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5 mindfulness lessons adults can learn from kids

Editor’s note: As we ease into 2018, so many of us want to find balance and awareness—easier said than done. That’s why we loved this excerpt from Kate Coombs’s new book, Breathe & Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems. Find your zen, mama!

Maybe you’re a reluctant meditator. Or, more likely, you have a friend or family member who doesn’t want to try meditation (although you can clearly see that meditation would be a real help to this person).

Without being dismissive or judgmental about their concerns, you might suggest they try following the simple lessons of a children’s meditation book. Teaching mindfulness helps kids (and adults!) learn to stay calm, regulate their emotions, and appreciate the world around them.

Children’s books are full of wisdom and beautifully told advice, and can help plant the seeds of mindfulness, compassion, and kindness that will benefit you for a lifetime.

So if you know a reluctant meditator or are one yourself, here are five lessons every adult can learn about mindfulness from a child’s whimsical perspective:

1. Unlike many preconceived notions, mindfulness meditation isn’t actually thinking about nothing.

Instead, you think about your breathing while letting your other thoughts settle down. By focusing on your breath, the many competing, nagging, or even agitated thoughts you might be having will slowly quiet down.

How I rush rush rush!

Thoughts flutter and dart like birds.

Slow down, thoughts.

Come quietly with me.

There is time to breathe and be.

2. Meditation is about calming yourself.

There’s a lot of stress and fuss and worry in our daily lives. Meditation helps us to take a step away from all that and look at it from a more peaceful perspective. Hopefully we can bring that perspective with us during the rest of the day.

When days crash thunder

and throw lightning around

I am still, watching.

I am a calm umbrella

inside the blue and gray storm.

3. Like anything else, meditation takes practice. That’s why the emphasis is on being nonjudgmental. When you notice your strong feelings and distressed thoughts you simply acknowledge them for what they are and let them go. You use your imagination to turn each leaf into a different worry or sorrow and then watch them float away.

I watch the stream.

Each thought is a floating leaf.

One leaf is worry,

another leaf is sadness.

The leaves drift softly away.

4. Try to breathe from the diaphragm or abdomen rather than taking light, high breaths from your chest area.

Breathing for meditation is the opposite of hyperventilating both in terms of action and your state of mind. There’s something calming about breathing thoughtfully, breathing a little more slowly than usual. Meditation works better that way.

I breathe slowly in,

I breathe slowly out. My breath

is a pathway of peace

moving softly through me.

Each day I can breathe and be.

5. There are things you can do that will help you get in a mindful mode besides traditional meditation.

Some people find mindfulness by going out in nature and just listening to the wind in the leaves of the trees or watching the waves roll onto the shore as they let go of their jumble of everyday thoughts for a little while.

A related mindfulness exercise is to create a quiet place in your mind. This can be based on a peaceful place where you like to be in real life, such as the forest or the beach. But you can use your imagination to make your quiet place into anything you want. Once you have designed your quiet place, go back to it in your mind whenever you are feeling stressed. Take a seat and rest there or walk through your quiet place garden.

I see myself

by the ocean, toes touching sand,

fingers find a shell

at the edge of the water.

Where is your quiet place?

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