bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: education

Meet your best friend and worst enemy.

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Say hello to cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands, two triangular-shaped organs that live just above your kidneys. At the risk of oversimplification, cortisol is the reason you are here today. If not for this quick-acting hormone, your primitive ancestors would have been gobbled up by bears and tigers thousands of years ago.

Cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” shuts down nonessential bodily functions and provides the body with everything it needs to fight, flee or freeze. Cortisol overrides your immune and reproductive systems (you’re not worried about healing a cut or making babies when you’re about to be someone’s lunch) and temporarily disables bone and muscle growth. It increases gastric acid production in the belly and stimulates sebum oil production in the skin. (Maybe if you taste really disgusting you’ll turn off that predator.) Cortisol raises blood sugar and insulin levels for a big burst of energy. It sends lactic acid to your muscles so you can pump those arms and legs, and it forces the oxygen you inhale into your lungs so you can run top speed. All of this and more happens in milliseconds, without any conscious effort from you. Pretty amazing, right?

 

Cortisol is designed to hang out in your body for short stints. If you walked around jacked up on cortisol all day long you’d look and feel absolutely INSANE. Can you imagine feeling stressed all the time? Feeling like you’re always running away from something or chasing something or hiding from something?

 

Hmmmm… Come to think of it, this is exactly how your life may look some days. Traffic, money, terrorists, deadlines, relationships, work, sordid pasts, kids, over-scheduling… all stimulate cortisol production. And those are just the obvious stress triggers. Your life may be filled with other complexities that people couldn’t even imagine! If this describes you, cortisol may overproduce in your body a dozen times a day or more. This is not good. Here are just a few reasons why:

 

1. When cortisol floods your hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory and emotional responses), it kills brain cells. Fortunately, the hippocampus protects itself with something called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF. Unfortunately, when cortisol secretes chronically, BDNF cannot keep up with demand and your brain cells bite it.

 

2. Cortisol thins the skin by depleting it of hyaluronic acid, a moisture retainer, stripping it of elasticity and suppleness. Additionally, it triggers inflammation resulting in damaged skin cells. The stress hormone also produces more sebum in your skin. Sebum is an oily substance that mixes with your dead skin cells and clogs up hair follicles. Clogged follicles leads to… you guessed it. Acne, pimples, cysts. Ugh.

 

3. Cortisol interrupts the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that relays messages in the brain, including messages about mood, sex drive and function, appetite, and memory among other things. Serotonin is called the “feel good” hormone, and an imbalance may severely influence your mood and drop you into depression.

 

4. One in ten people experience the discomfort of a peptic ulcer. While ulcers are believed to be caused by a bacteria, stress aggravates them. Remember that increase in gastric acid production provided by your friend coritsol? Yup. Not helping. Especially when it’s triggered multiple times daily.

 

These conditions are often self-induced or self-exacerbated. They’re created through habitual negative thought patterns, unreasonable expectations, and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

 

You may think that tolerating stress is necessary for your survival: it makes you feel needed, important, alive. And if so, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans interpret stress the same way. The fact is, stress is toxic and has become America’s number one killer.

 

Here’s the good news. It’s not too late to reverse some of the chaos you’ve created in your body and mind. Those dead cells in your hippocampus? They’ll grow back. Those pimples and cysts? They’ll go away. That ulcer? It’ll heal. Depression? You can get through it. But not if you keep doing the same harmful things you’ve been doing. In order to create beneficial change, you need to change your stressful conditions or learn how to live above them. This begins with intentional, compassionate awareness of self and surroundings.

You may have heard of this thing called mindfulness? It can reduce your active cortisol production by 30%. Meditation researcher and expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” He also calls it “a radical act of sanity,” and never before have we needed such a radical act. This planet is suffering, threats of terror and destruction pierce daily life, and you don’t have time or resources to fix the problems created by the entire human race. Instead of taking on the burden of healing this collective disaster, you have permission to just work on healing yourself.

The Dalai Lama says, “World peace begins with inner peace.” He’s saying, Listen, y’all. You just do you. Fix your life. Deal with your drama. Everything else will fall into place around you. So say “no” to work. Say “yes” to play. Make time for silence. Spend time in nature. Hug someone. Care for an animal. Eat real food. Listen to your breath. Truly be with your children. Smile at strangers. Forgive your mother. Do nothing and be okay with it. Connect to yourself and others with full presence and compassionate awareness, and see how your world changes.

And when and if you feel compelled to engage a formal meditation practice, your friends at Chrysalis Meditation Center are here to support you. We are intimately familiar with your friend cortisol, because cortisol is our friend, too. In fact, we are so intimate with cortisol that we can see it before it arrives, and a lot of times we can even lower the gate before it floods in. Not because we are especially talented, but because we’re watching it closely. On purpose. Right now. Without judgment.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.insidethechrysalis.com

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Vanessa Gobes has been researching, reporting, and writing for 20 years: from spotlights on war heroes for her local newspaper, to the history of women’s golf fashion for 19th Hole Magazine, to mindful parenting for Mallika Chopra’s Intent.com. No topic has enthralled her more than mental and spiritual health. In response to this passion, she cofounded Chrysalis Meditation Center, Winchester, Massachusetts in September 2015.

mindfulness: don’t buy it, try it. if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Have you noticed the hard sell on mindfulness lately? “Step right up here! Step right up! Start meditating today and watch your troubles will melt away! Sit here, sir, sit on this cushion – have you ever felt so peaceful and healthy? Get your mindfulness today!”

Okay, okay, the traveling medicine man reference is a little dramatic, but you get what I mean. Mindfulness is being called the future of healthcare and I don’t disagree. I teach meditation and mindfulness because it has helped me personally and I have seen how it helps others. But buyers beware – Mindfulness is not a miracle cure and should not be “sold” as one.

A recent study out of the University of Exeter says that prescription drugs and mindfulness are about equally effective in longterm recovery from depressive episodes. The relapse rate over 2 years was 44% for mindfulness practitioners (weaning themselves off meds) and 47% for those taking antidepressants with no mindfulness support.

Between the lines of this report there is a thread of realism that I appreciate because it is often missing in articles and lectures touting the power of mindfulness: Mindfulness works for many, not all; and the practice does not guarantee a lifetime of sunshine and rainbows. Practicing mindfulness does not protect us from from the loneliness, from the fear, from the crazies, from the pain. After all, no one is exempt from the human experience. We all hurt. We all suffer.

The biggest hurdle to suffering is that we typically wrestle our problems on the surface of our lives – complaining about our jobs, arguing with family, hiding behind clutter, drinking too much, wishing for a different life, feeling tangled in the frustrating experiences we’ve woven for ourselves, which we mistakenly believe to be the reasons for our suffering. But these situations are superficial manifestations of something happening much deeper, generated from a shock of pain in the root ball of our lives. That pain pulses all the way up to our point of contact with the world, to the Now, and here the pain is triggered easily by people and circumstances surrounding us.

There are a lot of ways to expose that root source – clinical therapy, medication, prayer, time, experience, revelation… the list goes on and on. And of course mindfulness is included on that list.

If you’re like me and mindfulness is the healing practice you buy into, bringing our fullness of presence into thoughts, speech, and actions provides us with useful insight into the sources of our struggles and allows us opportunity to soften pain at its root.

Once healing begins below ground, it permeates the surface and those difficult, superficial experiences take on a new look. They aren’t so all-encompassing. They’re not so unmanageable. They’re not so friggin’ annoying.

This takes practice. Life can present us with a crisis at any time and establishing a solid mindfulness practice today can prepare us to manage chaos *when* it comes.

Crisis can be a tiny trip-up or a whopper shocker – from locking keys in the car to losing a job. Typically it creeps up on us when we’re not expecting it. And when we are entrenched in its immediate magnitude, peace of mind feels suddenly inaccessible because we default to survival mode. Panic, knee-jerk reactions, and the like.

Mindfulness helps us recover to composure so we can think clearly and make good decisions.

A major crisis – like we might experience during a depressive episode – is not an ideal time to begin a mindfulness practice for the first time. We could engage little bits of mindful awareness, for example, trying to maintain focus only on what we are doing at the present moment. But the mind has been hijacked by fear so emotional composure is most likely unavailable. Our thoughts are bouncing around wildly so that the stillness required for productive healing is absent. We feel so lonely and stuck that the last thing we want to do is examine the roots of our pain. Heck, we barely want to get out of bed.

There will eventually come a break in the pain, be that through antidepressants or psychotherapy, a natural lifting of the burden or a Moses-style burning bush. That break is the right time to engage in wholesome, compassionate self-awareness. It’s time to begin practicing mindfulness.

Begin practicing WHAT? What really IS mindfulness? You might ask. People talk about mindfulness all the time but how do you actually DO it??

Personally, I define mindfulness as spiritually-based mental health. Western medicine has watered down the Buddhist practice of mindfulness to make it acceptable in our secular society; but political correctness aside, mindfulness is a heart-opening practice, a spiritual practice, a practice that provides us the vigilance required to remember we are more than skin and bones – “we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).

It’s also an incredibly practical practice. We start by watching our thoughts and trying not to judge them, remembering to breathe. Slowing down. Saying no to relationships and projects that don’t align with our goals. Saying yes to people and places that make us feel good. Meditating. Having honest conversations. Serving people who need help. Asking forgiveness of the people we’ve hurt. Forgiving people for hurting us. Forgiving ourselves for the million things we’ve screwed up. Doing what we can to make our lives easier. On purpose.

As we fill our lives with experiences that are happy and wholesome, forgiving and accepting, we find that there is less time for their opposites – negative and destructive, regretful and blaming.

Next, or maybe simultaneously, we remind ourselves to just notice. We form good habits like taking a deep breath before we speak. Like eating at least one healthy meal a day. Like making eye contact with with people on the sidewalk.

These little things draw us into presence and toward gratefulness but sometimes we forget to do these things so we can also surround ourselves with gentle reminders. Here are some fun, practical examples. Start with one:

Let the color yellow engage your practice.

When you see yellow, take a breath.

Draw a heart on the back of your hand with a Sharpie. Smile when you notice it.

Wear your watch on the wrong wrist. Feel it and make a good decision.

Put an neon collar on your dog. Remember to feel loved.

Paint your kitchen light switch turquoise. Flick it and turn on your inner light.

Once you get used to responding to this one thing, start adding more things. Within a few months, you’ll be breathing and smiling and loving at multiple triggers – or maybe you’ll be noticing that you’re not breathing or smiling or loving. And if that’s the case, you may find yourself ready to understand why you’re not, at which point you can try meditating on the roots of love and pain in your life.

It’s a beautiful and effective practice for many, but mindfulness is not a magic pill, it’s an open door – inviting us to be okay with the process of healing no matter what that looks like, to examine the wounded place at its source, to find a little sanity in this crazy world.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

fun mindfulness event at MIT in boston

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Hello Bringing Up Buddhas readers!

Please join us in Boston on Saturday, June 13th for MASTERING MINDFULNESS AT HOME AND SCHOOL – an experiential mindfulness workshop for teachers, parents caregivers. This is an engaging, interactive, **fun** program for beginners and for those with mature practices.

Deepen your practice with four dynamic teachers: Christopher Willard, Janell Burley Hofmann, Daniel Lauter, and Vanessa Gobes covering subjects like: managing teen anxiety, mindful use of technology at home and in class, creative mindful practices for the classroom, exploring meditation through the senses, introducing mindfulness to public schools, sustainable home practices, healing the body through meditation, and more.

You will leave this workshop with:

  • teachable practices for stress reduction and compassion cultivation
  • ideas for expanding mindfulness in your hometown or school
  • a network of professionals and parents doing similar work
  • online access to guided visualizations and meditations
  • a smile on your face

June is the perfect time to fire up your practice! Parents can engage mindfulness with children during long summer weeks  and teachers can use the summer to strengthen practices for a solid September start! Book a sitter, grab a friend or colleague, and make your way to M.I.T. for a class that can change your life and work.

The Stata Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Saturday, June 13, 2015, 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM

(Lunch break 12 – 1)
$50

MEET YOUR PRESENTERS AND REGISTER HERE:

http://www.vanessagobes.com/workshops.html

god wants you to be happy. that’s all.

Sometimes I read something so darn pretty I just need to share it:

“God’s will for you is perfect happiness… Your joy must be complete to let His plan be understood by those to whom He sends you. They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh…

For this you came. Let this one be the day that you succeed! Look deep within you, undismayed by all the little thoughts and foolish goals you pass as you ascend to meet the Christ in you.”

This is from Lesson #100 in a spiritual text called A Course In Miracles​, a modern day interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. To be honest, I never thought Jesus was for me. I was so turned off by Christians baptized in judgment and anger and righteousness, that I let the behavior of fear-minded strangers sever my innate curiosity surrounding Jesus. I thought Jesus was scary and separate and kind of mean.

The Buddha on the other hand, with his placid face and round belly, was much more inviting. His followers didn’t judge. They didn’t recruit. They didn’t stick swords in each other or picket abortion clinics or look my little boy in his sweet brown eyes and tell him he’s going to hell. (This actually happened to my son last week and it was shocking, especially because it was his great-grandfather who said it.) So for these reasons and many others, I turned my back to Jesus and invested years in Buddhist studies and New Age – and I began to find myself.

You can imagine my surprise when, one day while rummaging through the Eastern Philosophy stacks, I closed my eyes in contemplation and discovered Jesus rummaging with me. A few weeks later he sat with me while I chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Then he hovered over me while I explored past lives under hypnosis. He held my hot hands in his during Reiki classes. I didn’t invite him to join me on those occasions, I only invited The Love. But Jesus came along with The Love because, as it turns out, Jesus IS The Love.

Jesus and I are only in the newlywed phase, but he seems to have my back *regardless,* which, again, surprises me because I can be such a beast of a person. During my weakest, most vulnerable moments, when I’m about as cuddly as a crocodile, I close my eyes and he’s waiting there behind my lashes, drenched in light, arms open wide, taking me in like a lonely baby bird, petting me and comforting me and loving me, all patience and forgiveness and humility and assuredness.

He must see something in me that’s precious and beautiful, something that’s worth his effort. I wonder how he recognizes that beauty so easily, when it’s so hard for me to see it in myself. I wonder why he has such faith in me, even when I’m not always so sure about him.

And then I read something like Lesson #100 in A Course in Miracles. And I understand a little more.

He’s rooting for me not because I’m special but because he’s rooting for all of us. Come on, kids! You can do this! I know all that suffering is hard to feel your way through, but trust me! Just TRUST ME! Happiness is yours today if you just open your heart! You are made to succeed and this is the day you can do it!

And with this I know that Jesus isn’t just a cameo who appears in the suffering. He is permanence itself. And permanence is happiness. Reliable and intimate. He is campfires and belly laughs, sunshine and dragonflies, cherry tomatoes and fists full of dirt, newborn babies and wrinkled old hands. He is there in it all, living it up in our joy, taking a little break from our burdens and woes.

I don’t know if Jesus is the *only* path to salvation. Who am I to make such a definitive statement? But I’m learning that he is *my* path because he’s the one who keeps showing up for me, without judgment or anger or righteousness.

There’s another line in A Course in Miracles: “It is God’s Will that He has but one Son. It is God’s Will that His one Son is you.” Me. You. My happiness. Your happiness. It’s not about recruiting or sermonizing or even being right. It’s just about us feeling the happy *regardless.*

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Please share if you connect to the message.

http://www.vanessagobes.com

tips on teaching kids to meditate

Relax your expectations when meditating with small children. If they want to meditate with their feet in the air or their eyes on the ceiling, let them. Posture will develop as they engage consistently in practice.

This short video is of me introducing meditation to my son’s kindergarten class. They are on their third round of mini-sittings taking place over five minutes. Each mini-sitting lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes. During this round, they are using their ears to count how many times they hear my bells chime. My son is assisting with the ringing – he’s excited to be an active part of the exercise.

Notice the children’s creative posture… but also notice that they are participating attentively. They’re hanging in pretty nicely if you ask me! Giving kids a little wiggle room (literally) will help them acclimate to silence on their own terms.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

truth, time, tears

I always cry in church. And yoga class. And weddings. And sometimes when I talk to really old people or feel my daughter’s heartbeat or listen to Otis Redding or watch Steve Carell movies.

There’s something about experiencing Truth, be that in the form of teachings or introspection, music or laughter, that makes our eyes well up with tears. Not wah-wah tears, but healing tears, inspired tears, humbling tears. Grateful tears that stir from some beautiful place deep within and tell us: This is Truth and Truth is Love and only Love is real.

Sometimes we mistake Time for Truth. We think that our long relationships with Truth-based practices or teachings automatically deem us Masters. We’ve meditated for 20 years, been a parent for 40 years, have read The Bible every night for 60 years, or been married for 80 years… but Time doesn’t mean we’ve mastered these practices, or even found the lessons in them. Time doesn’t grant us wisdom. Time doesn’t empower us. Time doesn’t move us to tears. Truth does. And Truth reveals itself not in Time, but in our own readiness.

My favorite Brian Weiss quote is, “Profound understanding can be gained in five minutes or in fifty years. In the end, you will be healed, no matter how long it takes.”

When we are ready, we awaken. When we are ready, we let go. When we are ready, we align. When we are ready, we honor our Truth by living it to the best of our abilities. It’s not always easy, but it’s from the point of readiness that healing begins and Truth flows…

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Vanessa serves the Boston area, teaching kids and caregivers how to meditate. To learn more visit: www.vanessagobes.com.

final steps

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Small feet padding on a hardwood floor make a very distinct sound, especially when said feet are bare. We parents begin to hear it when our children are toddling. A slapping noise. Deliberate. Not heel-toe, heel-toe. It sounds more like the palm of a hand followed by the palm of another hand. Sort of clumsy, but delicate at the same time. Heavy and light.

My son is almost six. My youngest. My last. The expiration date on this footy sound, welcoming me to rise from bed each morning, is nearing. Fast. The echo of his undressed size twelves will soon be replaced by other equally welcome noises, like late night giggles and mid-morning snores; but this morning, I’m taking the time to really sit with the rhythm of my boy’s steps. The quick patter telling me wordlessly that he’s excited to greet a new day, that he’s likely still wearing his jammies, and that great speed is required to move from room to room. The sound breathes directly into my heart space, suddenly filling me with gratitude.

I’m nearing the close of something very special with my son, and all my kids, really. No more diapers, no more nap times, no more shoe-tying. The end of an era. But some sweet delights of toddlerhood linger a little longer amongst my ten-and-under crowd… The little hands that slip automatically into mine when I stretch my fingers behind me. The dinner plates with tiny portions, spread into smiley faces or colorful rainbows. The insistence for bedtime snuggles and stories.

Knowing that these early childhood connections will soon be memories inspires me to step into my full presence of mothering. It’s mornings like this, sitting in my house, listening to the clap-tap-clap-tap of bare feet on hard wood, my mind and my body share the same space and my human experience blurs into the now. As I’m spontaneously moved to deep gratitude, my sock-less son dashes by on a very important mission in his almost-six-year-old universe.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa


Originally published at www.artofdharma.com.
To learn about Om School Meditation, serving the Boston area, visit www.vanessagobes.com.

thoughts from the intersection of socks and mindfulness

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Every morning before school, my kids eat breakfast, scribble out some homework, and start loading on backpacks, jackets, and sneakers.

For the past seven years, I endured the shrill last minute morning demand of at least one child, “Mommy! I forgot socks! Will you go upstairs and get them for me?”

For seven years, I responded with either, “You go get them! Run! See if you can do it in 20 seconds! 1…2…3…” or with, “You need to remember to put your socks on! I’ll do it today but no more!” (The lies we mothers tell our kids!)

For seven years, I accepted this sockless scenario as part of child rearing, without questioning it.

The big-picture reason for this unquestioning acceptance? Confession time. I was born disorganized. One might even have diagnosed me as a walking, talking, breathing natural disaster. (Gasp!) It’d always been impossible for me to keep my house (physically and mentally) in order.

My now-disciplined mind has been well-earned through a maturing meditation and mindfulness practice, though my home continued to function in a rigid state of loose disorder. I’d surrendered to my messy surroundings, believing that chaos was a necessary cog in assembling multiple children for their daily presentation to the world.

But wait! One thing my mindful parenting practice has taught me is that I don’t have to accept chaos in my home. And I don’t have to respond to logistical panic with more logistical panic. (ie. “No socks! What am I going to do?? There are no clean socks!!!”) Mindfulness has also taught me how to think in solutions as a default.

Solutions in the form of a basket of socks by the back door.

You’re probably thinking, “Vanessa, you are not only the most disorganized, but also the lamest mother on the planet. I’ve been doing this for years and your story is downright droll.” But again, please remember how painfully disorganized I am (WAS, how painfully disorganized I WAS) and appreciate the miraculous transformation that would have to take place for me to look at my children’s morning disembarkation process and say, “My kids don’t need to be screaming. I can make our lives easier. I’m going to bring all of their socks downstairs and leave them in a basket by the door.”

And then to actually follow it up with ACTION! A trip to TJ Maxx to buy a basket! This is HUGE for a naturally disastrous person like me! To add to the miracle, it’s been over a month and the basket is still full of socks. (In other words, I’m slaying laundry duty. Yah baby!)

I’m also thinking that either God is rewarding all of my meditation work with a dose of self-motivated discipline, or He’s really tired of hearing my kids scream in the morning, too. Either way, I’m confident that it was my mindfulness practice that inspired this most excellent (and organized) footwear solution.

www.vanessagobes.com

tips for teaching mindfulness to middle schoolers

I just finished teaching a six-week meditation and mindfulness course at a local middle school. I’ve got to admit, middle schoolers are a tough crowd! But I wanted to share a little insight with parents trying to initiate a meditation practice with a 6-8th grader.

The breakdown:
Don’t sell it.
Take it slow.
Curb your expectations.
Practice more, teach less.
Know when to give it a rest.

Though we may hear people preach otherwise, meditation is not “the answer,” so it’s important that we don’t sell it that way to our budding teenagers. They’re too smart to be fooled and too skeptical to be convinced that sitting still for 20 minutes a day will make all their troubles melt away. Meditation is simply a tool to help kids slow down, diminish stress, and strengthen their connection with higher thinking.

Meditation isn’t a magic pill, it’s an open door – as imperfect and unreliable as anything else. When we teach an illusion of perfection and reliability, kids have no soft place to land when, not if, they screw up. So while we teach our kids how to meditate, let’s be sure they know that meditation is a way to soften those hairpin turns along life’s amazing journey, not straighten them out completely.

A lot of shifts can take place when a person (of any age) begins meditating. We can prepare our children by letting them know that Self-discovery can be hard work. Incredibly rewarding, but hard just the same. They should talk with parents or counselors about emotional or physical pain that arises during meditation. It’s all part of the healing process, and nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed by.

Each week of my middle school course, I’d begin by asking eagerly, “Who meditated this week?” and a hand or two (or none) would pop up in the circle. One boy practiced daily with his family. One girl practiced because she was bored while waiting for her sister to take a shower in the morning. One boy practiced because he was bored on the school bus. (Boredom is by far the most common form of inspiration amongst all my students. So if you’d like your children to be more mindful, bore them.)

While some of my middle schoolers warmed up easily to a sitting meditation practice, others were stone cold from giddy-up. Just because we, as parents and teachers, believe in this stuff, doesn’t mean the kids will jump on board, even with modern science giving its two thumbs way up. But with the right stimulation, we can encourage interest. We can try different approaches until we meet our children where they are.

Example. One day, do an eating meditation, the next a sensory game, the next a mantra-based meditation or maybe something guided, the next share space with a pre-teen without saying a word and see what happens. Reading the child’s non-verbals while teaching is instrumental in maintaining connection. And we must be prepared that some lessons will float belly-up. Just counteract it with a sure-fire winner the next time, be it a sitting meditation or mindful activity.

Several of my students did not like the feeling of stillness. The first few times we meditated, I kept my eyes cast down to the floor and observed at least four pairs of legs pumping non-stop for the duration of the sittings. When the closing bell chimed, children reported feeling peaceful, anxious, antsy, happy, sleepy, or calm. Some reported physical discomfort. These are all totally normal responses to meditation. When we meditate, we slow down enough so that we can become acutely aware of what’s *really* happening in our bodies.

So for those students who jittered incessantly, we just took note of that, and I explained to them that our bodies aren’t used to being consciously still and rarely get our minds’ full attention. So when we meditate, our bodies enthusiastically jump on the opportunity to be heard, and it can make us feel uncomfortable. “She’s listening! Now’s our chance! Look at me! Pay attention to this! Houston, we have a problem!”

So while sitting, we might notice back pain that we’ve been ignoring, a tightness in the belly, or clogged sinuses. We might notice a buzzing in our ears, a dull headache, or just that we’re really tired. And most likely it will get worse before it gets better. But in the big picture, it can only get better, because once we hear our bodies communicate, we can work on relieving the discomfort by making choices that make our bodies happy.

But let’s get real. Meditation is not for everyone. One of my students was really bothered by the experience of meditating. She did not enjoy it at all. She bravely shared that she couldn’t stand sitting still and felt incredibly anxious every time we meditated and just wanted it to end. But she still came to the class every week, making me believe that even though she wasn’t keen for this particular practice at this particular time, there was something about the idea of self-soothing that appealed to her. The important thing is that she knows peace is a choice. The experience is hers now, and she can do with it what she wishes, be it now, in five years, or never. It’s all okay.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

***Visit http://www.vanessagobes.com to learn more about my services.***

parenting advice from lama sonam

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Every Wednesday morning, I host a group of neighborhood moms in my living room, where we meditate and discuss mindful parenting.  Today we had a seasoned meditator as our special guest – my friend Lama Konchok Sonam, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who directs several spiritual centers around the United States. He shared a couple of terrific parenting tips with us this morning – too good not to share.
Tip #1
On a child’s birthday, take him to a pet store and buy him several small animals (fish, mice, birds) – one for every year of his life. Then invite friends over on his birthday and release the animals together. We are all going to die, it’s important to live freely while we’re here. I’m getting teary just thinking about it.
He also suggested that we not serve or eat meat at the birthday party. Good thinking.
(Note: Work with pet store employee to find animals that are safe to release in your region.)
Tip #2
A child between the ages of 8 and 13 can only focus for 14-16 minutes in a sitting, so get her moving at these intervals. A great way to do this is by assigning quick tasks. Write simple directives on index cards (one on each card). Some examples could be: sweep the porch steps, hug your sister for one whole minute, water the plants, meditate for five minutes, take the trash out, find a heart shaped rock, weed a garden, change a lightbulb, watch the clouds go by. Stack the cards and, at the 15 minute mark, let the child pick her assignment. Once the task is done, she can get back to homework and lessons with renewed energy.
Teachers, this is a great tool for the classroom, too!
From mine to yours,
Vanessa
Hey!  Do you like these ideas? Share them on Facebook or Twitter!
Are you local to Boston? Join me for “Introduction to Family Meditation” beginning next week – details online at http://www.vanessagobes.com.
Want to learn more about Lama Sonam? Find him at Drikung Meditation Center in Arlington, Massachusetts. Buddhist teachings are a wonderful layer for any peace practice.