This week I taught a family mindfulness class at St. Andrews Episcopal School with my MINDS colleague, Jennifer Jordan. While we wanted to teach specific practices, our ultimate goal was to have families convene at the end of our time together and decide on a practice they would like to commit to trying for the next week. With so many tools in our mindfulness tool kits — each having infinite variations — Jen and I can get carried away teaching and forget to be mindful of the clock. Oops! We hope families can use these suggestions to get started. Please tell us about your experiences, and the creative variations you will inevitably come up with.
MINDFUL MINUTES FOR THE SENSES
These are times to be together as a family. Turn off cell phones and other devices; it’s only a moment! The goal here is to practice mindfulness (the emphasis is on practicing rather than achieving some ultimate state):
- paying attention (I prefer “noticing,” as kids are so often exhorted to pay attention)
- to the present moment
- without judgment.
Shake a snow globe and watch each crystal settle, until the globe is completely clear. Imagine all the cells in your brain, mind and body as crystals that are melting down into the earth. [Can also use a Mind Jar or sand timer.]
Take 5 Breath. [color poster and video here: http://childhood101.com/2015/04/take-5-breathing-exercise/]
Give everyone an orange segment. Slowly break it apart and smell it. Notice the sensations in the body. Share what thoughts and feelings the scent evokes.
Use scented oils on a Q-tip. Pass it around and let everyone share. Or burn a scented candle. Discover which scents are calming and which are energizing (no right or wrong here). You can be creative – boil a cinnamon stick; pick an herb from the garden; etc.
Family music time. Listen to a song together. Alternate who gets to choose the song. Offers a great opportunity to explore lyrics and meanings of the songs your children choose.
Ring a bell or a singing bowl. To make it more fun, roll a die to determine how many times you will ring it. Everyone listens for the full sound, and raises their hand when no sound is left.
Breathe sitting back-to-back. Make your breath big so that it expands your back. Notice the warmth of your partner’s back. Notice how you feel before and after. Switch partners and notice any differences.
The raisin meditation is a classic. Here is one script to get you started: http://blog.harvardvanguard.org/2013/04/smart-kids-practice-mindful-eating/. You can, of course, vary the foods. To add a family challenge, keep track of how many words your family can come up with to describe the food, using all of the senses.
A fun variation is to close eyes or use blindfolds, and have one person pass out a sample. The others have to guess what it is. Multilayered treats are fun, e.g. a chocolate covered raisin.
Try Bee breath. Sitting comfortably with legs crossed, breath in through the nose, then with fingers in your ears [and perhaps fingers covering the eyes as well] hum or buzz out your exhalation. The resonance has a calming effect and closing or covering the eyes can make it even more peaceful.
Ha! or Hot! breath is more energizing, and can be done standing or seated. Breathing in, reach one arm up to touch the sun, then sharply pull it down, breathing out “Hot!” or “Ha!” Alternate arms. Notice how it feels to vary the speed.
Mindful Bodies Challenge. In my yoga and mindfulness classes, children love to best their own “mindful moment” times. We begin by moving our bodies until we feel ready to settle into a comfortable seated position and get into our mindful bodies. Start with one minute of mindfulness – silence and stillness — and then try to add 15 or 30 seconds each time you practice. Joining together for the challenge motivates the kids to try their best. Of course, it is important to always recognize the effort, even when someone does call out. Remember, mindfulness is about non judgment, so not besting your time only means that you get another opportunity to try.