In the book “Awakening Joy for Kids” as well as his adult course “Awakening Joy,” James Baraz (co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center) describes ten wholesome habits to create well-being in your life. One of his first recommendations is to set a positive intention for your day to “incline your mind toward a particular vision.” By doing so, you are more likely to pay attention to ways that you are focusing on that intention and changing old habits that don’t help you achieve well-being. In his book, Baraz cites a quote from Dan Siegel, who describes that “Intentions create an integrated state of priming, a gearing up of our neural system to be in the mode of that specific intention: we can be ready to receive, to sense, to focus, to behave in a certain manner.” Read more
A lot of the mindfulness exercises and games I do at home are activities that my older daughter actively engages in because of her age. My 2-year old participates as much as she is able to, but I think we need a couple of more years for her to really get a lot out of our planned activities. The other day, however, I realized that my 2-year old spends most of her day “practicing” mindfulness just by doing what she does best- exploring everything with intense curiosity and wonder.
We’ve started doing weekly walks right before her music class to just leisurely pass about thirty minutes we have together before her class begins. During our walks, my 2-year old stops every few seconds- observing, commenting, touching all the things she sees in her sight. She touches leaves, steps in puddles, pauses when she hears chirping birds. She looks up and down, and asks “what’s that mama?” at almost every step, when she sees simple things like wrappers and cigarette boxes. We don’t make it very far during our half-hour walk, but it doesn’t even matter- she has a blast. Everything is a new wonder to her and she seems genuinely intrigued to learn more.
Admittedly, during the last week or so with the increase of hate crimes around our country and even in our local neighborhoods, I’ve had a hard time being mindful and have been very worried about the future of our country and my children. However, I’ve realized that this anxiety is not productive. And in fact, it’s extremely critical to stay present and positive during this time. This is a work in progress, but I wanted to share some mindful tips that I’ve started applying during these anxious times:
Modulate Fear through Meditation: One of the primary ways to regulate emotions and fear is through mindful meditation. As Dan Siegel points out in his book, The Mindful Brain, “fear may be learned limbically, but its ‘unlearning’ may be carried out via growth of prefrontal fibers.” This growth can be enhanced through mindfulness practices and we can unlearn fears through formal or informal meditation. I found that after just a few months of a daily meditation practice, feelings of fear were profoundly reduced. If it’s hard for you to start a formal meditation practice, here’s a post I wrote with some tips. And if formal meditation is never going to be your thing, then you can find informal practices that can have the same effects by tuning the mind into the present-moment. Here’s some activities you can do with your children at home. Read more
I’ve finally been able to establish a daily meditation practice, sitting 20 minutes a day, and find myself even craving the practice and wanting to sit longer. But this was not always the case. I definitely struggled to develop a consistent meditation practice for some time. I knew that the benefits of consistently meditating would be immense, but often I found the practice to be another chore on my already long list of to-dos. And somehow this chore always fell to the bottom of the list. Even if I was able to maintain a meditation practice for a few weeks, it would end after just that, and then not resurface for several months. I went through several unsuccessful strategies and attempts trying to meditate before figuring out what it was that worked for me.
Recently I had an amazing experience of mindfulness during a sleepless night. I drank a little too much tea earlier that day, and as is usual for me when I’m over-caffeinated, I was wide awake at 1am- after only 3 hours of sleep. And then begun the battle in my head while in bed, where I oscillate between the long list of to-dos for the next day and the fact that I’m so annoyed that I’m awake and can’t sleep. On this particular night, this battle probably continued for a solid half hour at least, and then all of a sudden I had this realization that my heart was extremely tight and contracted. Read more