Thursday, June 23, 2011

MINDFULNESS FOR CHILDREN

Here’s a wonderful way to share quality time with your children or grandchildren.
Brian Despard, a plumbing contractor from Massachusetts, who has been practising mindfulness for some time now, has produced a truly delightful children’s picture book on mindfulness entitled You Are Not Your Thoughts. (I love that title! The sooner we learn we are not our thoughts, our feelings and our bodies, the quicker we begin to understand who we really are.)
Research shows that children benefit by learning mindfulness early. (After all, mindfulness, to those who practise it, is perhaps the best method of training the mind into a healthy, and progressively healthier, state.) When children are able to experience their thoughts and feelings without being judged and overwhelmed, they are less prone to unhealthy effects. By learning to trust their own inner wisdom, they will be less susceptible to harmful peer pressures.
‘Children have true beginner's mind, but this state of mind is clouded by an ever-increasing number of thoughts as they grow. They start life living in the moment then slowly learn that “doing” is more important than “being”,’ Despard says. ‘I wrote this book with the intention of planting the seed of mindfulness in children, and introduce basic concepts to adults who are unfamiliar with them. In this sacred place of loving-kindness between adult and child a new level of consciousness can emerge. We only have moments to live; the only time our lives are unfolding is now.’ Great stuff. Mindfulness, at its best, helps us to appreciate the innate preciousness of every moment ... and what a wonderful thing for children to appreciate as well ... and as early as possible before other things 'corrupt' their young and beautiful minds.
You Are Not Your Thoughts – which is a great introduction to mindfulness not only for children but also for adults as well – has captured the attention of leading experts in the field of mindfulness practice and education. For example, Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, the authors of the equally wonderful Everday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, write, ‘A playful and wise picture book that gives young children simple ways to be more in touch with what is essential and beautiful in themselves.’
Despard has been hosting public talks since the book’s release and has also taught introductory mindfulness lessons to pre-K through Grade 5 students within the Chicopee Public School system in Massachusetts. Additionally, the book is being used in school districts by educators and counsellors across the United States.
‘I feel this book is relevant in these times of increased societal pressures that have made national headlines (eg school bullying, self-image, depression, etc),’ says Despard. ‘There is no better time than now to start the conversation of compassion and acceptance. There is no greater gift than the gift of mindfulness.’ Indeed, for what is mindfulness if it is not nonjudgmental, unconditional, conscious, fully accepting presence and lovingkindness?
There aren’t many good books on mindfulness for children. This book is truly a gem. I heartily recommend it, for it shows that there are many ways for children to be, and live, in the all-important present moment ... with openness to what is and with a minimum of negativity. The book also 'teaches' that happiness and peace of mind never come from external sources.
Despard discusses the book, and the nature of mindfulness, on this TV clip (courtesy of YouTube).
NOTE. This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.


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