We know mindfulness is good for us. Mindfulness allows us to retain the appearance of mental sanity in an increasingly complex and hostile world.
Mindfulness is also good for our kids. There is an emerging body of research (conducted and sponsored by some of the leading forces in the expanding mindfulness community) that indicates mindfulness can help children improve the social skills that will allow them to become attractive on a competitive job market.
Do we even need to ask if you want that for your kids?
So where do we start? How can we teach these important skills to our children?
First things first…
Establish your own practice.
To authentically teach mindfulness to your children, you need to practice it yourself. You can start slowly with a meditation practice of just a couple of minutes a day. Find ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities. If you haven’t already, consider subscribing to The Mahavihara or Mindful Magazine.
Keep it simple.
Mindfulness is a big word for young kids to understand. (It’s actually quite hard to grasp even for seasoned mindfulness practitioners). Put simply, mindfulness is the art of becoming so absorbed in our own thoughts, feelings, and – above all – bodily sensations that we stop thinking about anything else. If we practice diligently, we may reach a point where we see for ourselves that “No thinking, no mind. No mind, no problem”
Check your expectations.
Are you expecting mindfulness to significantly impact activities as dissimilar as caregiving, dying and death, sex, parenting, healing and health, navigating intimate relationships, consumerism, finances, cooking, eating, entrepreneurship, creativity, sports, activism, education, protecting the environment, working with prisoners, and so on, you are likely to be disappointed. (You don’t believe those stupid ads claiming that “67% of women reported reduced wrinkles over 4 weeks” or that it’s possible to lose 25 lbs in two weeks, right?)
The purpose of mindfulness, properly understood, is to give our kids the necessary skills to gently soften their awareness of what’s going on in the world, to recognize their thoughts as “just thoughts”, and to provide tools for a successful adjustment to the needs of the market.
Mindfulness is not a panacea, and it will not completely get rid of what is, frankly, reasonable reactions, like tantrums and loudness and whining and exuberance and arguing. But, if your kids are given the wonderful gift of mindfulness, they will reflexively turn such negative and destructive reactions inwards, where they will become a wonderful source for therapeutic exploration in the future.
Don’t force it.
If your kids aren’t interested in mindfulness, or if they show symptoms of depersonalization or heightened anxiety, drop it for a while. This is a good time for you to practice non-attachment to outcomes!
Now, if you’re really serious about all this, if you really want what is best for your kids, the best thing is obviously to sign up for one of our upcoming Little Lotus Retreats™, open for kids ages 4 and up.