks an at-home meditation retreat.

2.) Enlist support.  Tell friends and family about your meditation challenge.  Ask them to support you by contributing to your environment of calm. 

3.) Eat mindfully.  Enjoy whole foods, raw fruits and veggies, and organic grains.  While you are cooking, consider the long journey your food made to get to your kitchen.  Set the table with cloth napkins and tablecloths.  Consider saying a verse before eating such as, "the meal on my plate is the work of the universe."  Chew only your food - not your ideas or projects or worries.

4.) Exercise.  When our body is restless, so is our mind.  Try starting your day with a few rounds of Sun Salutations.    Get to a class, go for a walk, or exercise right at home with one of these award winning yoga DVDs from Gaiam.

5.) Connect with nature.  Noticing what is happening outside helps us notice what is happening within.  Watch the sunrise or the sunset.  Walk barefoot on the grass.  Have a picnic lunch.  Get to know the native plants in your area.  Create a nature table with seasonal items found on walks.   

It's not too late to join our 14 Day Meditation Challenge.  Sign up here and let your fourteen days begin today.  Much love & light to all.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Day One: Meditation Challenge {five steps to get started}

Zafu Meditation Cushion by OmMama on Esty
It's Day One of our fourteen day meditation challenge.  You're probably wondering where to begin or asking yourself, "how will I ever be able to sit still?" Here are five tips to help you get started.

The first step in a successful meditation practice is setting up space.  Choose a room or even just a corner that doesn't have a lot of traffic.  Clear out the clutter.  This is your sacred space and it should support your practice.

Consider adding a low table (or even a TV tray covered with a pretty cloth) to use for holding items that symbolize qualities you would like to embody through your meditation.  My table holds lavender (for calming), a candle (for insight), incense (as an offering of gratitude), and little stones balanced in a tower (for equanimity).  

Next, choose a cushion or pillow.  A couch cushion works just fine but as you continue to practice you might consider an organic buckwheat zafu like the one pictured above.  

The second step in a successful practice is choosing a good time to sit.  I prefer the mornings -- this helps me bring some of the stillness from my zafu into my day. Sitting at the same time each day will help your body get into a natural rhythm.

Step three is arriving on your cushion.  Wear comfortable clothes.  Cross your legs comfortably in front of you and sit with dignity.  (It's not necessary to sit in lotus.Relax your shoulders.  Place your hands gently on your thighs or consider holding them in a mudra.  Take a few moments to bring all of your awareness to this moment.  Feel your body settling in.  Fully arriving on your pillow will help your mind settle and make it easier to sit still.

Step four is noticing your breath.  Our breath connects us to each moment and acts as our anchor on (and off) the pillow.  Breathe normally through your nose and notice the sensation in your nostrils.  Relax your eyes and focus gently downward and a few feet in front of you.  

Step five is noticing 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 purpose is just to hold your seat and be present with whatever arises.

Try sitting for five or ten minutes the first day.  Remember that meditation is not about achieving a blissful, zoned-out state.  It's about becoming grounded in the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings.  It's about learning to face whatever comes your way -- both in your mind and in your life.

When you go about your day, keep "holding your seat."  Bring your awareness back to your breath throughout the day.  For more information on starting a sitting practice, click here.  If you would like to sign up for our 14 Day Meditation challenge, click hereIf you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask!

Much love & light to all!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Retreat Within: 14 Day Meditation Challenge

The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek, Mendocino, CA

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of retreating with some lovely mamas to the Mendocino Coast.  This was this first in what we hope to be an annual woman's retreat.  

I came home feeling rejuvenated, relaxed, and renewed.  In the weeks that followed, I was inspired to get back into my yoga practice, succeed at a seven day raw-food cleanse, and re-commit to my meditation practice.

Most of all, I was able to carry the balance I re-claimed at our retreat into my daily life.  While I wish I could live by the sand, sea and botanical gardens, I realize that these things are just a backdrop.  The scenery that truly matters is within our own minds. Retreats and spiritual pilgrimages (think Eat, Pray, Love) are wonderful ways to connect with ourselves; however, tending to our inner-garden is something that we can do everyday -- right here at home.  

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

In her poem, Risk, Anaïs Nin writes, "And then the day came, when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to Blossom."  I think starting a meditation practice is a lot like this.  Each moment is a new chance to blossom.

It's been twenty-six days since I re-committed to my meditation practice. Two more weeks will make it forty days (an important number for Buddhists and Christians).  I've been sitting for at least thirty minutes every morning and haven't missed a day.  I feel grounded and balanced and grateful for the mamas who helped me get back to this place.  What's more, I've rediscovered that  "retreat" is a state of mind.  Each time we sit on our pillow, each time we connect with our breath, and each time we pause before we react, we take a little spiritual retreat -- we give ourselves a chance to rejuvenate and renew.

I'd like to invite you to join me on my home stretch to forty days by making a pledge to sit for the next fourteen days.  In the days that follow, I'll post instructions, tips, links, and other goodies to help you get started with a sitting practice.  

Please leave a comment here or send me an email at mettamama [at] yahoo [dot] com if you'd like to join the challenge.

[photo credits: Heather Sewell Rush & Karyl Averill]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Blog with Substance Award!

Well, I'm just tickled to announce that I've won a blog award!  This is my first award since starting Om School in January.  Sharing our adventures here has been a real joy.  

Much gratitude to all of the friends and family who make it possible.

Here are the Award Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who awarded it to you.
  • Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, or experience using ten (10) words.  
  • Pass it on to 10 other blogs which you feel have real substance. 

Many thanks to Angelina at Homegrown Naturally for sharing this honor with me and giving me the chance to pass it along.  

My ten word blogging mantra?  "Unite the mind and heart, breathe, and touch every moment."  

And the ten Blogs with Substance awards go to:

1.) Heather at Shivaya Naturals.  A natural family living blog.  Creative, artistic and beautiful.  (  

2.) Sarah at Moonchild.  A blog about childhood, parenting, creative play, and operating her eco-friendly toy store, Bella Luna Toys. (

3.) Courtney at Easton Locavore.  One mama's quest to eat local, organic, wholesome goodness while working full time and raising a family. (

4.) Grace at
My Year In Haiku.  Original photography.  Original poetry.  Breathtaking, refreshing and insightful. (

5.) Heather at Zen & The Art Of Creativity.  Insights and wisdom from a certified Reiki Master, massage therapist, friend, and mama. (

6.) Julia at
Adirondack Mama.   Life, family, and a creative perspective.  Beautiful photography and amazing handcrafted goodies. (

7.) Laurette Lynn at The Unplugged MomOne audacious mama helping parents identify ways to engage in their children’s development. (

8.) Hannah at
A Handmade Childhood. An inside look at one mama's adventure in handcrafting a beautiful life for her children.  (

9.) Mandy at
Chasing My Bliss.  A mother and wife learning as she goes... loving the roller coaster we call life.  (

10.) Jennifer at Idiosyncratic Discoveries of Rose. Musings of a mother-wife-daughter-sister-teacher-friend-tree hugger-lover-poet-budding activist-romantic.  (

AND... I can't help but make it eleven and give special props to Karyl at Mommies Who Love Fitness who has been an inspiration to so many of us through the years.  Keep your eyes open for updates at her blog including a new e-book that's coming soon! 

Looking at this list of women makes my heart absolutely sing.  I am so grateful for each and every one of you... and constantly reminded of the healing, transformative energy that we, as mothers, possess.  Motherhood -- a sacred responsibility indeed. 

Mindfulness Practice: Color & Emotion Journals

Encourage your small children to keep a Color Journal.  Before bed each night, ask him or her, "What color was your day?"  Then invite him or her to experiment with shapes and forms using only that color. 

For older children, encourage them to take a few minutes at bedtime to write about the emotions they experienced during the day.  Ask him to recall how his body felt during those times.  Did his stomach feel tight when he was angry?  Did she relax when she felt joy?  Parents might try this exercise too.  Ask yourself, "What were the causes of the happiness I felt today?"  Did you delight in others?  What unpleasant events did you experience?  How did you react? 

Try this practice for one week.  Then share your journals as a family.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Morning Ritual: Five Yogic Habits for a Stress-Free Day

Sleepy Kid in the Morning Sunbeams
I am a big advocate of peaceful mornings.  When we start our day with peace, we create an opportunity for a stress-free day.  Here are five yogic habits that might just help you create a peaceful morning rhythm.  

1.)  Rise and shine.  Begin your day with the cool earth-energy that lingers before daybreak. Savor this stillness.  Prepare to be happy and shine.

2.)  Take it slow. Instead of hitting the floor running, take a few minutes to wake up.  Sit up, take a few deep breaths, and set an intention for a peaceful day.  Consider saying a verse like this ancient Indian mantra: "On the tip of my fingers is prosperity and abundance (goddess Lakshmi); in the middle of my hand is eloquence and learning (goddess Saraswati); at the base of my hand is divine power (goddess Gauri).  In the morning, a vision of energy in my hands." 

3.)  Cleanse.  Instead of racing (or schlepping) out to the coffee maker, consider the advice of ancient yogis, step into the bathroom, and say goodbye to yesterday.  Empty your bowels, brush, floss, and scrape that fuzzy tongue.  Ayurveda interprets tongue-fuzz as a sign of undigested toxins lurking in the digestive tract.  Unless we scrape, it's reabsorbed while eating or drinking.  Next, it's time for a cool shower.  Too much steam makes us sleepy -- a cool shower wakes up the body.

4.) Meditate.  Oodles of evidence now exists in support of the benefits of meditation.  Some of the health benefits include stress reduction, better sleep, lower blood pressure, an increased sense of well-being, and increased neuroplasticity.  To begin, borrow a pillow from your couch, put your tush on the cushion, and breathe.  It's that simple.  Just sit for a few minutes each morning and focus on your breath instead of your thoughts.  For instruction on mindfulness meditation, click here.  For instruction on Zen practice, click here.

5.) Step Outside.  Take a few minutes each morning to connect with nature.  Step into your garden or onto your patio and absorb some of the cool, new day.  Stand in Mountain Pose for a few minutes with your feet rooting down into the earth.  Notice the color of the sunlight and the sensation of morning air in your lungs.  Feel the freshness of the hour.  Instead of plopping them in front of the tube, invite your kids to join you outside.  Take just one breath together, smile, then quietly say, “Good morning, world!” Take this stillness into your day.

A few small changes in your routine might just make a big difference.  Beginning your day with peace in your heart is certainly a step in the right direction.  As Patanjali, compiler of the Yoga Sutras, writes, “Peace can be reached through meditation on the knowledge which dreams give.  Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart.”

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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