Home > Uncategorized > Mindfulness, it’s not just for grown-ups!

Mindfulness, it’s not just for grown-ups!

One of my missions in life is to teach my daughters how not to be ruled by their thoughts – I really wish this sort of training was available when I was a tot (I suppose it was – in Tibet . . .).  As it were, I spent the better part of my life either thinking about how things could have been better, how things were better or hoping the future will somehow be even better.  I was completely unaware of the present moment and completely oblivious to the fact that I totally identified with pretty much every thought I had (I especially gravitated to the hyper-critical thoughts of myself that provided excellent fuel for my perfectionist tendencies).  It has been said that the mind makes an excellent servant, but a lousy master.  I agree 100%.
Naturally, I want to teach my children to be masters of their own mind. I’m still not absolutely clear at what age the cognitive shift happens for children to understand the concept that they are “the watcher of their thoughts”, but I witnessed my 5 y.o. become the watcher of her own thoughts last night.  To say I was elated, is putting it mildly.  Here’s what happened.
For about a month now, I’ve been teaching various age-appropriate mindful awareness tools to my 3 and 5 y.o. I learned many tools from some videos I watched where  teachers from the organization Inner Kids were demonstrating how to use these tools (I was also lucky enough to attend one of their workshops recently – it was awesome) .  Unfortunately, when my 5 y.o. loses a game we’re playing, she also tends to lose her mind. Last night was no exception.  The girls and I were playing a nice friendly game of Hi-Ho Cherry-Oh when my 5 y.o. came in last.  The tears and hysterics commenced.  I quickly grabbed a sno-globe and shook it up and said, “honey, you’re mind is like this right now” – both girls actually knew the drill for this tool I was using and they put their hands on their bellies to test, if by breathing slowly and deeply, they can cause the snow in the globe to settle down.  My 5 y.o. was still crying, and my 3 y.o. appeared to be taking the exercise in a new direction and hyperventilating (but, hey, they gave it a go). What happened next took my breath away (no, I wasn’t hyperventilating) – my daugther looked at me and said, “do what I’m doing.” And she forced a fake cry and I could see a smile emerging on her tear stained face.  She wanted me to mimic her. It’s something we do when the kids are throwing down a tantrum – sort of a if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em thing.  So I did, I copied every grimace, fist pound, foot stomp she did and the hysterics morphed into hysterical laughter. The magic of what happened here is that she was able to see that her behavior was a reaction to her thoughts of, I’m guessing,  “I lost–> that’s bad–>that makes me sad/mad–>I must react by crying” and she was cognizant enough to see that she could choose her reaction to the thought. So, now, her thought probably went more like: “I lost –> that’s bad –>that makes me sad???, hey wait, Mom does that thing when I get like this that actually makes me laugh – that’s more fun – lemme see if I can get her do it!”  
I have never seen my child switch gears like that, on her own, before.  It was a beautiful thing. Now,  I’ve pretty much always known I was never destined to earn a Ph.D. in home economics, and I’d rather have dental work performed on me than sit and do arts and crafts, but I do know this: I am totally equipped to teach my children how to be mindful and help guide them in the direction of their happiness.  Next to loving them unconditionally, I honestly can’t think of anything I could do that is more important (or rewarding) than that.
I read this insightful chant today (adapted from the Navajo Indian Beauty Way chant):
There is beauty before me, there is beauty behind me
There is beauty to my left, there is beauty to my right
There is beauty above me, there is beauty below me
There is beauty around me, there is beauty within me
I take from this that even when it isn’t excruciatingly obvious, there is beauty in all things and in every moment – it comes down to what we choose to see.  Take a paper cut, for example: we can curse the pain, or marvel at how the body immediately starts repairing the wound with no conscious effort on our part.  The circumstance remains the same, just our perception has shifted and that makes all the difference.
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