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Mindfulness for Children

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One of the most powerful antidotes to children’s everyday stressors is for them to develop the Buddhist notion of mindfulness, which entails paying full attention and being fully engaged in the present moment.   Mindfulness often sounds like having a conversation with yourself.  Here is an example of a teen mindfully preparing to take an exam.  “I am getting ready to take a test; I feel butterflies in my stomach; I can feel my fingers getting tense; I hear the teacher passing out papers; I hear the students rummaging for their pencils;  I am having thoughts about failing the test;  I am so stupid; I will focus on my breathing; I am breathing in through my nose; I am breathing out through my mouth; ”   The teen is observing everything in his environment  including all his senses as well as his thought processes and bodily feelings.  When he starts to perseverate and have worries about failing that are based in the future, he uses his breath to bring him back to the present moment.   Mindfulness involves bringing non-judgment to his situation as well as loving kindness.  While the teen may have automatic negative thoughts about himself, he is encouraged to notice them but not to identify with them or avoid them, but view them objectively, which ultimately allows for more clarity.  To engage with such thoughts would often involve an escalating stream of increasingly negative judgments which would take him out of the present moment.  To be kind to himself, he might say something compassionate such as “I am observing myself get stressed out about this test and saying mean things.  I have studied a lot for this test and I will put my best effort forth.  I am a hard-worker”

 

 

Children who are able to “live in the now” versus stressing about the future or ruminating about what has occurred in the past experience significant benefits.   As a result, they are better able to regulate their emotions and avoid the extremes of being bored or depressed, or on the other hand, overwhelmed and anxious as their coping style.  Children who practice mindfulness are better able to relax, show decreased levels of impulsivity, and handle conflict more readily.

All children have experienced “mindlessness.” For example, getting driven to a familiar place and not remembering passing any landmarks or exits on the way there.  Similarly, many children go about their lives performing a series of very automatic routines that they barely notice.  (i.e. getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, waiting for the school bus, being seated before the bell rings, etc.) where they go through the motions mindlessly.   Interestingly, mindfulness is actually inherent in very young children.  All experiences are new to them and so they attend to each new sensation and feeling. A 2 year old who stares at a dog’s shiny coat, runs her fingers through the dog’s fur, laughs when the dog licks her, and imitates the dog’s bark is engaged in the present moment.  Hence, while mindfulness is present in the very young, it must often be cultivated and practiced with most school-age children and adolescents.

Mindfulness can also be developed through children’s unstructured play as kids unconsciously practice mindfulness when they are involved in imaginative play, which can occur either with peers or playing alone.   However, as children’s lives become busier and filled with activities, mindfulness may dissipate.  Children today spend much of their time in organized activities as opposed to the unstructured, creative play which dominated their free time in the past.  Their lives are often filled with activities such as soccer games, music lessons, and after-school tutoring which leaves less time for creative, child-led play.    Unstructured play has many well-documented cognitive, social, and emotional benefits.  Parents can help their children to engage in mindful play by allowing them the time and space to do so while ensuring they are not overbooked with too many structured activities or schedule demands.

Even if you don’t teach your children any mindfulness skills, parenting with mindfulness can be very beneficial for yourself as well as your children.  As parents, we are often overwhelmed with work, errands, and a never ending to-do list.  Our culture values multi-tasking and efficiency, but unfortunately, we may inadvertently sacrifice being in the present moment with our children, as a result.  We play with them while thinking about what to make for dinner, we talk to them while planning activities for the weekend, we drive them to school while worrying about upcoming bills that need to be paid, etc.  Mindfulness may allow for a welcomed transformation in our own perspective, where we begin to experience the small parenting miracles that occur in our lives, as each moment unfolds

 

Exercise #1: Mindful Drawing   Ask your child to select an item to draw from memory (a shoe, telephone, clock, etc.).  Remind them that drawing ability is not important.  Then have  your child spend time looking at the actual object.  Have them draw the object again.  In most cases the second drawing will be more detailed then the first.  Compare the drawings and have your child identify the details missing from the first drawing.  Ask your child what it was like really looking at the object that they may have never noticed before.

Exercise #2: Mindful Eating: The Hershey Kiss Meditation

Place three Hershey kisses in front of your child (you can do this with any type of food such as grapes, apple slices, carrots, etc. as long as it is something that your child enjoys eating).  Ask your child to pretend he or she has never seen a Hershey kiss before.   You may do the exercise along with your child.  Read this script in a calm voice:

Let’s look at the Hershey kiss and pretend that we’ve never in our whole lives seen a Hershey kiss.

Pick up the Hershey kiss.  Think about how it feels between your fingers.  Notice its color.  Notice any thoughts you might be having about it.  Slowly unwrap it and listen to the sounds that makes.  Feel the texture of the foil paper and think about that sensation.  Lift the Hershey kiss to your nose and smell it for awhile.  Now slowly bring the Hershey kiss to your lips, trying to notice everything you are thinking, feeling or smelling.  Notice your arm moving your hand to position the Hershey kiss correctly.  Notice your mouth salivating as your mind and body anticipate eating it.  Take the Hershey kiss into your mouth and chew it slowly, experiencing its taste.  Hold it in your mouth.  When you feel ready to swallow, notice if your body automatically wants to swallow it.  When you are ready, pick up the second Hershey kiss and just eat it as you normally would if you weren’t practicing mindfulness.  When you finish, practice mindfulness again with the third Hershey kiss, eating it as you did the first.

After you complete the exercise, discuss with your child:

  • What it was like to eat something mindfully?
  • Did the Hershey kiss taste any different than it normally does?
  • What did you notice when you were doing this exercise?
  • How does this compare to how you normally eat your food?

 

Exercise #3: Mindful Breathing

Breathing is one of the fastest ways to bring your attention back to the present moment.  Stress and worries often take place in future moments while guilt or upsetting thoughts often transpire when we reflect on past moments.  Therefore, when we are living in the present moment, our emotions are often more centered. The practice of becoming more aware of your breathing results in slower breathing and increased feelings of calm, as it triggers the relaxation response. Take 5 to 10 minutes to practice this exercise with your child.  Have them practice mindful breathing in a comfortable environment where they can sit or recline in a relaxed position and without any distractions.   Explain  that you are going to do a relaxation exercise with them and that this may be helpful for them to use at a later point when they are feeling angry, upset, or stressed.  It would be helpful if you do the exercise alongside with them.   Together, take a deep breath in, for about 3 to 5 seconds and slowly let the air out, for about 3 to 5 seconds. With each inhale say, “In” and with each exhale say, “Out”. One breath cycle is made up of one inhale and one exhale.   Instruct your child that their mind will often wander away from their breathing and that’s okay.  When it happens, they should simply return their attention to their breathing.

In order for them to be able to use this exercise when they experiencing strong, negative emotions, they must become skilled at it during more relaxed times.  Try and practice this exercise several times a week with your child

  • Count how many breath cycles you each can do mindful breathing without getting distracted
  • Compare who had the most distracting thoughts and what were
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Training in the Alpha State for Natural Stress Relief

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The brain produces an electrical current that pulsates at a particular frequency. Delta occurs during deep sleep at .5-4 cycles per second; Theta during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep at 4-8 cycles per second; Alpha during a relaxed, wakeful state at 8-13 cycles per second; and Beta during a regular waking activity at 13-39 cycles per second.

Alpha frequency, which produces feelings of well-being, is increasingly recognized as a helpful reference point for mental relaxation.

The Silva Method and Training in Alpha

Jose Silva spent decades researching the creative and rejuvenating effects of living in the Alpha state; after concluding that Alpha held tremendous potential for discovering one’s true purpose, shedding negative habits and relieving stress and anxiety, Silva developed a comprehensive course of training.

The Silva Ultramind ESP System uses a guided meditation backed by a rhythmic sound to train the mind in the alpha state. After attuning oneself to the alpha frequency, the instructors attest that one will be able to alleviate stress, contact higher intelligence for guidance, and use vivid imagery to make goals manifest.

What are Biofeedback Devices?

When the term ‘biofeedback’ was first coined in the 1960s, it was hoped to eliminate the need for medicine. While that has proven untrue, biofeedback is a powerful tool for relieving stress in a long-lasting way – without the need for pharmaceuticals.

 

Biofeedback refers to using measurements of biological indicators, such as temperature, to change conditions in the body. Recently, the use of a particular class of biofeedback devices for training the mind and relieving stress has come into vogue; these devices provide data on such factors as skin temperature and muscle tension, which relate to stress levels and their associated brain waves.

The Benefits of Training in Biofeedback Therapy

Adults function mainly at the beta level while awake, and the beta state is where people can feel stressed and anxious. For optimal functioning, people could spend most of their time at Alpha; Alpha is restoring and relaxing for the body and mind, while beta is only optimal for involved thinking and times of high activity. Biofeedback therapy provides the biological indicators for people to habituate themselves to the alpha state.

Natural Stress Relief with Wild Divine

Wild Divine produces biofeedback training games for PC and Mac, which immerse the player in a sumptuous and relaxing world of colour and music. The Journey to Wild Divine: The Passage and Wisdom Quest presents a narrative that includes numerous biofeedback training activities. Relaxing Rhythms uses a non-linear format with various modules to centre the mind and deepen one’s familiarity with the alpha state.

Buffalo Mindfulness Community sponsors new group, plans retreat – Buffalo alternative medicine

Buffalo, NY Spiritual Retreat Events | Eventbrite

The Buffalo Mindfulness Community now has a sister group, Buffalo Mindfulness North. The first meeting of the group will take place Thursday, October 28 at Saint Andrew’s Church. St. Andrew’s is located at 3017 Main Street, near Lisbon in University Heights.

The doors will open at 7:00 PM. Meditation will begin at 7:30. Two rounds of sitting and walking meditation will be followed by either an audio Dharma talk or another round of sitting. The group ends at 9:00. Buffalo Mindfulness North replaces the Wednesday evening Daemen College meeting. Daemen will continue to host the Sunday meeting of the Awakening Community at Rosary Hall.

Friday, November 19, will begin a retreat. The Friday evening talk will begin at 7:30 PM, and the Saturday events will begin at 9:30 AM and end at 5:30 PM. The guest is Shinzen, who will speak about “Unity and Diversity within the Buddhist Practice Traditions.”

There is no cost for the program, and a vegetarian lunch will be provided. Donations are welcomed.…

Boost Your Focus by Using Mindfulness Exercises

Unfortunately the Internet, the greatest information tool of our time also creates the biggest distraction possible. However, there is an exercise you are able to practice to increase your concentration and make it razor sharp. If your concentration is horrible consider mindfulness exercises.

Unfortunately the Internet, the greatest information tool of our time also creates the biggest distraction possible. With the number of devices all of us have together with the always on attitude it’s become so difficult to concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes. For anybody wanting to be more productive this is a serious problem.

Focus

To make this situation even more difficult, add in a thing called multi tasking. Multi tasking is yet another buzzword, however a lot of people have seen that starting lots of things at once doesn’t mean completing all of them. Now we have multiple things all wanting our attention at once, now our concentration is really shot..

However, there is an exercise you are able to practice to increase your concentration and make it razor sharp. If your concentration is horrible consider mindfulness exercises.

Take away don’t add

When you concentrate on one task at a time you can do a higher quality job and actually complete that task. The important thing here is concentration. Being able to concentrate on a single thing at a time is a skill, that takes practice. Concentrating on one thing at a time is one of key principals of meditation, additionally it is something you can practice with mindfulness exercises.

If you fight to sit still for 2 minutes, you need to develop you concentration. To accomplish this you need to practice some mindfulness exercises.

Be in the moment

The very nature of mindfulness is to entirely focus on one thing at a time, or to be totally “in the moment”. You may have discovered this once or twice when listening to a song, or doing something where you’ve lost track of time. Focusing on one thing may seem simple however it’s far from it.

Try this experiment

Next time you’re at the office, try to work on a document solidly for 10 minutes. Try to focus only on the document and don’t do any of the following things:

  • Answer the phone
  • Check Facebook
  • Send an SMS
  • Reply to the outlook pop up
  • Send or receive any messages from any type of system
  • Respond to a walk up or talk to a colleague

This will be impossibly hard. Why? Simply because there will literally be many distractions. It will take a lot of practice to master this. The power of learning this is incredibly useful in a work environment. If you’re able to focus on one thing at a time you will find your level of productivity explode.At home it’s understandable there will be an enormous amount of distraction. If however you can find only a couple of minutes every day to practice concentrating on one thing you’ll easily recognise the benefits.

Using mindfulness exercises to get the job done

With more experience you’ll find you’ll be able to concentrate on things longer and sharpen your focus into a precision laser able to cut through tasks with ease. This is simply an example of mindfulness exercises. Why not learn more about mindfulness exercises and how they could help you!…