“If we aren’t practicing mindfulness, we can’t teach it to our children” – Brene Brown
People often ask me if I meditate with my son. My answer?
…Not so much…
I find myself immersed in mindfulness, through my own self-practice and in the community – sharing mindfulness with adults, children, parents, teens, educators, clinicians. You name it… But not so much with my son.
Sure, there have been moments over the years where I have shown him some of the practices I do with other children in my work – like breathing with a stuffy on our bellies (or in his case a toy car), sounding a bell and listening until the sound fades away, noticing what we are eating as we eat, etc. We have also made ‘stillness snow globes’ and ‘inside flashlights’ together (mindfulness crafts children make in my programs). Some of his favourite storybooks include – Visiting Feelings, Zen Shorts, Moody Cow Meditates and No Ordinary Apple was a fave of his for a while. But in terms of ‘meditation’, not so interested.
Most of the time, I’m totally fine with it – after all, he is only 4. But sure, I confess, there is a small part of me that wishes he would sit with me and focus on his breath – knowing the myriad benefits that this simple (and at times, oh so challenging) act can bring.
And then, the other day, it happened. He asked to meditate! His father was getting him ready for bed and so I told them that I would practice my meditation. He piped up: “Can I meditate too?” Trying not to get too enthusiastic, I casually replied, ‘Sure’ (all the while beaming inside). After he was ready for bed, I dusted off his cushion (a special child-sized cushion I bought him 2 years ago that has sat in his closet ever since), and the 3 of us sat together. I didn’t want to blow this moment. How I can I do this so that he ends up wanting to practice again? (No pressure!) Our son sounded the bell. I invited us to take some deep, soft breaths. I told him that he could sound the bell when he felt he had had enough. I gently encouraged him to follow his inbreath (‘breathing in”) and outbreath (“breathing out”).
We did this for about a minute or less, and then the bell sounded. He leaned over to me and asked, “Mommy, is it ok to talk in meditation?” How sweet. We finished off with him sounding the bell a few times and listening to its beautiful tone.
It really was a sweet moment. We have now had 4 consecutive nights of ‘meditation’ practice. Will there be a 5th? Who knows. And that is just fine.
But I do know that I am planting seeds. I also know that my own mindfulness practice supports me to follow his lead and keep my reactions to his interest (or lack-there-of) in check. So really – the best way to share mindfulness with my son, is to practice myself…. and then, with a smile, take what I can get.