Meditating Together as a Family Welcomes a Mindful Future.

photo: jove-duero-unsplash

Mindful Frontiers’ mission is to welcome a mindful future; one child, family, adult, community; and one present-moment at a time. Bringing mindful meditation into a family’ routine is one way to welcome a mindful future. I believe this would transform our world into a kinder, more compassionate, and accepting existence.

Mindful meditation is a practice with wide-spread benefits, including general relaxation as well as encouraging full-body rest. The generally accepted definition of mindful meditation is paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, and with focused attention.

  • Being aware of the present moment by focusing on an attention anchor — sounds, sensations, or most commonly, the breath — is the fundamental principle of meditation.
  • Being aware of the present moment and practicing over and over trains the mind and body to relax into stillness. Meditation is called a practice because it takes time and repetition to master.

Although there are many kinds of meditation traditions, breath awareness is the most common.

  • There are many meditation practices that can help settle the nervous system, including sense awareness, body scanning, and breath practice.
  • The most basic is breath awareness. Our breath has four parts: in-breath, pause-in, out-breath, pause-out. Each part is a space of present-moment stillness, especially the pauses which bring deep relaxation to the body and mind.

Meditation quiets the mind and settles the nervous system.

  • The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a bodily system that determines how we respond to emotional experiences. It is made up of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems.
  • “These two systems are activated in times of arousal or recovery. Put simply, SNS activation leads to a “fight or flight” response, and PNS activation leads to a “rest and digest” response.” (Roxanna Salim, November 12th, 2019, Imotions.com)
  • Although, as the name suggests, the ANS is automatic, we can stimulate the PNS response through meditation and deep breathing. By quieting the mind’s reactivity and calming down our attachment to emotional thoughts, we settle the fight or flight reactions of the SNS, thereby stimulating the PNS which helps our body and mind come back to homeostasis.

People are often attracted to meditation because of a need for emotional, spiritual or physical healing. Once a person starts meditating, they generally realize the benefits extend far beyond a healing practice. It becomes a state of being and a lifestyle choice.

Whether it is to get through a difficult illness, grief of losing a loved one, or simply to carve out a daily moment of non-doing, everyone can benefit from meditation. The benefits are plentiful and scientifically proven. A few of these include the ability to stay calm during emotional experiences, to be less reactive to behaviors, to listen more carefully to conversations, and to have compassion and empathy for self and others. There’s also the spiritual benefit of sangha that comes from practicing meditation with others, whether in a monastery or a virtual community of meditators.

Mindful Frontiers’ vision is to teach meditation skills to families to encourage them to incorporate mindfulness into their family’s daily routine.

“Mindfulness instruction for youth is a worthwhile cause to embrace which I believe would have a positive impact on our world. By teaching families with young children the benefits of meditation and present moment awareness, the skills learned and incorporated into their daily life would have long-lasting impact”.

The goals for teaching young people and their families meditation are to:

  • Teach families how present-moment mindfulness awareness can bring relaxation and social-emotional wellbeing into their home.
  • Explain that they aren’t judged by their thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
  • Show by example that mindfulness is a way to feel good about yourself, just as we are, in this moment.
  • Model what it looks like to be confident yet relaxed; to be happy and at ease while accepting that life is never perfect.

How old is “old enough” to teach children mindfulness, meditation, contemplation of self in the moment? Surely, the very young can sit and color a mandala, walk a labyrinth and follow a finger labyrinth. Eventually, each child could learn to focus on breath, bodily sensations, internal feelings and as a result, benefit from a practice that would last a lifetime.

The Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” This quote reminds me that teaching mindful meditation and compassionate awareness to youth are ways to encourage a kinder future.

The benefits of mindfulness for children and youth.

By teaching meditation to young children, stress-reduction skills will be implanted in their brains early and as they grow and mature they will always be able to go back to meditation in times of stress. It’s a social-emotional learning skill that has long-term benefits.

For example, even if a young person lets meditation go during adolescence as they pursue independence and autonomy, someday when they find themselves in a stressful situation, they can remember that as a child they learned this relaxation skill called mindful awareness and they can pick it back up. I would even say that a stressed out teenager who is thinking of suicide or, worse, using a gun to deal with anxiety, would remember what it felt to meditate and decide to do that instead. Doing so would save lives!

Toddlers and preschool age kids can listen to a bell / chime and focus on the sound from start to end. This age can also listen to sounds around them, gaze intently at an object, dance mindfully and joyfully around a classroom. For breath focus, they can notice their belly inflate and deflate with the breath. With practice, a toddler could sit for a minute in silence.

Elementary school age children can learn to focus on their breath, listen to a bell as well as listen to sounds as meditation anchors just as the younger children. The difference would be the length of time this age could aspire to sitting still. I would start with 1 minute of silent and guided meditation and work up to 3 minutes in about a week and then try to get to 5 minutes within a month.

Middle-school age and high school age is an interesting time of life. The brain of an adolescent is particularly active and believe it or not, the prefrontal cortex is developing at such a fast pace that it is as if they were toddlers again! The same kind of practice is done with this age group as with younger children. What is different is that I start out with a story, a poem, or a video and then move on to the actual meditation practice. Also, bringing relevance to the reason for learning meditation is important for adolescents.

Families that meditate together, stay calm together!

The idea that families with children can learn mindful meditation together is really inspiring and Mindful Frontiers was created with this particular demographics in mind. We offer meditation online courses, guided meditation videos, live meditation circles and a Mindfulness in the Classroom program. Furthermore, families can sign up for private coaching which would be a personalized way to bring meditation in to the home.

The image that inspires me is a family sitting comfortably and relaxed in the living room or around a table. A meditation teacher is guiding the family through a breath awareness practice (virtually, online or eventually in-home). Each family member is practicing together and supporting each other. After ten to fifteen minutes, they open their eyes, settle back in to the moment and then go about the rest of their day. Over time, this activity would be an integral part of the family’s routine and something each member looks forward to. It would build and nurture healthy relationships as well.

There’s no better time than right now to explore mindful meditation. During pandemic-related social distancing and isolation, teachers from different meditation lineages are sharing guidance freely and generously. These practices guide us in navigating difficult experiences with calm introspection and balanced outward equanimity.

May all beings be happy;

May all beings be safe;

May all beings be healthy;

May all beings be at ease.

Mindful Frontiers can be reached at MindfulFrontiers.net. We offer guided meditation videos, courses, live sits and personal coaching.

Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience to welcome a mindful future. Mindful Frontiers is an mindfulness education center located in Taos, NM, USA that offers mindful meditation guidance and instruction to families with children; as well as parents, adults and teachers who are seeking self-care options.

Semi-retired after 25 years as a classroom educator, Anne-Marie’s mindfulness credentials include certificates from Mindful Schools and a 200-hour meditation leadership program with Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness. Ms. Emanuelli also participates in online meditation retreats, workshops and classes to support her personal practice.

Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience. She is Creative Director at Mindful Fontiers.

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