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.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

birdie February 22, 2012 at 9:38 am

Heather, I couldn’t agree more!! Just the other day I watched my 4 y/o son to build little lego farm and I had this moment of him being so present & I felt like I so need to learn that from him. I’m quite sensitive paying attention to what is going around me but I’m not always in the present moment though. I need to remind me about it, otherwise it just slips away … you are so very right, children they know and they are the teachers here :-)
I love this post Heather, thank you!

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Heather February 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Thank you so much. I struggle with staying in the present moment as well, and I enjoy practicing by just sitting and being with my kiddos as well. They are such amazing little beings.

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Michelle February 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

Very well said. I agree. We adults are the ones who can sometimes get in the way of their mindfulness. I don’t know how many times I catch myself saying things like hurry up, finish that, come do this instead… Good lesson Heather.

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Heather February 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm

That is so true. I hate when I catch myself rushing the boys, it breaks my heart. Life is so darn fast already, they don’t need me adding to that.

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Kyce February 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Our children may not always be mindful of the things we think they should be, but that makes them even more pure in their mindfulness: taking in without the filters, absorbing their world and everything that happens in it. I am amazed again and again by the things my children notice, their attention to detail.

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Heather February 22, 2012 at 10:30 pm

That is very very well put. Maybe that is what that mama meant, that her daughter wasn’t being mindful of the things that she expected her to be. I have to think on that one for a bit :).

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sherene February 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

So perfectly, beautifully true.
And when I was a child, I used to do this thing where I tried to make my mind blank and stop thinking for a second. I used to ask grown ups about it, entertain myself trying it out. Always so excited when I manage to make the thoughts still for just a few seconds. Then I grew up and started a yoga practice, and finally! Someone knew what I was talking about and it did indeed have a purpose!

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Heather February 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm

How neat that even so young you were aware of the silence within.

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a little crafty nest February 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Dear Heather…This is beautiful. Like many mamas, I struggle being present with my children on a daily basis. I have wonderful, authentic moments, but because I am an adult and must think about pressing issues, like naps and meals and laundry, I do miss those purely present moments. They are such teachers, these little beings who have chosen us. What you write resonates beautifully with me, thank you.
xo Jules

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CathyT February 23, 2012 at 4:34 am

Oh yes. Get a child on the phone and ask what they are doing and thy will tell you, “talking to you.” I love hearing that!

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cindy February 23, 2012 at 5:04 pm

beautiful and brilliant! thank you.

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Kelly February 23, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Heather, I love this. It is so true. And such a great reminder. When I slow down and focus on the now with my children we all end up much happier.

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Lisa February 26, 2012 at 5:01 am

Oh yes Heather! That’s it exactly. What a beautiful observation. We can keep alive that mindfulness or wonder by protecting them from things that are “awakening.” of that state.

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Julia Watkins February 26, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I love this – it’s so true. I always envy Benjamin’s ability to always be present. When I can get in that moment with him, I feel so good.

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Nicola February 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I was reading your post, nodding along, thinking “they teach us” and that is when I read it. And oh, how I appreciate the reminder!

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