Paying attention is essential; we need it for everything we do! The challenge? So much to pay attention to!
We expect our kids to pay attention, but have we taught them how to practice paying attention?
With mindfulness, they strengthen the muscle of attention by intentionally directing and maintaining their focus on a target with each practice. Noticing when and why they get distracted (which is expected) and kindly returning to the object of their attention.
Mindfulness is noticing what is happening right now, developing stronger self-awareness.
It's one thing to think, and another to be aware of what they are thinking while they are thinking it!
Aware of the power to self-regulate when the mind drifts in their day-to-day life is self-empowering.
Refined concentration skills are significant for performance, learning, self-care, and better relationships with themselves and others.
Curiosity & Kindness
Practicing mindfulness with an attitude of curiosity and kindness is observing what they are mindful of without judging the experience, not wanting to push it away, grasp it, and keep it forever.
Instead of “oh, this is good, or this is bad”, they practice having the attitude of “oh, this is interesting”. Being ok with whatever shows up.
Unconscious of how certain patterns constrict or limit their choices because they are on autopilot, kindness and curiosity allows them to notice their tendency to judge, and then decide with more clarity if they want to continue to do the same thing, do it a little differently or change completely the way they do it next time.
An attitude of curiosity and kindness develops their creativity and resilience to show up with everything that comes up in their practice and life by keeping them curious, learning, asking questions, increasing their self-awareness, self-regulation, and impulse control, vital for self-management.
Practicing being kinder and curious with themselves and their experience instead of judging or criticizing lays the foundation for healthy and respectful relationships with the world around them.
Change comes with awareness, not demanding it.
When kids are familiar with their brain's basic functioning, they can recognize which brain state they are in and choose which strategy they will use to shift their brain state when necessary.
Exploring the basic parts of their brain, they realize that they have the power to choose how they respond to life, better handling stress and making healthier choices.
Each time they practice mindfulness, they are growing neural pathways of presence, attention, compassion, memory, essential for learning and all life. Cultivating a particular type of attention, can change brain function and structure.
Insight into their brain and behaviours also gives them a more open perspective and understanding of the actions of the people around them and how to respond effectively instead of reactively.
YOU CAN USE YOUR MIND
TO CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
TO CHANGE YOUR MIND
To benefit yourself and other beings.
You take your mind wherever you go, become familiar with it.
Mindfulness allows our kids to develop the skill to become aware of what they are thinking while thinking it about it and choosing how to respond to their thoughts.
If not paying attention or unaware of their mind chatter, they can be controlled by their emotions or fooled into believing that their thoughts are:
By dealing with the random thoughts that come up in their practice, pleasant or painful, they become more skillful in dealing with the unexpected thoughts and situations that come up in their life. Helping them bounce back more quickly with the ability to self-manage without getting caught up in their thinking, with a sense of clarity.
There's no good or bad emotions, but there is a good or bad way to express an emotion.
With mindfulness, instead of getting lost in a story about a feeling by suppressing it or acting out on it, kids are encouraged to befriend their emotions by being curious, noticing, labeling, accepting, feeling, becoming familiar with how their body, mind and heart talks to them through their feelings.
What is the physical experience that makes them identify sad, angry, mad, happy, anxious, and excited?
Slowing down to recognize and create the space to be present with an emotion creates the space to make their emotions less intense. They can then be better able to think more clearly and creatively, making it a little easier to find constructive solutions.
When feelings are not felt, they create resistance and replaced with blame, overwhelm, guilt, shame, offloading their pain or suffering silently; letting the emotion control them.
Pain is part of life and cannot always be avoided. Changing the perception of challenging emotions from suffering to an internal GPS, alerting them as messengers that something needs their attention, perhaps they need to adjust, change, accept, be patient with something or someone, acts as gifts to help them keep evolving into their best self.
No understanding or a plan for dealing with their emotions contributes significantly to their distress and maladaptive behaviors.
Breathing is closely linked to the mind and emotions.
With the practice of mindful breathing, one of the things that kids become aware of is the rhythm of their breathing and that they can consciously pace their breath.
When the mind quiets down, the body quiets down. When the body quiets down, it goes into homeostasis or self-repair. Mindful breathing can be a powerful anchor that is helpful when they begin to feel stressed, fearful, or carried away by challenging thoughts and emotions.
This awareness becomes a valuable tool in restoring balance in their mind, heart, and body at their disposal.
Senses are in the now.
Anchoring to sound, sight, scent, taste, or touch is an easy way for kids to practice mindfulness and a quick way to come back to the present moment when they notice they feel frustrated, anxious, fearful ...
Awareness of senses is significant for insight into the connection between their mind, body and how they relate to the environment around them.
Regularly quieting the mind and becoming more self-aware with what they are thinking and feeling in their body develops their sixth sense, intuition.
Appreciating and feeling good about what already exists is an incredibly powerful practice.
The muscle of gratitude grows naturally with mindfulness.
Gratitude can shift their attention to the present moment and center them in the abundance of their life
when life does not go their way. It also rewires their brain to scan the world, looking for things to be grateful for.
A trust evolves, getting comfortable with their life's uncomfortable experiences to stay open and curious to the possibilities of learning something from all their experiences.
Love & Compassion
Love & compassion towards ourselves is an important step towards being loving & compassionate with others.
Kids practice being gentle with themselves when distractions come up during their practice. Noticing, letting go of judging, and analyzing, remaining calm, relaxed, alert, and in the now returning to their anchor of attention each time.
Outside their practice, this technique of letting go and not reacting becomes the practice for their interconnection with life.
Developing compassion with themselves allows them to be compassionate and non-judgemental towards others, positively affecting their relationships and creating a positive world around them.
Whatever we direct our intention to, we pay attention to.
An anchor to the present moment can be a part of their body. Tuning in to the sensation of their fingers and hands, toes, feet, heartbeat, heart-rate variability, etc., grounds them to the here and now on-demand.
Practicing the skill of awareness, they consciously choose how they want to move and lead in the moment and the world.
It is significant for insight into the connection between their minds, bodies and how they relate to their environment.
We can't always control what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond.
So often on autopilot, this is easier said than done for all of us.
Choice is something that the kids are putting into action every time they practice mindfulness.
They become aware of their thoughts, observe them and kindly release them returning to their anchor of attention. It's not about suppressing thoughts; it's witnessing them and then letting them choose what is most beneficial for their practice.
Being flexible, removing obstacles in their practice by being self-aware, regulating their attention, and self-regulating themselves are choices that they start to recognize and adopt in their life.
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