In 2011, I tried meditation as one of my New Experiences. I found it so helpful in combating my anxiety and depression that I continued going to a Buddhist meditation group for at least a year. I haven’t been to the group for a while, but I continue to meditate at home a couple of times a week. However, I had never meditated with my children. It really never crossed my mind as something that my children needed to do.
Being present, or “in the moment” comes naturally to children. When Luke is playing with his Legos, he is focused solely on his Legos. He isn’t thinking about school or his chores or anything else. He is able to shut out the outside world. Leah is the same way when she is coloring or working on a project with me. So, teaching my children how to shut their minds off to external distractions seemed unnecessary to me.
Yet, both of my children really enjoyed the Savasana at the end of the Family Yoga Class we took last year. Luke said it was very relaxing, and I noticed how calm both children seemed at the end of the class.
Around that time, I saw a Mind Jar by Juggling With Kids on Pinterest and thought the concept was interesting. Within a week of seeing that post, I came across a book called Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness With Children by Thich Nhat Hanh. Since Hanh is one of my favorite Buddhist monks, I had to read it. (I doubt it is very Buddhist of me to play favorites with the monks, but he really is very good at breaking down Buddhist philosophy for Westerners to understand.)
The book has many ideas for teaching mindfulness to children, and I plan to incorporate some of them into our daily routines. One thing I took away from the book is that we often ask children to “pay attention” but we never really teach them how to pay attention. Teaching mindfulness can help kids really learn how to pay attention both to outside opportunities and inner thoughts
The Mind in a Jar is a great tool to use when children are upset. The book uses beans or oatmeal in water for this jar, but I really like the visual appeal of using glitter like I saw in the post I mentioned earlier. The adult swirls the jar and explains how our thoughts are like the glitter. They rush around in our mind. Sometimes we have to stay very still and let them settle, just like the glitter settles at the bottom of the jar. The children look at the jar quietly until all the glitter settles. It takes a few minutes.
When I showed Luke and Leah the Mind Jar, they were intrigued. They were very interested in just shaking it, so I let them just play with it for a minute. I explained the concept of our thoughts being like the glitter. The only rules I made were that we had to keep our hands still and our mouths closed the whole time. This was a bit of a challenge, but I thought it was pretty successful for our first meditation session.
We used the Mind Jar three times in a row. Each time, Luke and Leah sat still and stayed (relatively) quiet. They were noticeably quieter than the first time we tried it.
I told the kids that our Mind Jar is there for them whenever they want to use it. Sometimes I am going to suggest they use it. It will not be a punishment. It will used for when they need a minute to settle their emotions. Both kids liked this idea. I am interested to see how well it will work when they are truly upset.
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