Mindfulness in Children

February 22, 2012

Mindfulness and children is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.

A few weeks back I was teaching a yoga and storytelling class to a group of 6-10 year old kiddos. As I was leaving the studio, one of the moms approached me and asked if I knew anything about mindfulness in childhood. She was genuinely concerned about her daughter’s   ability to be mindful of what was going on around her, and it was a trait she wanted to cultivate deeply in her child. We talked for a long time, we talked about journaling with her daughter, about having her be involved in community service projects that would broaden her idea of helping others, and we talked about the importance of quiet time for children to reflect on their days, and the ability for them to share space in their own minds.

When I went home that night I felt pretty good about what had been said. Mindfulness is tricky I rationalized, and I would think that it would be even more so for an 8 year old. For my own children, they had been exposed to my yoga and meditation practice for the past 8 years, so I knew that they knew how to be mindful, even if they didn’t always choose to do so.

When we got home I began preparing dinner, the conversation still fresh in my mind. I began watching my oldest son as he moved through his play, his reading, his time helping me in my kitchen.

I watched my babe, crawling around on the floor so focused on every crumb, every new treasure (onion skins, a produce sticker, etc) that he found. So intent on putting one foot in front of the other, or reaching for a new object.

I watched as Elwood magically created his own little world of magicians and wizards, capes and wands. And it hit me.

It hit me so hard that I wanted to just stop what I was doing and write for as long as I could. I wanted to document this moment and this inspiration before it faded away, but they are  8 and 6 year old boys so hunger was the priority.

I realized through watching them that mindfulness in children is not something that we can or perhaps even should teach, in the normal sense of the word at least. When I was watching my boys I realized that they are in fact, by their very nature, purely mindful. They are always in the present moment, they are always authentic in their speech, they are always mindful of their surroundings. They are not caught up in the future, they are not caught up in the past, they are here. Right here, all the time.

That is what makes childhood so incredibly unique, and what as adults, we strive to go back and remember.

There are so many examples of in-authenticity in our world. We live with it, hear it, and feel it every day. Reminding children through our own example of the values that we hold dear is important, and cultivating the space for them to learn how to keep the mindfulness of childhood alive is imperative, for one day they will begin to see that mindfulness fade as life gets in the way.

We are always told that children hold the key to life’s happiness, and it is moments like these that lesson hits home hard. We could attempt to try and teach our children how to be mindful, but I am betting that our time would be better served letting them teach us.

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