The Importance of a Personal Meditation Practice
This week, I worked with a group of 7-9-year-olds. I told them we were about to sit in silence for 60 seconds. I assured them they could do 1-minute. “Besides, I once sat in silence for 10 days!” I laughed. Their eyes widened and one of them responded in disbelief, “You did?!?!”
It’s times like this where I can connect my personal experiences with meditation and mindfulness techniques to the present moment in the classroom. My own personal journey plays such a huge role, not only because I have funny stories and anecdotes to share (hopefully that the kids can connect their own experiences too) but also that affect how I hold space in the room. Whether the kids are mindful or not, am I? I truly believe that if I’m talking the talk, I gotta walk the walk. When working with parents and teachers, the first question that I ask is - do you have your own practice?
Actions speak louder than words.
I was never a fan of that phrase “Do as I say, not as I do.” As I travel along this path, “actions speak louder than words” is the age-old adage that seems to guide me along my way. Recently I read, “a key aspect of emotional development in children is learning how to regulate emotions. Children see how their parents display emotions and interact with other people, and they imitate what they see their parents do to regulate emotions.” Murphy, A. (2014, May 7). Parental Influence on the Emotional Development of Children.
With this in mind, I always encourage parents and teachers to start with integrating a mindfulness practice into their own lives before trying to teach it to their children.
Mindfulness is beneficial to everyone.
Susan Kaiser Greenland, the founder of Inner Kids, describes mindfulness as “paying attention with kindness to yourself, other people and the world around you.”
Just as we talk about emotional regulation, stress management and compassion in regards to the kids we work with, these are, of course, beneficial to all of us. With an improved relationship within one’s self, one can begin to see the ways in which communication with others, responses to situations and compassion for self and others transform as the inner world changes. You can also test different techniques, see what resonates most with you, and then use the knowledge you have gained on an experiential level to create opportunities for more connection by sharing with the family. If your kids are already getting mindfulness training at school, you can help further ingrain these methods by reinforcing the behaviors at home.
In a 2014 study from Mark. T. Greenberg, the Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research at Penn State University, one group of parents was given a standard parenting program and another given the same program with added mindfulness practices to see if it increased the improvement of family life. “Parents learned how to do short reflections, how to listen more deeply and how to find compassion for themselves and their children. The mindfulness did enhance the effects of the parenting program. “The teens said it improved the warmth and communication, especially with their fathers but also with their mothers,” Greenberg says.” Alton, N. S. (2017, Jan. 27). How Mindfulness Can Change your Family, Community, and Lives.
In short, your own personal practice not only improves your relationship with yourself and your family, but it can also be an inspiration to the people around you.
In our busy lives, many people say to me that they don’t even know where to begin. My response - start small and don’t over complicate things. Focus on short 5 - 10-minute meditations and the addition of a gratitude diary. I highly recommend apps like Insight Timer (where you can find WBP’s own Connie Clotworthy and myself!) and Headspace.
As Pema Chödrön says “start where you are!” Remember to be gentle with yourself. Your mind may race. It is common when one begins to try to get quiet that the brain seems to wage a war on the psyche, exploding with doubts, worries, and fears. This is part of the process…the process of getting to know yourself and the inner workings of your own mind.
The other day, a friend came to me and told me she was inspired after I showed her the area that I meditate in my home. She created a little spot on her balcony with her plants to sit in silence every morning. She set her alarm for 10 minutes earlier and that’s where she started. Another friend overheard us talking and decided to follow suit.
It’s really that easy! Try it for yourself!