Are you a Dog or a Lion? My son used to have a dog’s mind when we started meditating and being mindful together. Let me share a visualization with you to give you a clearer picture of what I mean.
Imagine you are sitting on the floor, meditating or breathing and you have an adorable dog sitting in front of you. In your hands, is the juiciest bone this dog has ever laid his puppy-dog eyes on. He can’t sit still. His tail is wagging at warp speed. He want’s that bone and his mind is going crazy! Imagine now, that you throw that bone across the room. What does he do? He leaps for it of course, maybe plummeting into the wall, or scratching the expensive hardwood with his nails, slipping and sliding until he gets that bone and then he wants to do it all over again!
Now imagine that a calm, graceful and calculated lion is sitting in front of you. He’s focused on you and only you. He doesn’t want the bone. He doesn’t care when or where you throw it because his gaze remains on you.
Unwavering, calm and concentrated. Just for the fun of it, you throw that imaginary bone. What does the lion do? He sits still, observing but never budging from his spot. He is still. He is calm. When I work with kids and parents teaching them mindfulness, meditation and breathing skills, we have to train the dog mind and groom it into a lion’s mind. Meaning? We have to train our brains from crazy tail-wagging-bone-leaping-frenzied-thoughts to calm-observing-focused thoughts. Hence: Dog Vs Lion.
Here are my top 5 (five) tips when first getting started with your kiddos.
(Note: extreme patience must be given to both your kiddo(s) & yourself)
1. Create a sacred-silent- space! Indulge in pillows, meditation cushions, blankets, stuffies and anything positive that transforms this space into a place of peace. Let this space be one that is an uninterrupted section of serenity. Anytime someone is here, the rule is no disturbing. Try just sitting here together, holding hands or being close while breathing and being still ( even for one minute)
2. Find your five! I teach parents and kids to find their five every single day. Schedule it in. Inevitably, five minutes turns into ten, which turns into fifteen and so on. But start with five minutes a day. Breathe, meditate, hold hands, recite 5 things you’re grateful for about each other or your day. Just be in the moment, together.
3. Have an app-etite! Learning how to train your dog-brain can be difficult – but focusing on someone’s soothing tones and words, can help pass time and still be very effective. I love the two apps: Stop, Breathe & Think as well as Insight Timer. (both are free to start with) This takes the stress out of “What do I do now!” Just listen, relax and focus together.
4. Just Breathe Baby! My son and I love alternate nostril breathing to music. Usually we’ll dial up Snatam Kaur and listen to her as we breathe together, with our eyes closed for five. Take your thumb and close your right nostril, breathe in through your left nostril and switch so that your pinky now covers your left nostril and you’re breathing out of your right nostril, switch and continue. This can be especially helpful for kiddos and their concentration, plus it’s kinesthetic movements which kids love too.
5. Accessorize! One of the best accessories I’ve ever borrowed (Okay, stolen) from my son is his Ninja Turtle headphones. They cover my ears, without leaving them sore (like those pesky, uncomfortable ear buds). Kids can begin this way and they’ll feel safe, secure and cozy. Adults can do the same. Especially when my mind is very messy, I need my trusty set of headphones to cancel out the noise. Grab a pair for you and the kiddos and you can do different meditations or breathing exercises using an App or simply listen to music and breathe together.
I am often asked WHY meditation and mindfulness is so incredibly beneficial and why I teach it/do it. The scientifically proven answer for my logical, left-brain thinkers is: Meditation triggers responses in our brain. It slows down the amygdala which is responsible for your fight or flight responses and allows you to be in a state of rest and digest. (No stress!) Continued meditation also thickens parts of your brain like the hippocampus which is responsible for memory and concentration, and improves it’s function overall. When being mindful and meditating for a minimum of 21 days, our brain begins to re-wire itself into believing that meditation is now habitual. Must be done. Can’t survive without it. The side effects? You’ll notice your overall mood improving for the better, your concentration and focus increasing. You’ll find situations that stressed you out before, are easier to navigate, think through and tackle. You may even sleep better, as well as wake up rested as well. (I do!)
For kids? Their emotional reactions to situations (like tantrums) decrease. They begin thinking with their “wise minds” and are able to better self-regulate, make mindful and conscious decisions, and their focus and concentration on every level improves.
The feel-good, positively awesome answer for my creative, right- brain thinkers is: You feel more connected, more in tune with your body. You’ll feel a balanced energy and your mental, physical and spiritual selves will flourish. In addition to that, as you may already know, your meditations will deepen your relationship with yourself, your higher self and the Universe. You’ll feel grounded but yet utterly high on good vibes. For kids? They’ll be able to guide themselves into peaceful, loving situations while trusting themselves fully to do so. Kids will feel more confident, focused and in touch with their true selves.
Here’s the beauty of it all:
When you spend this quality, mindful time together with your kiddos, you are forming a bond that is unsurpassed. You create space for the both of you to clear your minds, and be zen. It’s a silent but strong way to connect, unplug, and re-connect. You can create your own meditations, your own space together, and decorate it so that it’s perfect for you. The entire experience of doing this can be mindful in and of itself, further strengthening your relationship. Best part? You are setting your kids up for mental, physical and spiritual success. #winning The proof is in the proverbial pudding.
Lately, mindfulness is everywhere. It’s about time! You can google it and find thousands of resources that link to both the spiritual and neuro-scientific evidence that mindfulness and meditation really, truly works!