This week, we’re going to begin a family practice of meditation and mindfulness which I hope will last a lifetime.
There’s nothing worse than looking at your kids’ faces or bodies tensing up when they realize that something bad has just happened or that they might have just done something wrong. I’ve certainly seen that frightened look in my kids’ faces many times. Of course, there’s nothing I can do to stop them from responding in fear or anxiety. It’s a natural, human response! What our kids do in that minute or two after the initial shrug or shriek, however, is something we can help them prepare for. We can teach our kids to meet fear and anxiety with calmness and determination by practicing mindfulness and self-awareness as a family and by encouraging them to do so on their own.
Late in high school, one of my amazing teachers, Mr. Antenore, gave me a copy of an old book, Deborah Rozman’s Meditation for Children. I still remember opening up to a picure of a little boy in an old-school 1970’s western snap-shirt, sitting cross-legged on a tree stump with his eyes closed and his hands in his lap, and thinking, if I could only get to that place!! And, the book taught me how to do just that. I learned to center myself in the midst of a veritable maelstrom of other peoples’ thoughts, feelings, and resentments, as well as my own, and to begin to cultivate a sense of balance and self-reliance that couldn’t be shaken quite so easily. I remember that the author also suggested that meditation, mindfulness and awareness should be practiced as a family. And, I vowed to take this on when I had a family of my own.
This week, at home, we’re going to focus specifically on meditation and mindfulness as a family. I am hoping that this will offer the kids a sense of protection and a sense of unity at home. In turn, I hope that this will enable them to respond to difficult situations on their own with calm, courage, and confidence.
Here are the three meditaiton and mindfulness exercises I’ve designed for us to try this week. These exercises need take no longer than 5-10 minutes to complete. We hope you’ll try them, too!
Three Meditation Exercises for Kids and Families
- Sit cross-legged in a circle or semi-circle on the floor. Place a lit candle or an LED votive at the centre-point of your circle.
- Stare at the candle and breathe in and out, taking thirty slow, deep breaths.
- After thirty breaths, or when you feel comfortable, close your eyes and continue to breathe slowly and deeply, trying to see the flame in darkness in your mind.
- After another thirty breaths, or when you feel comfortable, imagine yourself as the dancing flame as you breathe in and out, slowly and deeply.
- After another thirty breaths, or when you feel comfortable, try to return to that image of the flame in darkness in your mind’s eye, breathing in and out, slowly and deeply.
- After another thirty breaths, or when you feel comfortable, open your eyes softly and breathe slowly and deeply, staring at the flame for a final 30 breaths.
- Please continue the breathing or repeat the steps of the meditation until a designated family member breaks the silence with a soft, “Yes,” or by extinguishing the flame.
Cooking the Udon
- Choose one child or parent as a leader.
- Have everyone else lay flat on the floor, close their eyes, and begin breathing deeply.
- Over the course of the next few minutes, the leader tells the listeners the following:
Tighten all of the muscles in your body so that you’re as stiff and long as an uncooked Udon noodle:…Feel the hair on your head tighten…Feel your forehead tighten…Feel your eyelids tighten…Feel your nose tighten…Feel your cheeks tighten…feel your mouth tighten…Feel your neck tighten…Feel your shoulders tighten…Feel your upper arms tighten…Feel your elbows tighten…Feel your lower arms tighten…Feel your hands tighten…Feel your fingers tighten…Feel your chest tighten…Feel your belly tighten…Feel your hips and bottom tighten…Feel your upper legs tighten…Feel your knees tighten…Feel your lower legs tighten…Feel your ankles tighten…Feel your feet tighten…Feel your toes tighten.
- Next, the leader begins the relaxation cycle by telling the listeners the following:
You have been plunged into a pot of warm, bubbling, salted water….Imagine yourself floating on the top of the water for a minute, breathing in and out…Now imagine your body absorbing the water and becoming soft and jiggly…Feel your toes loosen…Feel your feet loosen...Feel your ankles loosen...Feel your lower legs loosen...Feel your knees loosen...Feel your upper legs loosen...Feel your hips loosen...Feel your belly loosen...Feel your chest loosen...Feel your fingertips loosen...Feel your hands loosen...Feel your wrists loosen...Feel your lower arms loosen...Feel your elbows loosen...Feel your upper arms loosen...Feel your shoulders loosen...Feel your neck loosen...Feel your mouth and jaw loosen...Feel your nose loosen...Feel your cheeks loosen...Feel your eyelids loosen...Feel your forehead loosen.
Feel your head loosen and your hair fall out.
- Finally, the leader goes around the room to check if the pot of noodles is ready by trying to lift arms and feet. The noodles on the floor can’t open their eyes until they have been jiggled to the satisfaction the of the leader.
- When everyone has been “jiggled” awake, the leader asks the noodles to jiggle and laugh as they all try to stand up! It’s okay to be silly, now, and jiggle-dance around the room as you complete your meditation.
Trees, Grass, Flowers
- Go outside in your back yard or to a park or beautiful garden.
- Sit down on the grass or on a bench in front of something beautiful you’ve discvoered there: a large tree, a blade of grass, or a beautiful flower. Family members or friends needn’t sit right next to each other. It’s alright if you are scattered across the yard or garden, as long as people feel comfortable being on their own at a distance. Just know that you will all be mindful for the next five to ten minutes.
- Sit for several minutes just breathing slowly, looking only at your special tree, grass, or flower.
- With your eyes open or closed, imagine yourself becoming that natural object.
- Feel your treeness or grassness or flowerness.
- Imagine yourself moving in the landscape as that object moves, swaying in the wind or withstanding a storm.
- With your eyes closed, imagine a different weather day and how you might react to that storm or sunlight.
- Think about the way that tree or grass or flower derives its energy from its environment and imagine yourself being refreshed by that energy.
- Imagine that tree, grass or flower from its birth or its beginning as a seedling all the way through to its deterioration and passing.
- Now, remember what that tree, grass or flower looked like just before your closed your eyes.
- Open your eyes again, looking at your beautiful natural object.
- Smile as you breathe and admire your object for another few minutes or until you feel feel completely relaxed.
While the meditation book I received in high school is rather new-agey and dated, based on the reviews of a few good friends, I will recommend, for further reading, Elaine Snell’s: Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids and their Parents.