In Search of Calm

Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten
Planting Seeds by Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve written before of my discovery of mindfulness in a Library Journal review assignment of the book Mindful Motherhood.  Before I read that book, I never thought about my tendency to daydream or worry as anything I could (or should) change.   It was just me.  The idea that my thoughts and tendencies were not me–that I merely contain themwas revolutionary (to put it mildly), and I am always looking for ways to share that with my daughter.  Enter Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Frankly, I waited forever on a library list for this book, and now that I’ve seen it, I just may have to purchase a copy for our family library.  I did the “Mind in a Jar” exercise with Ladybug as a way of illustrating that we contain our thoughts and feelings.

We started with a jar of water. What do you think about when you wake up in the morning? Sprinkle in a bit of rice.

Soon the jar was full of the thoughts and feelings of the day, which we stirred up.  When we stopped stirring, the water slowed and eventually stopped.   As the rice settled, we talked about our thoughts settling with our breath.  Ladybug was attentive to the activity, but she seemed to know where I was going already.  It wasn’t revolutionary to think about being in charge of your thoughts or using deep cleansing breaths to keep calm or clear your mind.  There was a teeny-tiny part of me that was disappointed.  I wanted to blow her mind with this news that was so huge for me.  But I think it’s probably a good thing that this wasn’t news to my four-year-old.

I think it’s time to take it to the next level.  Next up: Pebble Meditation.

You can read more about the book in this review from First the Egg.

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SavorSince the paperback version of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life came out last week (March 8th to be exact), I wanted to highlight what I found to be helpful information from the book.  The seven practices of a Mindful Eater are as follows:

  • Honor the food
  • Engage all six senses
  • Serve in modest portions
  • Savor small bites, and chew thoroughly
  • Eat slowly to avoid overeating
  • Don’t skip meals
  • Eat a plant-based diet, for your health and for the planet

Whether or not you agree with all of these is up to you.  The book has much more information from Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and nutritionist Lilian Cheung (Cheung is editorial director of The Nutrition Source), and I recommend it.  Here is my review for Library Journal, for those who are interested.

Happy Eating.

What is true for us

Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten

My introduction to mindfulness meditation came through the mail.  I opened a package from the Library Journal offices in New York to find my latest review assignment: Mindful Motherhood by Cassandra Vieten.  I was only vaguely familiar with meditation, and the word “mindfulness” was new to me.  This was my perfect introduction to these ideas because it was very secular and scientific, which helped me to have an open mind. It was nearly two years ago that I reviewed Mindful Motherhood, and I have yet to really embrace a meditation practice, though I have found the principle of mindfulness–the definition repeated throughout the book is “awareness of the moment without judging it as good or bad”–to be extremely helpful.

This weekend my family went to an open house at Moe Body Works to support a friend who is a yoga and meditation teacher there.  In addition to snacks and tea, the open house featured several demonstrations of some of the services offered at Moe Body Works.  We didn’t get there early enough for the intro to Qigong, but the Acro-Yoga demo was very, very cool.  As one of the yoga teachers was “flying” upside-down, Ladybug whispered to me, “This is cool.”

Later, the meditation primer was probably less “cool” to her, but we really enjoyed it.  First we experienced two minutes of silence.  The time went fast, and Ladybug was mostly quiet during it, which helped us have confidence that she could handle being there with us during the primer.  Next we spent five minutes in silent meditation.  This was significantly more challenging.  Ladybug spent about a minute sitting quietly in position then she built a pattern with the orange sitting pillows that weren’t being used.  It was a long five minutes, but I’m really glad we all experienced it.  For one thing, my partner and I have a renewed sense of wanting to make a meditation practice part of our lives.  For another, I liked that Ladybug was there to see us modeling meditation for her and even to participate as she was able.

It reminded me of the Montessori “Silence Game,” which challenges children to stay quiet until their names are called as a way of teaching self discipline and awareness to children ages 2 to 6. How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way says, “At first, younger children may not be able to remain still and silent for more than 30 seconds, but gradually they will develop the ability to relax, listen, and appreciate the silence.”  I think this will be a good place for us to start.

The Mindful Child by Susan K. Greenland

When we got home, I picked Susan K. Greenland’s The Mindful Child off my shelf.  I’d read it some months ago but I hadn’t tried any of the activities/meditations with Ladybug,.  The book encourages parents to start using the principles of mindfulness even with preschoolers to help them “connect to themselves (who do I feel? think? see?) to others (what do they feel? think? see?), and maybe to something greater than themselves.”  Sounds like it’s right in line with the principles of sensory awareness in Montessori education.  Actually, several of the activities in The Mindful Child work as variations of Montessori activities (sorting dried beans with a blindfold, for example).  What I really like about Greenland’s book, though, is the flexibility.  She writes, “practice what is true for you.”  That may include art or movement or music.  And that’s okay.  Just keep practicing.  Sounds like something a mom would say.