Last year I got a book which I started reading a few days ago and it made me think of all of you and I need to say I miss you! Somehow, I would like to share what I am learning with you as I think it can help you go through those tricky times.
The book is called “Sitting Still like a Frog”, by Eline Snel – it’s all about mindfulness and activities related to meditation for children from 5 to 12 years old and their parents. I want to encourage you getting introduced to mindfulness!
I remember once in a circle with families in MA, the topic of “time” came up. The concern was whether the children understood what “today” or “this afternoon” or “later on” meant, and here is the answer: “children have neither past nor future, […], they enjoy the present” , said Jean de la Bruyère.
If I stop thinking about all the children I have observed during my experience in early years, I can definitely say that they live organically and intensely the present.
Christophé André, a psychiatrist, says that “children are perfectly capable of having, in their own way, a true and pure inner life,” but “as they grow this will change (…), they will cease to use the valuable predisposition of Mindfulness”.
What do you think if we, as adults, encourage children to keep on valuing the present? Why don’t we go back in time and try to enjoy the present more than the past or the future?
What does mindfulness mean?
“Feel the sun on your skin, the salty tears run down your cheeks; feel the joy, the discomfort and the irritation when they appear”, says Eline Snel.
Mindfulness is being present here and now.
Mindfulness for children
Children are born curious by nature. The fact of having this natural desire to learn makes them connect much more with each moment they live in the present. Adults can feel stressed, upset, restless and also relaxed, joyful and euphoric… and so do children!
“We can’t always be there for other people”
It is a fact that sometimes for any reason we feel we can’t be present for our children, and the result can end up with us losing our temper. Being aware of it will help. Just take a moment to stop, breathe and then feel and think what would you like to do in that situation.
“You can’t control the sea, you can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf, how to surf without a board”, emphasizes Eline Snel.
As individuals we tend to create expectations and sometimes things don’t work as we thought – and here I am, thinking about the trip to Formentera that we planned months ago but we had to cancel! Or I can imagine a parent thinking why does my child cries so much every night and I can’t sleep? I learned 3 words that help me go through any difficulty: presence, understanding and acceptance.
“Presence; it means being there with no judgments – being completely on that present moment. Understanding, will allow us being authentic when serenity and kindness fail. Acceptance is the attitude of those who acknowledge that things are what they are, without wanting to change them.”
Breathing comes naturally in us, we “hold hands” since the very beginning… and it will be there through our whole life. It is beautiful to feel it and it will connect us with the here and now.
Eline encourages us and our children to find a moment every day to be a bit more conscious about our inhalations and exhalations. We can find a quiet place in our house, for us and our children, where nobody will bother us and we will just breathe in and out a few times, connecting with the breathing.
We can talk about the breathing any time, for example when children are about to go to sleep or maybe after listening to a story or also after doing a physical activity, “I can see you are breathing really quick, can you feel it?”
The author of the book suggests the game of the frog and she says “the frog is a curious animal. He can jump so many times and he can also be very quiet. The frog knows what’s going on around him but he won’t always react. He breathes and stays still… therefore the frog doesn’t get tired. (…) His stomach inflates and deflates; it comes and it goes.”
The perception of the Senses
The sight, the hearing, the taste, the smell and the touch can also help us connecting with the present.
“Perceive with curiosity, without thinking or judging immediately, being open minded… is the way children learn and understand”, says the author.
There is an exercise that can help us be more aware of the environment and we can start doing it when we wake up in the morning. The exercise is about being conscious of every little body movement: which arm do we incorporate first to get up? How do the bedsheets feel on our skin, are they soft and warm? What leg do we stretch first? Is the floor cold or we placed our foot on a rug? The exercise can be as long as you want!
Through the sight we can also connect with the environment: it’s all about observing without judging, without making any comments. Eline proposes a game that you can play with children able to use more vocabulary. On the way to school you will ask the child to observe and then retain in his or her mind five real things, for instance a cat, a car, a house, a traffic light and a bird. Later on, the child will be asked for those 5 things plus how do they look like? This is a way that children can train themselves to see things in different ways without thinking whether is beautiful or not, and be aware of the reality.
The hearing. It is very nice to listen to each other, but it’s even better when we listen without judgment. An activity can also be listening for a few minutes the sounds we can hear in the environment not tagging any sound, just paying attention to the sound.
The taste. Eating carefully and consciously is also a great activity! Eline encourages you families, to have lunch all together in silence. You won’t say if it’s good or not, you will just enjoy every bite, feeling the texture and the taste!
I am sure we can all try to find our inner child, connecting with ourselves and our children a bit more and above all: try to find the positive!