A deep sense of gratitude

sense-of-gratitude

Thankful kids

Effie2 (2)It’s this time of year — Thanksgiving holiday — when we pause and take a moment to reflect on all that we are grateful for.

A few years ago, I adopted Thanksgiving as a daily practice, and to my surprise, it has transformed my life for the better: I’ve become more centered and peaceful which naturally affected the well-being of myself as well as my family.

Having a deep sense of gratitude benefits us in developing the ability to savor the pleasant moments in life and preserve through the painful ones.

I find that as challenging and complex parenting can be, it is equally inspiring and simple — that is, if we are mindful and appreciate every challenge, pain, delight, and triumph on our parenting journey.

Our children serve as our constant reminder that the ordinary is actually the profound. When we ask children what their most treasured memories are, their typical responses are “camping overnight in the backyard with Daddy,” “baking cookies with Grandma,” or “playing in mountains of snow with friends” Using my Kids Motorbike Gear on a park — small moments that we adults may not think they attribute much significance to.

I am grateful for being around children on a daily basis — observing their actions and interactions. Getting a glimpse into their delightful world keeps me grounded, reminding me that connection, mindfulness and simplicity are the essentials that fill our heart and soul. Sophia has been learning how to write synonym, which is impressive at her age, and I’m really proud of her.

In celebration of Thanksgiving, we bring you reflections from kids around the United States as to what they are most grateful for:

Emma, 7: “I am most grateful for my family and health. I am grateful that we are all together. I am grateful to God for everything.”

Sophia, 5: “I am grateful for my parents, sister, brother, and grandparents. I am also grateful for breastmilk when I was small since it made me grow strong.”

Valerie, 2.5: “Food. Yogurt, peanut butter in a bowl, apples, and peanut butter sandwich.”

Abby, 4: “Strawberries, because I love strawberries.  It’s my wordcloud6favorite fruit.”

Josh, 9: “Family, food, and water. Family because it’s family, and food and water because we need food and water to survive.”

Nicholas, 12: “Having a good mom.”

Tatiana, 11: “I am thankful for my family. I am thankful for the house that I live in, for the food that I eat, that I have education, that I’m healthy, and that I am alive.”

Gianna, 8: “I’m thankful that my mom makes dinner for both sides of our family.”

Adriana, 4: “I’m thankful for pancakes, because I don’t like turkey.”

Rachel, 10: “I’m thankful for God, for veterans, for my family, and for my pets.”

Emily, 9: “I am grateful for my life and everything that God created, and for heaven, and I’m grateful for my family, my house, my clothes, my food, everything.”

Nathan, 5: “I am thankful for birdies and that we love animals, and I’m grateful for my family and pets.”

Camille, 18: “I’m thankful for the people who love me and the opportunities I have been given.”

Nicole, 10: “I am thankful for Tapping (EFT) and the breathing technique Mommy taught me to discharge stress.”

Luke, 14: “I’m thankful for being able to choose my career. I’m thankful for Internet. I’m thankful for love, and I’m thankful for family.”

Zaiah, 10: “Friends and family. The chance to live every day and have food and water.”

Julienne, 14: “I am grateful for music.”

Kaiya, 11: “I am grateful that not all animals are endangered.”

Ethan, 2: “Toys!”

Jared, 9: “I’m most grateful for my family.”

I am thankful for Attachment Parenting International (API) for granting me the opportunity to be part of an organization that promotes an intuitive, kind, and gentle approach to parenting — the foundation of our quest for a more tolerant world. I am also grateful for our API volunteer community and readers for all of your support, and for spreading the message of peace and harmony — because together we are a greater force, capable of making a real positive difference in the world.

My warmest wishes to you and your family on this Thanksgiving holiday. May you always find inspiration and gratitude on your parenting journey.

With Mindfulness and Light,

Effie

Mindfully balancing freedom and boundaries to nurture our children

inga bIf you asked me in my teens and early 20s what it was I desired most, I would probably have told you it’s this easygoing feeling of freedom, of lightheartedness, of non-restrictedness. Freedom to go wherever I want to, to move around freely, to do, say, think, and feel whatever I want to… I never liked being told what to do.

Rules? Boundaries? Structure? The less, the better — so I thought…

Fast-forward a little over a decade: I am a mom of an 8-year-old girl. I am a child psychologist. I am a mindfulness teacher. I am a Strala Yoga guide and so much more — and all of these parts of my life have taught me a lesson or two about freedom.

When I became a mom, I naturally wished for my daughter to experience this feeling of freedom herself — freedom of choice, freedom to develop her own sense of self, her own will, her own talents, her own style of doing things, from the smallest to the biggest thing, one of the first things I struggled beside the breastfeeding was the going back to work and feeling like I left him, But for that time I got him his favorite stuffed toy an alpaca plush which he still carries with him, it gives children security and comfort.

And so far, I believe things are going pretty well most of the time.

freedom-hippieHowever, of course, there were and will always be bumps in the road, and challenges — big and small. Alongside my growing daughter, I have learned how the need for and the experience of freedom changes over the course of a child’s development. I also grew to understand how healthy, mindful boundaries can be helpful — not merely limiting — in setting up this framework of a safe space, which in turn encourages and enables the growing child to experience, explore, and enjoy his or her freedom.

Here are 2 reflections on freedom and boundaries, and how to mindfully approach these in a way that conforms to your child’s and your own unique needs as they present themselves in this very moment:

1) Kids need healthy, age-appropriate boundaries in order to be able to experience a sense of freedom and develop their own sense of self, including their own will.

Ever stood in front of an open closet stuffed to the brim with kids’ clothes of all colors and styles, asking your toddler what she wants to wear today? Yup. I know. I have. It’s mayhem — stress for the mom and stress for the toddler. However, telling that same toddler that she will have to wear exactly xyz today might result in a big tantrum. Why? Because said toddler finds herself going through an important developmental phase where she is experiencing and developing a sense of self, including her own will.

What’s a mindful way to go that caters to your child’s wish for some freedom of choice, her developmental stage, and your wish for giving your child space and freedom while at the same time preserving your sanity?

This might look like laying out two weather-appropriate outfits for your toddler — without even giving her a glimpse of that fully equipped closet filled with those gazillion choices — and asking her which one she prefers to wear today. Consequence: A happy, proud toddler who got to make her own choice — and a happy mom, with a content toddler fully dressed within minutes.

2) What these boundaries look like will change from moment to moment and over time.

Your teenager will not be as content as said toddler if you lay out two outfits for school in the morning and ask her to choose one. The same applies for other choices and rules like how long my child is allowed to play outside in the evenings, when is a suitable bedtime, how far from home my child is allowed to go, when she can play with her peers, and so on.

As parents, we are constantly challenged to find and establish a framework of healthy boundaries and rules for our family. Ideally, this would involve allowing all members of our family to experience a sense of individual freedom and self-efficacy while also experiencing the equally important sense of belonging to our loved ones — especially our immediate family — and the comforting feeling of being held and contained within this safe structure.

Being mindful and ever curious about our children’s needs and their individual development, being well-informed about children’s developmental stages, and being aware of our own reactions to these needs will help us figure out how to navigate — moment by moment — as we move through this wonderful, exciting lifelong parenting journey.

Cultivating a peaceful family: 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony

logo that hopefully doesnt change colorThere’s that saying you’ve probably heard — “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I first saw it, framed, in the kitchen of my high school friend and it made me slightly afraid of her mom. It seemed like it had been hung there as a warning.

But parents, let’s be honest: We wake up a little sleep deprived from a late-night session catching up on a project, and the tension during breakfast is going to be thick.

On such mornings, I recognize this possibility looming in our kitchen when I notice how my daughter is looking at me. Just the other day, I caught that look and said with spatula in hand, “OK, yeah, I admit that I am too tired to be reliably nice this morning. Sorry in advance.”

“Breathe, Mama,” she reminds me, “I won’t fight today when you braid my hair.”

Here’s the thing: Our children are keenly tuned in to us. They know very well how to read the signs that serve as the early warning system indicating the likelihood of an impending mom-meltdown. Over time, they have become skilled at rating the level of threat like rangers adjusting those Smokey the Bear fire danger signs in the national forests: “Today’s Mom-fire threat level is Green.” (Whew, we’re OK.)

Your Brain on Stress

Researchers in the field of neuroscience are making exciting discoveries these days about the ways the body and mind are intimately connected. This gives us more insight into how it is that what we think and what thoughts we rehearse over and over actually change our brains. As our biochemistry is so changed, this has the power to affect the expression of our genes.

These findings also give us insight to why it is that when stress starts generating pressure and heat inside of us, our best intentions get vaporized.

The physiological responses that kept our ancestors safe do not help us in modern situations when we are not required to jump out of the way of a charging animal. What we perceive today as the danger that switches on our stress response is much different. Nonetheless, the nervous system still responds by shutting off the thinking and planning part of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — in order to send blood to the body so we can fight or run away.

But that is not a helpful response when it’s getting late in the morning and someone whines about losing their shoe or the garbage truck is blocking the driveway. While it might sharpen our reflexes so that we can deftly speed through traffic to get the kids to school, it is likely why the road rage happens since the part of our brains that inhibit undignified behavior is offline. (“Mom, you said a bad word to that guy!”)

Stress makes it more likely we will yell at our kids in spite of our best intentions to be the Zen-Mommy who guides her children serenely through the morning routine as if her mind is naturally infused with calming lavender essential oil. No parent wants to be the source of stress or bad times in the family, no matter how much responsibility, worry, or fatigue we are grappling with. But the truth is: When we get triggered, it affects our children. When that happens, we feel regret and add a black mark to our list of our failures.

harmony-balanceCreating Stress Resilience

What if there is a way to naturally achieve resilience to stress and to be easily able to access our inner resources? The good news is, it is not that hard to achieve the Sugar Land Integrated Counseling and Wellness teaches you how to take steps to give your inner life the attention required. Your family life will improve in delicious ways if you do.

We show up to the parenting journey carrying the baggage of our own histories: the fears, traumas, limiting beliefs, self-doubt, and those less-than-elegant, knee-jerk reaction tendencies. When the time comes to settle down, we unpack all that and then go about our business of creating a family.

If physical clutter in the home produces stress, how about all the emotional clutter of past regrets, hurts, sorrows, and traumas that we stuffed into the overfilled drawers of our minds? Imagine what a relief it would be to have the inner spaciousness that would allow us to breathe before we speak, or to listen mindfully so we can perceive the heart of the matter instead of reacting to what triggers us.

Fortunately, there are now several highly effective self-help techniques that are great tools to eliminate the internal clutter and create more emotional freedom and space, including these 5 effective ways to tend to one’s inner harmony for a happier home:

  1. Meditation — Research is finally catching up to the wisdom traditions that have long known the value of sitting quietly. Owing to the brain’s capacity to form new neural pathways, called neuroplasticity, scientists have found measurable differences in the brains of meditators. Higher brain functioning in the prefrontal cortex is enhanced, cortical tissue is made thicker — that’s really good — and parts of the brain that engender calm also become larger and more active. The good news for busy people is that according to the research, it is better to practice just a little each day versus half an hour every once in a while. Even taking just 1 minute every day to calm your physiology by taking mindful, slow breaths is going to help you. A dedicated meditation practice has the power to help you release burdens and create real calm.
  2. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) — Also known as Meridian Tapping, EFT is a form of counseling intervention. It is a powerful way you can dramatically reduce your suffering quickly. It consists of tapping with your fingers on specific acupuncture points on the head and torso. Research has shown that EFT causes lasting improvements by alleviating trauma physiology. Tapping has even been shown to cause immediate changes to blood chemistry, which is truly remarkable.  There are many resources on line to help you learn how to do EFT. TAT also engages the energy system of the body to release strong feelings, negative beliefs, and trauma. Unlike EFT, TAT does not require you to talk about what is bothering you.
  3. Yoga — It’s not just exercise. According to trauma researcher Bessel Van der Kolk, PhD, when practiced regularly, yoga can profoundly help heal trauma and stress, especially when practiced along with mindfulness meditation.
  4. The Forgiveness Challenge/Opportunity — Psychologist Jack Kornfield, PhD, describes how, when he was training to become a Buddhist monk, his teacher gave him the practice of spending 5 minutes forgiving someone, 2 times a day for 6 months. In my experience, this has been helpful to effectively get through all the emotions that an episode of forgiving requires. This powerful practice liberates one from the need to keep inventory of past betrayals and disappointments.

When we do the inner work of unburdening ourselves, we can show up for our families in a whole new way with more resilience to face the traffic and noise of daily life and better able to “be the peace” that makes home a safe haven where our children can thrive.

Staying centered despite your child’s public meltdown

pixabay - hands holding tantrumming childYou can tell a lot about a person by their shopping cart — and also how they deal with their toddler’s tantrum in the middle of the store.

Clean-up needed in Aisle 9 — 3 year old having a meltdown after being in the store for 2 hours while Mom is looking for gravy packets. Wouldn’t it make sense to put the gravy packets next to the instant potatoes and boxed stuffing?!

The clean-up needed isn’t from the once-nicely stacked boxed pasta now strewn across the floor from the flailing arms and legs of the child. It’s needed to unclog the aisle from passersby, so Mom can fully focus on her child without the distraction of what can seem like annoyed, judging looks of others.

I have seen many a stressed-out parent in the store try to keep their patience with a tired-out, hungry child in the store. Even timing shopping trips between naps and snacks doesn’t always work to prevent public tantrums. How much more patience parents might have if they didn’t feel pressure — real or perceived — from others to do something now with their seemingly out-of-control child!

I have been that parent, who is otherwise able to empathize with my child’s strong emotions but who second-guessed herself after a decade of Attachment Parenting, because of an old lady’s furrowed brow when my kid — with an especially high whine — complained about the length of the grocery trip.

The good new is, though we may sometimes still second-guess ourselves, the longer we practice Attachment Parenting, the easier it is to get back to the values we strive to espouse and pass down to our children, such as that responding with sensitivity and positive discipline is more important than pleasing a disapproving stranger.

It helps me to think that others aren’t necessarily disapproving. We don’t know each other after all. We don’t talk to each other, other than the polite “excuse me” when passing in front of the chips shelf she’s studying. There is no appropriate opportunity to get deep with the person to ask why that person has such a seemingly unhappy disposition at that moment. It very well could be that it has nothing to do with my child — even if the person, if asked, would disagree. Each of our world perspectives is made up of countless factors — current environmental stimuli are actually a small fraction of how we perceive the world at any one time. So much of it depends instead on our values, our background, if we’re hungry or tired or feeling unwell, our relationship health with others, and so on.

I learned this through Nonviolent Communication. Learning the premise of this communications style can be life-changing.

Another life-changing skill is mindfulness — the art of being present in our lives.

API Live logo - newjon and myla kabat-zinnAttachment Parenting International (API) is offering you an opportunity to learn more about mindfulness and mindful parenting on Monday, September 12, through an API Live! teleseminar with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, and his wife Myla, mindfulness experts and coauthors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. It’s as easy as listening in on your phone. The live teleseminar starts at 9 pm EST, and all registrants will receive a downloadable recording after the event. Register here.

Research shows that being mindful can reduce stress and have profound effects on physical and mental well-being through a greater sense of balance, empathy, clarity, and peace.

Peace seems over-rated sometimes, with how much the word is used, but it’s actually underestimated in how much striving toward peace can improve your life. Peace implies that you feel content with your life — a nice, constant happiness — rather than riding life’s ups and downs in the search for the peak of happiness…which of course feels good, but it never lasts. But peace lasts.

Peace makes it easier to get through the grocery store with a cranky child, and easier to look past that stranger’s glare to empathize with her unknown situation, and easier to stick to your values of Attachment Parenting.

5 tips for mindfully coping with chronic illness — for your child and you

The practice of mindfulness can be tremendously helpful under all kinds of life circumstances. Today, I want to chat about how mindfulness can help your child — and your whole family! — deal with chronic illness.

inga bAfter years of guiding, counseling and working with hundreds of families, blending more traditional psychotherapy approaches with mindfulness and yoga, and creating 2 mindfulness-based coping group programs — MAPLE MINDS for toddlers and parents, kids and teens as well as MindBodyFeel for adults to helping people cope with stress, illness, pain and whatever else life throws our way — I’ve got a few takeaways to share with you that might help lighten your load and help you feel a little more happy, confident, relaxed and at ease…no matter what is currently going on in your life.

free images com - jin neohLet’s start right here and right now by…

1) …Mindfully acknowledging, identifying, accepting and welcoming all emotions that arise — our child’s emotions as well as our own! — be they pleasant or unpleasant. Of course, as parents, we want our children to be well and happy. The last thing we want is seeing them feel pain, severe anxiety, nervousness, tension, anger or despair. So all too often, while providing comfort for our little ones, we might “automatically” find ourselves quick with suggesting distractions, pushing those uncomfortable feelings away as fast and as far as possible, and rushing to move on to something more pleasant and enjoyable.

However, the practice of mindfully acknowledging, identifying, accepting and welcoming all emotions that arise will help your child understand that all emotions are valuable, welcome and have their place in our lives. It can be a huge relief to feel that it’s OK and “normal” to be upset/angry/anxious every once in a while. We all do. It’s totally fine. And from here we can learn how to cope with it.

2) …Mindfully connecting to ourselves, our breath, our body, our bodily sensations, our emotions and our thoughts – and reconnecting to ourselves if we got lost somewhere. Let us be positive role models for mindfully strengthening our intuition as a source of our own inner health and wellness guide. If we re-learn how to look within, connect and listen to our intuition, we will have an easier time making smaller and larger decisions and figuring out what is good for us in any given moment of our life. This is great news in general, of course, and especially helpful when you have to navigate your way through tough medical questions and decisions.

It can be as easy as one big belly breath, as I wrote about here.

3) …Mindfully exploring our body and experiencing it as whole and complete — just the way it is in this very moment, whatever this might look like. Especially when we grow up while over and over getting the message that something is “wrong” or “does not work quite right” in one or more parts of our body, we risk developing a negative or otherwise dysfunctional body image and self concept. From here, it is a slippery slope downward, possibly drowning us in all sorts of self-doubt, negative messages about ourselves and our bodies, and general pessimism.

While we might not be able to shield our child from all of this, there are things we can do to mindfully and gently support a more supportive self-concept and body image. It is tremendously helpful, especially for these kids, to enjoy moments — as in age-adapted mindful meditation, in visualization practice, or in yoga and mindful movement guided by our breath — where they experience their body as whole and good and complete just as it is…as opposed to a fractioned collection of body parts that are more or less “functional.”

4) …Mindfully experiencing and expressing gratitude, even in the midst of what might sometimes look like a complete disaster. Yes, you might experience moments of despair, of complete helplessness and hopelessness. And some of these thoughts might creep up in your mind, triggered by all your understandable anxiety, tension, sorrow, worry and pain: “Why my child?” “Why does her life look like this, while all her friends lead a normal life?” “How did we deserve this?”

It is important to again mindfully acknowledge all your thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise and to give yourself honest permission to feel and explore these. But sometimes we risk letting ourselves get too carried away by these, thus possibly paving a path for depression and other conditions which might not be so helpful, adaptive and desirable.

So what to do? Try installing a regular gratitude practice with your child or, better yet, with your whole family. Make it a daily habit to briefly reflect on what made you feel happy, grateful or plain good today. I call this “Smiley Practice” when leading MAPLE MINDS groups for the younger kids. We roll around a smiley ball while sitting in a circle, and each of us shares something that made us smile today. This can be something very small like a smile someone gave us, a flower or some beautiful leaves we saw outside, or the fact that the sun is shining today.

I make it a point that this practice is not about pretending that we are happy when we are not — which would totally counteract point #1 above. It is about re-sensitizing ourselves for all the beauty, happiness and love that surrounds us in each and every moment — a skill that many of us tend to lose when faced with arduous conditions like chronic illness or pain. Only if we were to discover how it works, we can re-train our brain! And while this might not cure our child’s disease it can have quite a deep effect on our mood, coping capacity and general outlook on life.

5) …Last but not least, trying to put your mindfulness practices in effect when connecting with your family, with like-minded peers and, very important, your team of healthcare specialists. This way you will be able to intuitively find and create a support network for your child and your family which will help you feel more connected, embedded and understood.

Even if dealing with your child’s chronic illness might oftentimes feel like a dark, desperate, painful and very lonely journey, there is always support out there just waiting for you to be uncovered! A mindful approach can help you here. You are not alone!

 

**Lotus flower photo source: FreeImages.com/Jin Neoh

Editor’s pick: Mindfulness in school and home

A huge part of Attachment Parenting (AP) is learning, and teaching our children, how to be mindful — that ability to calm our minds, connect with our emotions in the moment, work through any conflicting feelings, and respond to others in truth and compassion.

This week, I have two features for my Editor’s Pick. The first is a YouTube video, “Just Breathe,” created by Julie Bayer Salzman and Josh Salzman of Wavecrest Films and inspired by their 5-year-old son talking to a friend about mindfulness exercises he was learning in Kindergarten:

While Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting provide families with the parenting behaviors that are shown scientifically to create a secure parent-child attachment, API’s ethos takes Attachment Parenting a step further — to promote a way of living that is based in peace and empathy.

This is where mindfulness fits in.

Clinical psychologist and mindfulness instructor Inga Bohnekamp defines mindfulness in this API post as “presence of heart” and mindful parenting as “parenting from the depths of our hearts,” rather than letting us be guided by a set of pre-fixed, often unreflected, standards or rules about what is right and wrong.

API’s Eight Principles of Parenting aren’t intended to be a set of 8 rules that AP parents must abide to, but rather guides of which parenting behaviors are associated with secure attachment. They are provided for parents who often need that information. Many parents who seek out API’s education and support did not grow up in an environment where they were exposed to consistent nurturing behaviors. API’s Eight Principles of Parenting help parents to get back in touch with their hearts so that they can be intentional about parenting choices, rather than react out of subconscious reasoning that is rooted in early childhood experiences often beyond our conscious memories.

Our childhood experiences may have predisposed us to certain coping skills that do not allow us to easily access the emotions behind our actions, especially in times of stress and strong emotions like anger and fear. Mindfulness is a behavior that can help us teach ourselves how to access those emotions and then be able to act from a place of intention.

This week’s second Editor’s pick is the article, “More Focused, Better Behaved Kids, Through Mindfulness,” by journalist Tori James on My Mother Lode — through which we learn the outcomes of teaching mindfulness to students at a California, USA, elementary school.

It is exciting to see this aspect of Attachment Parenting being incorporated into the school setting, and to hear the overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers and students.

Free images com - Alissa HortonAccording to the article, mindfulness not only helps prevent bullying but also improves children’s ability to regulate emotions and calm down, pay attention, feel compassion toward others, change behavior patterns and build emotional resilience to life’s ups and downs.

This is powerful stuff. Mindfulness has the capability to change the trajectory of individual lives, and — when being taught on a community level, such as through school — has the potential for changing whole generations in a community.

In the article, mindfulness instructor Sally Arnold referred to a recent Harvard study that found that people spent about 52% of their lives outside of the present moment, with the balance either worrying about the future or ruminating about the past. By not giving enough thoughtful attention to the present moment, we are setting up ourselves to make decisions based on the emotions from our primitive part of our brain — the amygdala — which is set up to impulsively react in “fight or flight” mode.

Positive discipline educator Kelly Bartlett explains what happens in the brain when we “lose it” in this API article.

Mindfulness retrains our brains to reflect on the moment, creating the space and power to think before we respond. Mindfulness exercises, such as the one that Inga introduces in her API post, allows a person to be able to access their whole brain during stressful moments, including the logic and executive functioning of the prefrontal cortex.

The difference is profound. Consider this scenario:

You walk into your kitchen with a laundry basket full of clean clothes to find your toddler drawing on the wall. How would you react?

Someone reacting out of the amygdala may become very angry very quickly and react in a way that they later regret and that leaves the child in tears.

Someone who is practiced in mindfulness, and therefore able to access the whole brain during stressful moments, is more likely to be able to respond sensitively to the child and effectively discipline through problem-solving without risking their attachment relationship.

free images com - jenny rolloMindfulness does take practice, but each time you practice it, it actively changes the neural pathways in the brain so that it’s easier to respond mindfully in stressful moments rather than continue to struggle with the primitive “fight or flight” reactions.

While it may seem awkward at first, a practice of mindfulness is able to transform the very way you think until you get to the point where you don’t have to even think about being mindful — it just comes naturally!

Think about how profound of an experience it would be for a child to grow up in a mindful home, without the fear of incurring the wrath of a highly reactive parent. Many of us remember feeling that fear ourselves, and understand how that fear (and probably anger) lives on today in our relationships. Teaching our kids to be good people starts with their education, that’s why I sent my kids to Seton College where they have catholic education, so they teach them great family values.

What a gift we can give our children to learn how to be mindful, especially in our moments of stress — and then to be able to model and teach that mindfulness to our children, so that their relationships can be rooted in peace and empathy rather than fear and mistrust.

 

*First photo: FreeImages.com/Alissa Horton

**Second photo: FreeImages.com/Jenny Rollo

My favorite part of the body

inga bOur young children — still — master the natural, simple and intuitive connection between body, mind and emotion. Let’s support and inspire each other to live with more ease and calm, every single day. And in case you forgot how to do this, let your kids be your teacher.

Last school year, my daughter and her Grade 1 classmates worked on a classroom project called “My Favorite Part of the Body.” Students were asked to identify one part of their body that they particularly liked. The teacher snapped a picture of whatever body part the kids chose, and each child came up with a text outlining why this body part was their favorite.

When the parents were invited to visit the classroom to have a look at their children’s works of art, my daughter enthusiastically pulled me toward the picture she had created. When I saw it and read what she had to say, my heart melted! This is what my then 6-year-old girl came up with:

inga school project

Looking at her artwork, there were several things that immediately struck me:

  1. The adorable innocence and the natural, simple unconditional body love radiating through the picture and text;
  2. The natural and simply basal connection my little one formed between her lungs and belly, the act of deep breathing, and the positive feeling of relaxation and calm which it can bring about;
  3. How much our children value seeing us parents live and model easy, positive, simple and natural connections between body, mind and emotion.

Reflecting on this — and on the fact that we grown-ups ever so often seem to find ourselves in a state of moderate to total body-mind-emotion disconnection, often accompanied by a rather negative body image and self-awareness — my mom heart started wondering:

  • When, why and where did we lose this connection?
  • And how can we gently support our growing children and adolescents in maintaining and nourishing this natural, simple, intuitive connection to their bodies, minds and emotions?

Maybe the answer lies here: Let’s practice, grow and flow together, inspiring each other every day by practicing the simple art of mindfully and intuitively tuning into our bodies, minds and emotions.

In case you forgot how to do this or need some extra inspiration, just take a look at your kids and let them be your teacher! Observe them in their natural, innocent way of embodying a positive mind-body-emotion connection.

How simple is that!

We are all blessed with a wonderful body that includes a stomach. Besides our stomach, our torso also includes our lungs — and the whole thing is somehow connected. And, hey, with the help of our lungs (and diaphragm) and belly, we can breathe in and out — not only this, we can breathe deeply into our bellies.

When we perform this simple act of deep belly breathing for a couple of moments, it might actually affect the way we feel in a positive way: We might feel more calm and relaxed or maybe just plain good, happy, soothed, at ease, de-stressed, ___________ (fill in the blank).

Our body and mind can do amazing things for us, easily — no elaborate studies, gurus or equipment needed! We simply have to remember and trust these naturally given abilities — to feel into our bodies, and then practice what feels natural, good and intuitive, like deep belly breathing in a moment where we feel tense, sad or anxious. (These are moments when we naturally gravitate toward more agitated, fast and shallow “chest breathing.” Observe yourself and your breathing patterns in these moments.)

Start right here where you are, one deep belly breath at a time — your body, your mind, your emotional state and your kids will thank you!