She stood at the window watching the rain; and she stayed with it for a long time washed in peacefulness. She was four years old and she was my daughter, Kelsey. Kelsey is now a young adult and she still loves the rain; she finds it soothing and refreshing. She learned, as a little girl, to use rain as a sort of mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment and to the mystery around us. It’s a part of many faith traditions and is also an aspect of relaxation exercises. Great spiritual leaders have used rain as an entryway to meditation and mindfulness. In his essay, “Rain and the Rhinoceros,” Thomas Merton notes a particular rain experience as comforting and cleansing and he references the sound, “Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody…” This sort of attentive state combined with reflection is often called mindfulness or contemplation.
In our busy and sometimes overscheduled lives, learning to slow down, to pay attention, to be still – is a challenge and when we achieve it, a gift. And it’s worth pursuing because mindfulness practices (including contemplation and awareness training) can help with attention, focus, memory, self-understanding, and self-management. In addition, it’s comforting and stress reducing. And it’s free! Wow, if you want those things for your kids and your family then keep reading!
How can we teach mindfulness to kids? First – turn off the electronics and carve out a few moments to slow down. Begin by paying attention to the environment (notice the rain, snow or ocean). Then notice how you feel in that moment in that environment (what do you hear, smell, or feel?). Maybe you can hear the rain hit the wooden deck outside. Or you can smell the fresh scent as you open the door. And you may notice how warm and cozy you feel in the house in the car, or under the umbrella. Stay with those feelings and that moment. Rest in that moment and allow the peacefulness and goodness of the experience to settle deep in your heart. Getting started is really that simple.
If you teach a young child (or an older child – or even a teen!) a practice like mindfulness you are gifting that child for life with enhanced experiences. Mindfulness can be applied to any action or situation and can enhance the experience: eating, relationships, work, play, learning…the possibilities are endless.
It’s never too early or too late to teach someone you care about how to pay attention and how to appreciate the world. Kelsey learned it at age 4. I learned it in my early 30’s. How about you and your family? Are you ready to learn? Give it a try.
By Amy Sluss. Amy Sluss, RN is an author and family-life specialist from Pleasanton, CA. Her mother-daughter workshops are highly acclaimed by both mothers and girls; find out more at www.fab2bfem.com AND check out her new product line for families here: www.messageaday.com