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5 Habits of Mindful Families

What does it look like to share and model mindfulness with kids? Here are 5 ways to approach bringing more mindfulness into parent/child relationships. Mindful Family members share compassion and kindness with themselves first. Parents recognize they don't need to be perfect (and don't expect kids to be!), and instead practice self compassion -- because being hard on yourself makes you hard on your kids, and then no one feels good. Watch how you talk to or think about yourself, and ask if you would talk to a friend who is a parent that way. Would you berate a friend for being a bad parent because of whatever is happening? Would you tell a friend they aren't a good parent unless their child _____? Often parent are much harder on themselves than they would every dream of being on a friend. It's hard to parent well when you are your own worst critic. Share some kindness with yourself, so you can share it with you kids.  Mindful Families are grateful. It's easy to focus on problems and what we want to be different. Instead, practice gratitude! Every time you think of some aspect about your family or parenting that you want to change, challenge yourself to think of two things...

Horses and Mindfulness

The horse without wings grazes calmly in the meadow. She has no need of eternity, no need of bits or bridles. What she knows beyond the good sense of her hooves no one can tell. If we call her ship if we call her nightmare, if we call her history, she will not care. When she wants to she moves, flicks at flies with her tail, curls back her lip and shows her yellow teeth. When she wants to she stands absolutely still. (A Brief History of the Horse, Lorna Crozier)   Spending time around horses may have been my gateway into a fascination with presence and somatic/emotional awareness. It wasn't intentional, and people who work with and study horses have no need to integrate any trendy mindfulness buzz words. But horses require us, more than humans, to be in the present moment in order to connect with them -- just as they are. Equine Experiential Learning facilitator Linda Kohanov explains how one of her horses seems to respond to people's emotional processes: "Rasa wants people to feel their problems, [which allows them] to listen to the messages behind their feelings, and to stop thinking that their true feelings are the problem." Horses are very highly attuned to their nervous system responses, as well...

“Visiting Feelings” Art Project

Visiting Feelings (by Lauren Rubenstein, JD, PsyD) is my favorite book for introducing children to the idea of being curious and accepting about feelings, rather than labeling them as "good" or "bad." Emotional judgment leads to children being afraid of their feelings and trying to push them away, rather than learning how to connect to their experience deeply enough to share how they feel, as necessary, and ask for or find what they need. "Treat your feelings like friends, talking to you!"     According to Dr. Rubenstein's website, the book was inspired by a Rumi poem: The Guest House   This being human is a guest house.   Every morning a new arrival.   A joy, a depression, a meanness,   some momentary awareness comes   as an unexpected visitor.   Welcome and entertain them all!   Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,   who violently sweep your house   empty of its furniture,   still, treat each guest honorably.   He may be clearing you out   for some new delight.   The dark thought, the shame, the malice.   meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.   Be grateful for whatever comes.   because each has been sent...

Scary Things Hairy – A Poem About Stress… Mindfulness Edition!

The book Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing, by Peter Levine and Maggie Kline, is an incredible resource for understanding and supporting trauma responses in children. One of my favorite resources in this book is a collection of poems that help children understand their nervous system's flight/fight/freeze responses through the likes of characters like Charlie Coyote, Rapid T. Rabbit, and Oscar Opossum. This is an important understanding for all children to have about their bodies, so that they can come to rightfully view big + strong emotions as their body's attempt to keep them safe... and then to see that they have the power to choose how to respond to and have compassion for those feelings.  Here I have adapted the first poem in the set to connect it back to mindfulness. This is a great tool for Grades 1 - 5.     Scary Things Hairy By Peter Levine and Maggie Kline (and added to by Kate) Understanding Fight-Flight-Freeze Responses   A long time ago, before there were cars Before we had TV... people watched stars.   We huddled together inside of a cave It was cold, it was dark, and we had to be BRAVE.   We had to...

Nervous System Science and Mindful Awareness

Our brains and bodies are constantly taking in important information about our needs and surroundings through our five senses and felt experience.   That information affects our entirely physiology -- perhaps most notably through our nervous system. This is a system that we share with all animals. It allows beings of all species to respond to what is happening around them by processing what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell and then activating bodily functions based on that information. The specific part of the nervous system that we are going to talk about here allows animals to both stay safe by reacting to danger and threats, and to take a break, rest, and regain energy and strength when the coast is clear. Our nervous system has two main parts: the central nervous system (made up of our brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is made up of another two parts: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the one we look to most to help understand our experiences through mindfulness. The autonomic nervous system works, as the name implies, totally automatically. It requires no conscious work to function. However, its effects have a big impact on our conscious decision making. For this reason, improving our awareness of this...

THE ROADS TO BEHAVIOR: FEELING, THOUGHT, AND EMOTION

Within the practice of mindfulness, we often talk about three categories of experiences to be mindful of: our feelings, our thoughts, and our emotions. These three work together to produce our actions and behaviors. There are a number of theories over the order and interaction between these factors, but for the purposes of mindfulness all that really matters is our awareness of each of them. First let’s set up some working understandings of each: Feeling Feeling is perhaps the category modern life separates us from most carelessly. When you ask someone how they feel, they’ll tell you about their thoughts and emotions. Important pieces, but not the entire story. Feeling, in this sense, relates directly to the felt bodily experience. You may have participated in a body scan meditation before. That’s feeling. We notice the lump in our throat, the moisture in our palms, the beating of our heart, the sun’s heat against our skin, the feeling of our feet in our shoes, the throbbing in the head, the lightness in our chest… these true and unquestionable sensations in the body.   Emotion Frequently we jump right past feeling to emotion. We are angry or sad or glad, but we aren’t necessarily aware...