This week I did a mindfulness and relaxation session with a class of 8 year olds at a local Primary School. The teacher was really keen for me to do it first thing to start the day in a calm way. A great idea and a great way to get them all in a good state of mind for learning, in a frame of mind where they were really able to focus on the lessons that they had that day.
The children were brilliant. They were excited to have a new grown up in the classroom. They were a bit giggly and lively and keen to talk, but I expected all of this. We started with some breathing exercises where they could be noisy on the out breaths and then gradually quietened things down as we went. We did a body scan where I was careful not to use the word ‘bottom’ as I had been warned of the hysterical impact this would have!
There were some children who settled right into it, closed their eyes and were very peaceful. Amazing, better than I could have hoped for on our first session! There were a few who really had difficulty sitting still and wanted to make their friends laugh rather than to concentrate. Looking for any distraction really. But by the time we got to the end of the session they were all calm and quiet, I felt that was a real achievement.
The way that children behave when we ask them to be calm and quiet can be difficult, it can frustrate adults and those of us who are parents know only too well that if we loose our temper and shout at them it just makes things worse.
On reflection I have realised that there are so many parallels between the way children behave and the way our own minds can behave when we first set out on the journey to train them. Children tend not to hold back in terms of showing exactly what is going on for them, in many ways this is really helpful because we can learn from their experiences.
When we first try and sit it is not unusual for our minds to cling on to any opportunity for distraction. We hear a fly in the room, we can’t possibly continue. We feel an itch on our nose, we must move. If we are in a group some adults get the urge to giggle. As adults we are more prone to bottle up our difficulties and get frustrated with ourselves. We long to focus but it seems impossible.
Just as with the children the trick to overcoming all of these obstacles is patience and kindness. We simply need to wait for the activity in our minds to slow down. For everyone it eventually will, it can just take longer for some than others. The more we do it the easier it gets, the better we get at it and the more quickly it happens. Once we get better at it we really see the difference in our focus and attention capabilities.
An easy way to have a go at this is simply to sit quietly, close your eyes and observe your breath. Set a timer for three minutes, you can build on this as your concentration improves. Even when you notice that your mind has wandered gently bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t tell yourself off, congratulate yourself for having noticed the tangent that your thoughts had taken. Each time you come back to your breath your will be strengthening the messages in your brain that allow you to chose where to focus your attention.
So don’t sit to try meditation and think you have failed because your mind is on overdrive. Recognise that is exactly why you are sitting to meditate. Getting yourself to sit and try really is the biggest challenge and if you manage that you are more than half way there.
A Revitalise Day is a great way to calm your mind and to learn new techniques for training your brain. If focus and concentration are important to you then you will love the benefits you see.