©2014 Heidi Siegell
Meditation is an essential way of developing mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying full attention to the present moment, while non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting ones thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. The practice of mindfulness can help in the development of many skills, including self-soothing, focus, self-regulation and empathy. It has been proven to relieve stress and enhance wellbeing.
The following exercises are great for kids. Many of them work well for adults, too!
1. Sit on the floor on a pillow with your legs crossed; or sit upright on a chair with your feet flat on the floor
2. Close your eyes and breathe through your nose. Focus on your breath. You can watch your belly rise and fall, you can feel the coolness of your breath as it flows in and out of your throat, you can watch it come in and out of your nose or you can feel the warmth and coolness as it brushes your upper lip.
3. If thoughts arise, notice them as they do and then put your attention back on your breath
Focusing your mind in this way, even for just a few minutes at a time, allows your breath to slow and your body to relax. It gives you access to stillness and peace.
Speaking of which, you can play the song "In Stillness" while you meditate. Listen to the words as you watch your breath. Let the music relax your body and mind
Note: If time is short, you can try a "take 5” breath. Watch your breath as you inhale for five slow counts, and then exhale for five slow counts. Kids can use their fingers to count as they breathe in and out in this way. Slowing your breath, even for just these few seconds, can slow down your mind.
Ring a meditation or other long-ringing bell. Listen to the bell very carefully all the way until it stops ringing. Then listen to the sounds of the space you’re in. Are the sounds coming from near or far away, to your left or right? Notice your breath as you listen. Feel your breath going in and out of your nose, watch your belly rise and fall.
This is great for focusing in at the beginning of meditation, before a mindfulness exercise or before any activity that requires peaceful focus.
Lie on the floor and stretch yourself out, arms and legs going in opposite directions. Notice the feeling in your body as you stretch. What happens with your breath as you stretch? Then allow your body to relax into the floor. What does the floor feel like underneath you? What are the feelings in your body as you settle into the floor.
Now lie still and watch your breath – watch it going in and out. How does your breath feel in your nose, your chest, your belly? (Cool, warm, loose, tight, fast, slow, buzzy, etc.)
Especially for kids: Put a stuffed animal on your belly. Close your eyes and feel your stuffed animal rising and falling as your breath goes in and out. You can pretend that your animal is a baby and you can rock it to sleep with your breath. If your mind goes to other thoughts, notice that and then gently bring it back to rocking your baby. After awhile you may notice that your in-breath and your out-breath are getting longer. You may notice that the space between your breaths gets longer. Take note of what else is going on in your body (gurgling, thoughts, sleepiness, etc.) Notice any changes in your body. After several minutes of trying this exercise, ask kids what they noticed.*
* This is an exercises from The Mindful Child, by Susan Kaiser Greenland
Lie or sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly. Notice the feeling in your feet. Are they hot or cold, buzzy, achy, etc.? How about your toes? And the tops of your feet. Make your way up to your ankles. Roll them a bit and then let them lie still. How do they feel? Make your way slowly up your body all the way to the top of your head. Then make your way back down, releasing your muscles along the way. Notice how your body feels as a whole. Can you feel your heart beating? Can you feel your blood in your veins? Is digestion happening? Are there places you can release tension? Are there places that feel in flow or not in flow? If thoughts arise, you can let them pass by. Relax and watch your breath. Find stillness. When you're ready, start to wiggle your fingers and toes, still feeling that inner stillness, even as you move. Gently, slowly get up and take that stillness with you throughout the day. Or, if it's bedtime, allow yourself to fall into a peaceful, nourishing sleep.
Sit in a comfortable position and listen to a piece of music. You can try this exercise with "Drip Drop Ripple", "Deep In The Depths", other songs from the In Stillness album or another song of your choosing. Focus on the music and notice:
What instruments do you hear? Which ones are playing high notes, which ones are playing low notes?
Is the music moving quickly or slowly? Feel that rhythm in your body. What do you feel? What happens to your breath?
Does the music have lyrics? If so, listen to the words. Is there a story? Is there something you learn from the song? Can you relate to the feelings expressed?
Does the song leave you in a particular mood? (e.g., happy, sad, uplifted, melancholic, playful, etc.)
You can try a similar exercise with sounds in nature, on a city street, etc.. What sounds do you hear? Are they high or low in pitch? How do they feel in your body? (e.g., A truck engine can rumble in your belly as the truck drives by, a high screech could tense your muscles, birdsong could leave you feeling light)
You will need:
A small clear glass jar (an empty jam jar works well; make sure to remove its label)
Glitter of varying colors
Fill your jar 3/4 full with water. Add enough glycerin, to leave a bit of space at the top and 4 small drops of liquid soap.
Close your jar and shake the ingredients together
Sit in a comfortable position and open your jar. The jar is your clear mind. For each thought you notice, add a pinch of glitter to your jar. You can use a color that feels like it reflects your thought. For example, you might use one color if the thought is "I’m feeling angry because I can’t do what I want" and another color for "I’m feeling super excited to see my cousin tomorrow."
When you’ve expressed all that you’re feeling, close your jar and shake it. All the sparkles racing around are your busy mind. Breathe in and out slowly as you watch the sparkles settle to the bottom of your jar. Notice your thoughts settling as well.
*This exercise is taken from Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean
Here are some mindfulness resources that we love:
Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh, Chan Chau Nghiem and Wietske Vriezen
The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate by Susan Kaiser Greenland
10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children – and Ourselves – the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, by Goldie Hawn, Wendy Holden and Daniel J. Siegel MD