A Return to Winter & a Child-Like Joy

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

It snowed today. Soft flakes now spread over the evergreens and add white caps to the forest leaves turned brown. The return to winter’s cold brings a sense of calming peace with it. Like a big sigh has been released and we can settle back into normalcy for at least a little while. How long it will last is anyone’s guess.

Before lunch, I walked the roadways with the dogs and picked up other people’s garbage. The snow had not yet started to fall, but the sky was the gray of an impending storm. Ice replaced the puddled water at the end of my driveway. Frozen into cracked veins waiting for the next thaw. I found myself hoping it would be awhile before the water flowed again. Today, the birdsong is not so loud. Juncos gather droppings from the trees and blue jays rush overhead in their showy displays to be seen. And heard.

But the air is mostly quiet and still, and while I walked with my dogs the world around us appeared more balanced. Perhaps I saw what I wanted to see. The land cleared of artificial debris by my hands left a feeling a satisfaction inside of me. A small act, like dusting the sills of a window to make it clear again. It may not last long, but there is power inside deliberate moments.

After we arrived back home, I found myself pulled into the news while I ate a lunch of leftover dinner. Headlining the front page of the Sunday paper was a story about local teachers afraid of their students. I had to read it three times before it sank it. They were not talking about rebellious teenagers, but preschoolers and elementary age children. Young kids driven to violent acts of rage on a regular basis. Some fingers pointed to drug use by caregivers, others to unspeakable violence that must have been witnessed. While I read, I find myself wondering if we are all grasping at straws, unable to hold on to stability. There is the impulse to spiral into disbelief and despair when one reads such things.

Exposure to harsh elements can damage a living being if improper nurturing does not occur. Are we wrapping our babes in our chosen world of violence? Turn on the TV and chances  are you will find rage or horror in some form. Exposure to violent acts harms the mature heart. Now we are seeing the real effects of what it does to the tender young souls whose eyes are exposed to more than they should see. We shatter ourselves and those we love when we expose without heed to the harsh elements outside of us. And sometimes, when we linger too long with them, they become a part of our being.

Beside this article, was one piece on funding being stripped from schools. In my town, there are often complaints about how the bulk of our budget goes to the education. If we don’t invest in our future, what can we expect it to look like? If we don’t infuse the warmth of love into the hearts of our children, instead of constant exposure to hatred and violence, can we really call ourselves “caregivers?”

The snow began to fall while I read, bringing the solace that could not be found inside the news. For a moment I started to place blame, pulled into the world of accusations that filled the news before me. There was a momentary feeling of frustration when I read the words of the superintendent I had tried to work with for years to bring a mindfulness-based supplementary education to our schools. Perhaps I had given up too soon. Maybe his mind was now changed, but one grows tired from pushing through resistance.

Instead, I looked forward to the two groups of youngsters who were waiting for me at another school. I thought of their exuberant bodies and excited young minds. Sometimes  wild, but always lovable. I thought about how it’s taken me a year to grow into the comfort of teaching the balance of yoga to within the realm of the unpredictability of  young children, and that sometimes there are still moments of frustration. A temporary frustration that, I have found now easily melts into joy when I step inside the child-mind and find the wonder of joy.

Later, dancing and laughing without care of judgement I found this joy. Freedom is a natural state of the child-mind and I am grateful to have the excuse to let it run loose. When you become like a child, you give the child you are with permission to let their true self shine through. Together we danced into animal poses and stomped the floor as though it was Earth. A little too loudly, perhaps, as it brought a teacher up for a moment, but we didn’t really care. Nor did she. Instead, we muffled, ever-so-slightly, our footsteps and danced some more. When we rested into our makeshift circle, we talked about what we loved, like unicorns and pegasus, rainbow socks, and dragon slippers. All things magic that are real to a child’s eyes accepted as truth, because in the end all that matters is the joy wrapped inside love.

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Mindfulness Techniques for Kids in the Classroom or at Home: Part 1: The Bubble of Joy #mindfulness

This post will be part 1 in a series designed to help cultivate mindfulness practices in the classroom and at home. It’s based on techniques I use in my mindfulness workshops and yoga classes for kids. We’ll begin with the “Bubble of Joy.”

The Bubble of Joy

Ideally mindfulness is a way life, and cultivating it as a daily practice becomes easier to do if you start and end your day with a mindful activity with your child or children. I begin almost all of my yoga classes for kids with an exercise that I call the “Bubble of Joy.” The Bubble of Joy uses the technique of pranayama (breathing), combined with visualization to generate a sense of calm and strength. It is also a form of empathic shielding, which is especially important for children who tend to unconsciously exchange and absorb energy from their surroundings. It is beneficial to children and adults alike, and is a great way to share a mindful exercise to begin your days together. If you are in a classroom setting, you can either have your children sit in a chair or on the floor in a circle.

Steps to Creating a Bubble of Joy

  • Sit in a comfortable seated position. For children, I ask them to do “criss-cross applesauce” legs.
  • Close your eyes and rest your hands on your lap, one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart, or use Namaste hands in prayer position at your heart center.
  • Visualize in front of you a beautiful rainbow. Spend some time seeing in your mind’s eye all of its beautiful colors.
  • Keeping your eyes closed, take a deep inhale from your belly all the way up to your heart and breath in all the colors of the rainbow.
  • Imagine those colors filling your heart and your whole body with joy.
  • Exhale as you bring your arms up and around you and imagine the rainbow now wrapping you in a Rainbow Bubble of Joy.
  • Repeat two more times. Inhale the hands down to the heart, bringing inside the colors of the rainbow. Exhale arms up and around to wrap the rainbow bubble of joy around you.
Empathic shielding for children
Simple Steps for Creating a Rainbow Bubble of Joy

Through this simple exercise, you and your child have created a beautiful shielding energy inside and around you that will help ward off negative feelings and instill a sense of joy and wellbeing. It can be repeated throughout the day, and is also a good practice to use before falling to sleep. The arm movements can be omitted, especially for a bedtime practice.

 

 

The Loss of Cause & Effect… #Mindfulness

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

It kept me up three nights ago. My mind became busy and I got to thinking about mindfulness. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term by now. Mindfulness. “Paying attention to the present moment.” “Living fully in the present moment with awareness.” Sometimes “without judgement” is added. While searching the Internet, I came across this video on the Greater Good Magazine website featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn defining mindfulness in his words.

In the video, Kabat-Zinn talks about living the “story of me” without the realization that there is, in actuality, “no me.” Although I am not a follower of Kabat-Zinn, or any of the many mindfulness gurus out there today, I like what he has to say in this brief video. It’s not a new revelation, in fact it’s very old. His words echo the sages of long ago who carried forth the wisdom that there is, in essence, no “me.”

Three nights ago, I let this mind that inhabits “me” process the concept of mindfulness in terms  of “my” perception of the current state of the world. Not so concerned with the “me,” but the “we,” my mind thought about the mindless actions that permeate our collective existence. In particular, I was thinking about the consequences that result from a mindless existence, or, rather, an existence so focused on the “me” of the ego that all else is neglected. The president of the United States is the archetype of this type of existence. The mindless ego unchecked by self awareness.

Last night, I had an hour in the car with my fourteen-year-old son, who initiated a conversation that, in essence, centered around mindfulness. He, like me, is deeply troubled by the world we live in and the mindless movement we have spiraled into, despite the current attempts to make “mindfulness” the “in thing.”

What’s the purpose of mindfulness if we can’t get passed the concept of the self as all important?

Since my eye-opening experience attempting to teach mindfulness to Montessori school teachers, and later yoga to their equally unmindful students, I’ve given a lot of thought to what “I” think mindfulness truly is. Simply stated, a mindful existence includes the realization that there are consequences to our actions, words and thoughts. The law of cause and effect is nothing new, but it’s been essentially forgotten in favor of our “me” obsessed world.

Am “I” breathing properly? Am “I” paying attention to the bird outside my window? Am “I” living in the present moment with full awareness? 

This is a start, but not an end. This “I” living in the present moment must, eventually become aware of the “I” that is trying to live. Who am I? The I must eventually ask to fully understand itself. What am I doing? What am I thinking? What are the consequences to these thoughts and actions? How do I effect not only myself, but the world around me?

Until, eventually, the I realizes that there is no I, but a vast, limitless “we.”

The day before my sleepless night, I had been in a waiting room eavesdropping in on a conversation that was occurring at the front desk between two educators. When I over-heard one of them mention teaching in the town I live in, comparing the students to inner-city kids, my interest was piqued.

What I heard, in essence, was the frustration of an educator trying to teach in a classroom without consequences filled with kids living in the myopic world of “me.” And, I thought, it’s not only me, before I thought, how pervasive this disease of “me” really has become.

When I attempted to teach yoga to the Montessori children who exhibited rudely defiant behavior, I inquired about whether there was anything I could do to thwart their disrespect. What I discovered as that we are living in a time when, despite our obsession with “mindfulness,” there are few, if any, consequences to our mindless actions. How can we teach mindfulness behavior if we don’t teach the law of cause and effect?

When trying to discover the root of a group’s behavior, we must always look to the leader. It’s rather obvious that the leader of our “free” nation is living the antithesis of a truly mindful life. Instead, he exhibits all the rude, self-centered, and dangerous behavior of the ego out of control.

While I was not sleeping the other night, I thought about how the majority of the teachers at the conference I was invited to present at where not interested in, and in fact seemed to harbor a severe aversion to, engaging in self-awareness exercises. I realized that there really was no point in me trying to return to teach yoga to their students. Before yoga asana, must come a deep awareness of mindfulness and the laws of cause and effect.

I’ll admit, it’s not a “fun” process to really and truly examine the self and the self as a part of the whole, but it can be a deeply rewarding and enriching process. When one realizes that the self is simply a conglomeration of experiences and reactions to those experiences, folded into a cellular body, a process of detachment and non-judgement can result that leads to fascinating and enlightening discoveries about not only the “self,” but the self as a part of the whole.

The “I” easily forgets the “we,” as exhibited by the pervasive self-obsessed behavior that predominates our world at this time in history. We’re living a time that is artificially sped up and controlled by the false screen of the outer. With the tap of a screen a photo is taken of the “self” and then altered by another tap or two, to be artificially enhanced so that the “self” can appear more outwardly attractive than the “self” really is. Then the self awaits, mere seconds it can take, for the “likes” of the self to pile up. With a few short taps, the self’s words can be tweeted around the world and read by millions of followers. What a heady power trip that can be! Making the “self” feel all-important.

Then there is the flip side of this. The self that arrives at the self-realization that his or her individual self is not good enough. Will never be pretty enough, when compared to the false images of beauty held in front of it, or thin enough, successful enough, etc. And, so the self decides that its life is not worth living.

There is a desperate need in my own self to try, in whatever way my self can, to bring true mindfulness back to a world that appears to me so desperately in need of it. Behind the ego’s need for self dominance is fear. Fear of the self’s discovery of its own imperfections, and the often even greater fear that those imperfections will be seen by others. In the striving for the perfect self, the self fails to realize that perfection of the self will never, and can never be achieved, because the perfect “self” is, in actuality, the no-self.

When we realize we are beautifully imperfect, here to learn and to grow ever closer to love until the self becomes only love, life becomes filled with purpose and infused with the beautiful existence that is Life. We realize that each piece of life, our life, in fact, is a part of an intricate whole. No more than, or less than another, but unique in its conglomeration of parts and experiences. Our essence, in fact, realized,  as equally important as our neighbor’s whether that neighbor is a fellow human, an animal, insect, stone, or plant. When a stone is removed from the earth, a hole remains. We are each, individually, part of a vast and intricate web of life beyond the comprehension of our individual minds. Each of us with a role to play, a life to live, that is infinitely more enriching for the self, and the whole, when lived mindfully with an awareness of cause and effect.