Asking our children or students to “pay attention” is routine. We find ourselves repeating the phrase over and over and over again, obsessively trying to force our youngster to listen or focus. But have we ever considered teaching our children how to pay attention? Mindfulness training not only teaches us how to pay attention, it allows us to live conscientiously with more meaning and purpose.
The mind thinks. Left alone it wanders - uncontrollably. Our thoughts determine our mood, create our reality, and drive our behavior. When we indulge our thinking minds we feed them, giving them power over ourselves and reinforcing emotions that cause suffering - anger, depression, revenge, cravings, envy, self-pity, self-harm etc. These thoughts generally live in the past or future. We worry about the future, complain about the past and forget about the present. Now is the only moment we can actually experience, ironically it’s the one we most avoid.
Focusing our attention on the present moment does not translate into avoiding or neglecting the past or future. When we practice mindfulness we notice. We pay attention to our thought patterns without becoming attached or controlled by them, becoming aware that, “right now I’m thinking about the past or future.” It is in this awareness that change and growth occur. By purposefully directing our attention to our present experience we create a space of freedom where calmness and clarity can flourish.
“Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Improved psychological health. Children are calmer, less fearful, and happier with themselves. They are more aware of their feelings and better able to accept and express them.
Increased creative expression. This is evidenced in artwork, speaking and writing.
Expanded sensitivity and awareness of life. Children become more tuned in to all that surrounds them and feel a greater connection with themselves and others.
Activated intuition. Meditation is one of the most effective was of developing intuition – their direct connection to higher levels of awareness.
Enhanced creative problem solving. Mindfulness helps children get in touch with all levels of their being. They have more personal resources to draw upon and get wonderful insights.
Increased ability to concentrate. Children tend to be more alert and to have greater attention span when involved in learning activities.
Greater relaxation. Mindfulness alleviates stress and brings relaxation to the nervous system.