1. Mindfulness is not obscure or exotic. It’s familiar to us because it’s what we already do, how we already are.
  2. Mindfulness is not a special added thing we do. We already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. We can cultivate these innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit our lives.
  3. You don’t need to change. Solutions that ask us to change who we are or become something we’re not have failed us over and over again. Mindfulness recognizes and builds on the best of who we are as human beings.
  4. Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
  5. It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.

 

How to Start Simple Meditation

  1. Take a seat. Whatever you’re sitting on—a chair, a cushion, a park bench—find a spot that gives you a stable, solid seat.
  2. Notice what your legs are doing. If you are on the floor, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. (If you already do some kind of seated yoga posture, go ahead.) If you are on a chair, it’s good if the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.
  3. Straighten—but don’t stiffen— your upper body. The spine has natural curvature. Let it be there. Your head and shoulders can comfortably rest on top of your vertebrae.
  4. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs. With your upper arms at your sides, your hands will land in the right spot. Too far forward will make you hunch. Too far back will make you stiff. You’re tuning the strings of your body—not too tight and not too loose.
  5. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. You may let your eyelids lower. If you feel the need, you may lower them completely, but it’s not necessary to close your eyes when meditating. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
  6. Be there for a few moments. Relax. When your posture is established, feel your breath—or try saying “follow”—as it goes out and as it goes in. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—return your attention to the breath. Don’t bother judging yourself or obsessing over the content of the thoughts. Come back. You go away, you come back.
  7. That’s it. That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will improve.

Some quick ways to start using mindfulness in your daily life can include:

Noodling: Put on some fun, relaxing music. While standing, close your eyes and think of taking on the role of a noodle that is cooking in a pot. Start with your shoulders and then move to your arms and through out your body. Keep this up while just focusing on your body movement with a non judgmental stance. Try to keep at it for at least 3 minutes. When you have completed one round, allow yourself to be still for a few moments longer…notice how it feels. Repeat as many times as necessary.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Ever watch an infant sleeping? We forget that infants know how to be calm. Start with one or both hands on the upper area of your stomach so that you can really pay attention to the motions of your belly. As you inhale with your nose, allow your belly to expand as far as it will go. Exhale through your mouth, allowing your belly to pull back in. Continue this pattern at your own pace, giving at least 6-7 repetitions to find a rhythm and style that works for you….curiosity and non judgment are the key to success. After finding your rhythm, consider puckering your mouth and really exaggerating your exhale, striving to make it somewhat longer than your inhale. This should help you to relax even more. If paying attention to your breath is not working, consider adding counting to it. You can also add a word or special phrase.

Walking Meditation: This represents a Buddha type exploration of mindfulness. Find a comfortable standing position. Map out a pathway in front of you from 6 to 8 feet long with no obstructions. You will simply be walking back and forth in this path. Begin your stride in super slow motion. You can increase your pace to a moderate once during the experience if necessary. You may simply notice your walking, or you can use words to describe your movements (i.e. “lifting, placing, shifting”). Keep your eyes downcast at a 45 degree angle. The goal is to not look around, which might encourage your mind to wander. We are focusing on the act of walking, or perhaps breathing, and the associated body sensations. After a minute or so, turn your attention to your breath. Find the spot either just outside of your nostrils or notice the rise and fall of your belly. Any of these is a great place to note the sensation of your breath going in and out. Continue to walk back and forth for the allotted time. It is in the nature of your mind to “think”. When it wanders, just notice that it is happening. Then simply return to your body and its practice of walking. Set a timer and continue this practice.

Apps to Help your child learn Mindfulness

1. Breathe, Think, Do Sesame

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame is intended for parents and caregivers to use with their young children (ages 2-5) to help teach skills such as problem-solving, self-control, planning, and task persistence.

What it Costs: Free (iOS and Android)

2. Calm

Calm is the perfect meditation app for beginners, but also includes hundreds of programs for intermediate and advanced users. Guided meditation sessions are available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes so you can choose the perfect length to fit with your schedule.

What it Costs: Free (iOS and Android)

3. Headspace

Meditation made simple. Guided meditations suitable for all levels.

What it Costs: Free (iOS and Android)

4. Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids

As parents, we want to raise our kids to be able to handle whatever comes their way. Stop, Breathe & Think Kids offers children a fun and easy way to identify and process their emotions. From counting breaths to friendly wishes or frog jumps, each activity brings fun rewards to keep them engaged.

What it Costs: Free (iOS)

5. Breathing Bubbles

Breathing Bubbles is an app that helps kids practice releasing worries and focusing on good feelings by allowing kids to select the emotion they are feeling and how strongly they are feeling it. Kids can choose to handle their emotions by releasing a worry or receiving a joy as Manny the Manatee walks them through deep breathing and visualization.

What it Costs: Free (iOS)

6. Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind is designed to help manage pressure, stress, and challenges of daily life. This app is suited for kids ages 7-18.

What it Costs: Free (iOS)

7. HelloMind

HelloMind is an app which helps change negative thought patterns. Children can choose treatments based on whatever is bothering them. Examples include low self-esteem, needing courage, or being afraid to stick up for one’s self.

What it Costs: Free (iOS and Android)

Author: Stephanie Phillips, LCMHC, NCC, CCTP

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