My daughter’s amazing kindergarten teacher seamlessly integrated mindfulness into their everyday curriculum, and had a wonderful ritual to start each day. Every morning the class would sit together and first take an anchor breath together and then several “in-out” breaths. Once the class centered a bit, she would ask each student to pair up with another child, and facing each other, they would take turns sending kind thoughts to one another and then to themselves: “May you be happy. May you be strong. May you be peaceful. May you be loved.”
The class also sent the same kind thoughts to any visitor who helped the classroom, which was often a pleasant surprise for the guests. Sometimes my daughter said the kids would send kind thoughts to their parents, and she would ask me after school if I received her kind thoughts. I would tell her that I definitely felt her love. 🙂
Loving-kindness meditation (also called metta) is an actual practice, in which you can cultivate compassion for yourself and for others by repeating a kindness mantra. The specifics of the mantra can vary, but the idea is that you send kind thoughts first to yourself, then to those you love, then to those you feel neutral about, and to even those you dislike (which may be a difficult practice to do) and ultimately to all beings. Studies show that much like other compassion and gratitude practices, having a loving-kindness meditation practice can have great positive benefits on social and emotional well-being. Metta meditation, if done consistently even in short amounts, can lower stress levels, reduce depression, increase social connections and rewire the brain for greater empathy.
Now that we are on summer break, my older daughter does not have her daily kind-thoughts practice as she did in her kindergarten class. But one of the ways, we are trying to maintain a regular loving-kindness practice at home is through the guided kindness meditations on Headspace. I’ve written in the past about how we have done guided meditations as a soothing ritual before bed, which has worked really well for our home. In fact, many nights at bedtime now, my younger daughter asks “Where’s Andy?” (Andy leads many of the guided meditations on Headspace!)
The Headspace kindness meditations are a fantastic way to practice loving-kindness in short, age-appropriate ways. There are several levels of meditations from 1 minute to 9 minutes. Some of the shorter meditations do a brief walkthrough of kindness to yourself and others, whereas the longer ones for slightly older children require more of a visualization of sending kindness to others and to all beings. There have been a few times when I’ve led the guided kindness practice myself, but I think having the meditation on an app is a bit “cooler” than mom trying to lead it. Sometimes my girls falls asleep to the kindness meditation practices since we do them at bedtime, but other times I’ve asked my older daughter who she picked to send kind thoughts to. Usually she picks different family members, so I know that she is visualizing others in her mind. And even if it’s for a brief moment, I know my littles are getting some benefit from this kindness practice while sending positive energy out into the world.