A couple of weeks ago, I attended a Mindfulness session with my 9-year-old daughter. A friend had invited us to join with other mothers and daughters, and it seemed like a nice bonding activity for a Saturday morning. ‘Mindfulness' has been a buzzword for a few years now, but I still have a hard time grasping the concept. The truth is, I have a few friends who run around muttering things about ‘mindful parenting,’ but they seem to get uncomfortable when I ask specific questions like, "Is it meditation? Is it yoga? Is it eastern religious traditions repackaged as a western atheist trendy practice? Is it sitting and staring into space? Is it taking time out for yourself instead of your kid? Is it detachment from emotions?"
I still have no idea, and this is after being asked to mediate a mindful session at a parenting workshop where I found myself asking most of the questions instead. But while I was unsure what this mother-daughter session with the Mindfulness teacher Lorna Jutton was about, I did look forward to, at the very least, bonding with my daughter. I thought that she might learn what it was and then explain it to me!
Image via Pexels
It turns out, we did start with a bit of yoga, but we welcomed this first thing on a Saturday morning. We did sit and stare (into a glitter jar, but making it was fun and a big hit for 9-year-old girls), and we also learned how to take a timeout (which is not a bad thing when life gets a little rough or we need to calm down, especially going into our tweens and teens!). The thing I liked the most, was taking the time to appreciate the little things. This was illustrated in the simple task of making a fruit salad, which had a significant impact on my daughter (not just because she was hungry at the time). The girls were told to slowly slice their fruit, concentrating on the job and to not only be aware not to chop off their fingers but think about how they were cutting each, individual piece of fruit. Once the salad was ready, they had to think about where the fruit came from, the process of how it got to them and who might have plucked it and from which countries (not just from Kate and Kimi or Epermarket). When they finally got to taste the salad, it was then about mindful eating: to appreciate its taste, feel, origin, texture and shape, and not just gobble everything up.
I liked this aspect of the session because being grateful for food (or anything else) is never a bad thing. It also made me more self-aware of how I could appreciate everyday things (such as the preparation of food) and other parts of my day that we often rush through. Think about slicing a banana? Puh-lease, the end game is a smoothie, and that’s where my head is at. But, this isn’t the point of mindfulness. It is about being present in the moment of slicing the banana and enjoying that process in itself. Even if you don’t like bananas, the point is that focusing on the present task is a kind of ‘time out,’ and slows you down when otherwise you are gulping down the smoothie without really thinking about it. This concept resonated with me somehow; to be grateful, even for the small things, and it was nice to share this with my daughter who was raving about how yummy the fruit salad was and how she was going to make more of it at home. As we sat together on our yoga mat, she fed me a few mindfully but awkwardly cut grapes, and we laughed about it. Something about that moment ‘clicked’ and we both found ourselves grateful for it, the sharing, the laughter and what we had experienced. It was made all the sweeter as we walked home after the session and she said, “thank you for inviting me to the course, I really enjoyed it.” Talk about being grateful in the moment – at that point, I was genuinely thankful for Mindfulness, whatever it was!
Image via Pexels
Since then I have been in touch with Lorna to seek further clarity because coming up to Thanksgiving (even if we might not celebrate it ‘officially’ as it’s not our culture), it’s still a great occasion to remind us to be thankful. She wrote the following in an article on WeChat titled Support Learning through Mindfulness: “Mindfulness is commonly heard as a method to reduce stress, improve focus and essentially, feel good. But this is not the reality. Mindfulness is simply a way to come back to ourselves, to observe the behavior of our thought patterns and emotions and gain insight into the way we see ourselves and the world. This gives us a choice into how we direct our focus, how we treat ourselves and others. It may with time and consistent practice make us feel more calm and peaceful, more rested, but you have to do the work first, without a focus on the outcome. Mindfulness isn't mindfulness if you're doing it to get somewhere; in that case, you're no longer in the moment. So practice, and enjoy giving yourself and your children time just to be, regardless of outcomes.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty good start to not only be more relaxed this season but thankful and thoughtful as to our outlooks and behaviors. So whether or not you celebrate ‘officially,’ Happy Thanksgiving/Being Grateful/Being Mindful this season!