Did you know the words meditation and medicine are derived from the same Sanskrit word for "inner measure"? This is a pivotal gem from Parallax Press' new book on mindfulness for kids. Indeed, mindfulness practice is good medicine -- for both young and old. But how wonderful to introduce this life skill early on!
A great resource book for teachers, doctors, mindfulness practitioners, therapists, parents, grandparents, and all who work with the young, Child's Mind is chock full of ideas, often sensory exercises, for centering children in the Here and the Now. Beginning with the premise that children are the embodiment of beginner's mind, and therefore a fertile field, and backed by solid and extensive research, Willard lays out exercises for "child-sized attention spans and the diverse sensory learning styles of children." First, the author builds a case for the advantages of meditation in general, and then tells specifically how meditation benefits children and other humans. Among other perquisites, Willard notes, mindfulness strengthens one's ability to adapt, increases concentration and reduces reactivity.
"Because the purest water flows from closest to the spring, I try to use original meditation techniques that have been well-practiced through the years. These include adaptations of grown-up practices from respected meditation teachers East and West that I have integrated with contemporary research."
Citing world experts like Jack Kornfield, Sigmund Freud, John Kabat-Zinn, Thich Nhat Hanh and one of my personal favorites for children, Maureen Murdock, -- Spinning Inward -- the author begins with the premise that an adult who practices mindfulness is capable of passing the skill to children. He starts with a definition of and introduction to mindfulness, methods adults can employ to establish their own practice, and follows with methods for teaching meditation and mindfulness to kids.
Part II of the book offers Meditations for Mental and Emotional Wellbeing, to transform or calm the effects of depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, impulse control and the autism spectrum in children. Subsequent chapters deal with specific childhood issues such as sleep deprivation and test anxiety. Part II provides resources and program ideas. The book ends with a comprehensive bibliography.
I am reminded of a tender time a few years after the 1989 revolution in Romania, when my husband Philip and I introduced the mindfulness bell to a group of orphans we were teaching there. One morning, a fifteen-year-old girl came to class with bandaged arms because she had used an open tin can to slit her wrists. The other children, mostly teens, were visibly upset. The room felt chaotic. We called for a translator, and in the ensuing confusion, Olivia, a lame young woman, limped to the front of the room, gingerly picked up the mindfulness bell in her shriveled hand and invited the bell. The sound calmed us all.
Here is the medicine of mindfulness -- the rich offerings of Child's Mind, a handbook that holds no less potential than the children of the world.
*Originally published in The Mindfulness Bell