Practicing Peace Breath
Mindfulness is paying attention to what's happening now, inside and around us, without any judgement.
I incorporate mindfulness practices in all my yoga classes, and also have been teaching mindfulness and art to youth at local schools, the juvenile detention center, the YMCA, and the community center.
Breath Anchor and Kindness Meditation
It's not only adults who benefit from mindfulness practice. Children who practice mindfulness can regulate their emotions and learn better, becoming more responsive and compassionate instead of reactive. First they learn to sit tall and get comfortable. They find their breath anchor to focus on, and learn to be still. They pay attention to their bodies and emotions, and watch their thoughts, and notice whatever is happening around them. In time, they share profound observations about their mindful listening, mindful breathing, kindness, and gratitude experiences.
Here are a few statements from my elementary grade mindfulness students:
7 yr old boy: "I heard sounds I never heard before. There was a tapping sound in the pipes and I could hear my heart, too."
6 yr old girl about practicing: "My mom has a lot of problems and she was screaming at me. Instead of getting upset, I went and sat on my floor and found my breath anchor. I felt a lot better after just breathing."
9 yr old girl: "My Pop Pop died over the weekend. I felt really sad. I breathed with my breath anchor and it helped."
8 yr old girl about practicing: "My brother grabbed my toy, and instead of yelling at him, I practiced my mindful breathing."
7 yr old boy: "There's a pit bull that I'm scared of. When it came near me, I found my breath anchor and I calmed down."
6 yr old boy: "I had a nightmare, and instead of waking my parents, I tried mindful breathing. It helped a lot, and then I fell asleep."
8 yr old white girl about kindness on the playground: "I was playing with my friend who had brown skin. Some other kids came over with brown skin, and they said I couldn't play with them. I felt sad." (As soon as she shared this, a dark-skinned girl in the room walked over to her with tears in her eyes, gave her a hug, and tied her shoelaces).
8 yr old girl, after noticing her emotions: "We just had intruder training, and I'm scared. What if they come with guns to our school?"
10 yr old boy: "My 5 yr old brother had to go to the hospital this weekend, he has pneumonia. I was really worried about him. I used my mindful breathing and I didn't feel so worried."
8 yr old boy after noticing thoughts: "I worry about the environment, and about global warming."
11 yr old girl: "My Dad died last year. When I think about him, I miss him and it makes me really sad. Using my breath anchor helps me feel better."
7 yr old girl: "My brother was sick and we had to go to CHOP a lot and then he died. Watching my breathing makes me feel happier when I think about him."
9 yr old girl, after noticing her emotions: "I'm sad because there's so many animals going extinct."
8 yr old girl: "The cops came to my house to talk to my mom, they come a lot and it scares me. I went on my swing when they came and watched my breath anchor, and it helped me calm down."
7 yr old boy after mostly sitting away from the rest of the classroom for first 14 classes: "When I grow up, I want to be a mindfulness teacher just like you."
9 yr old girl, after learning about thinking happy thoughts: "There is no happy in my house."
12/2/2021: Today in my 2nd and 4th grade classes we discussed paying attention to when our thoughts get stuck in the past or future, and how we can use our senses to bring our awareness back to now. Part of the discussion was about what thoughts about the future worry us, and here were some of the more common responses:
I worry that my parents will die
I worry about whether I'll be able to get a job when I'm a grown up
I'm scared of getting old
I'm worried an asteroid will hit the earth and wipe us out
I'm nervous someone could come into the school with guns
I'm afraid I'll do poorly and drop out of high school
I'm scared I won't succeed
I'm afraid my dog will run away
I'm afraid I won't have enough money to take care of myself
I worry I'll never see my Dad again
Hearing the thoughts of these children makes me grateful to be doing this important work to help them learn to pay attention to what's happening now, with curiosity and kindness; and to pay attention to themselves and others so as to better regulate, find calm, and get along.