It’s a joy to spend time with toddlers. They are so engaged in the world before them, curious and aware of what each moment offers.
A toddler’s way of being in the world is similar to the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is being attentive to our sense perceptions and what goes on around us—without passing judgment on what is occurring. In mindfulness, there is no lovely or ugly, good or bad, right or wrong. Instead, everything simply is what it is.
Mindfulness and Anxiety
Not only does mindfulness allow us to live fully and with deep appreciation, it helps reduce stress and anxiety by focusing and quieting the mind. As our mind settles into “the now” our fears are no longer fueled by worrisome what-if thoughts, so anxiety and panic lose steam and diminish.
The diminishment of anxiety occurs whether our fear is based in reality or is triggered by dangers that only lurk in the imagination. Mindfulness gently draws adults and children back to the present where nothing life-threatening is occurring, and places our attention on the simple gifts of each moment.
Mindfulness For Beginners
One way families can begin practicing mindfulness is taking time throughout the day to have each person describe what they are tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing, or touching. Observing without judgment can be introduced and discussed with older children.
There is also a variety of helpful mindfulness materials in bookstores and on the Internet. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life is an excellent adult introduction to present moment practice, and there are books and CDs for families available at Amazon, such as:
- What Does It Mean To Be Present? by Rana Diorio. This vibrantly illustrated book reveals to kids what it means to be, and how to be in the moment. The simple, lyrical, non-preachy text is suitable for preschool children, is effective with young grade-schoolers, and serves as a pleasant reminder for older kids and adults to be present and aware in all we do.
- Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents), by Eline Snel. This book introduces mindfulness meditation using metaphors, images, and practices that help kids and adults reduce worry, calm down, release frustration, focus better, fall asleep, and increase patience and awareness. The text is not a storybook for young children, but rather a tool for parents and kids to use together. The CD that comes with the book is suitable for children and adults.
Mindfulness is not only about seeing the moment with our mind. It’s about opening our heart to life as well, and cultivating compassion and kindness toward self and others. It’s a valuable life skill that, once learned, can enhance a person’s mental and emotional well being throughout their lifetime.
Photo credit: Savannah Lewis