Mindfulness. The ancient eastern practice of purposefully being in the present moment without holding any judgment. Focusing all of your attention on a moment-to-moment basis. A simple concept, but one that is difficult to achieve in our fast-paced world full of rigid schedules. We know that practicing mindfulness is healthy for us. It can help reduce stress, improve focus, and boost happiness. However, it seems impossible not to constantly be thinking (and/or worrying) about what we need to do next month, next week, or even the next minute. Imagine the benefits if as adults we all worked just a little but more on grasping the concept of mindfulness. Imagine if we encourage children, who already have a natural tendency to be in the moment, to practice this art! Mindfulness is a life-long learning process; why not get a head start?
I recently read the book The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction, Self-Harm & Out of Control Emotions by Karyn D. Hall, PhD and Melissa H. Cook, LPC. One of the chapters touched on children and the practice of mindfulness and how it can contribute to a strong sense of self. While reading it, the thought occurred to me that as a parent of a young son, I enjoy my time so much more with him when I am practicing mindfulness. When I don’t invite distractions and just allow myself to fully engage in the moment, whether we are walking down the street together or waiting at the dentist’s office, I feel so relaxed, so involved, and so.…happy. I’m also being a positive example for my child. It truly is a win-win situation for both of us.
As parents and caregivers we often encounter moments when we observe our children unknowingly practicing mindfulness. A child who is quietly watching a worm crawling through the dirt, sitting in the backseat of the car fascinated by a long train going by, or studying the details of a picture in a book. In that moment the child is completely absorbed in his sensations and thoughts. Some serious reflection is going on, right? So go with it. Slow down. Let the meditation be, however many seconds it lasts. Let him experience his senses and emotions. In this moment, the child is working on developing and preserving a healthy practice that he can use throughout his life! Yes, we have schedules to adhere to and places to be and that is just reality. However, keep in mind that these moments of mindfulness are often fleeting, yet so important. So if you can, try letting the “moment” your child is having fade away on its own. It will be gone all too soon, so why interrupt it? Encourage it, and enjoy it! The present minute, the mindfulness, is happening before your eyes, and you can be a part of it. Now that is a beautiful thing. Yes it is.
Jill Eisele is the Early Literacy Librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library. Her young son reminds her every day about the beauty of being in the moment.