kids

Mindful Parenting Exercise:

The lesson that we are enough just as we are is such an important lesson to teach our children and to remind ourselves, as they struggle to figure out who they are and who they want to be.  Adolescence, in particular, is a time when children are constantly judging themselves by comparing themselves to others or their own view of who they think they should be.  We live in an age where children quantify their own worth by how many friends they have on Facebook or how many likes they have on Instagram.  As parents, we need to encourage our children to look inside themselves to discover their own inherent worth and inner strength.  We can do this by praising our children’s acts of love, compassion and kindness, and their willingness to try and take risks, rather than praising only their accomplishments.  In doing so, we teach them to value the strength of their character rather than value only their achievements.

Exercise #1:

Try the following exercise at home with your kids. At dinner, ask each person at the table to take a piece of paper and write down five things that they love about themselves.   Emphasize that these are for their eyes only.   See what happens.   It is interesting to see how easy or how difficult this can be.  Parents should participate as well.  There are no right or wrong answers and there is no need to share.  This is simply an exercise to get people to acknowledge their strengths and foster a positive self-image.  Younger children may find this easy and may ask if they can list more than five things.  It is the teenagers and adults who may have difficulty making this list. Encourage everyone to participate and take pride in the fact that they love things about themselves.  Another variation that might be easier for some, is to make a list of what they did well that day, something(s) they can be proud of.

 Exercise #2:

Another wonderful family dinner exercise is to go around the table and have each person say something that they love about another family member. It can be as simple as loving the way someone laughs, loving the way they are tucked in each night, or loving the silly faces someone makes.  Continue around the table as many times as you want, each time having one person speak about a different person at the table.  This may foster some laughs, some love and some real boosts in self-esteem.  It is also a practice in gratitude by recognizing the little things that others do each day that make us happy.

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12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting

12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting

by cheryl on September 21, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms

We all know that parenting can be a challenge.  Many of us have undergraduate and advanced degrees and have continued our professional training, but it is rare to find a course in what is arguably our most important job – parenting.  So, we at 2bpresent, hope to pass on to you any helpful bits of advice that we find along our journey on how to become a better parent.  In the book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn offer the following exercises that are wonderful tools to make our jobs as parents a bit easier and, perhaps a bit more rewarding and fulfilling, even at the most difficult moments.

12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting:

  1. Try to imagine the world from your child’s point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.
  2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child’s point of view, i.e., having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, and what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?
  3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. See if you can stay mindful of their sovereignty from moment to moment, and work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.
  4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children and consider whether they are truly in your child’s best interest. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.
  5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn’t some common ground, where your true needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.
  6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still and meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking, even good thinking, and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what needs to be done. If that is not clear in any moment, maybe the best thing is to not do anything until it becomes clearer. Sometimes it is good to remain silent.
  7. Try embodying silent presence. This will grow out of both formal and informal mindfulness practice over time if you attend to how you carry yourself and what you project in body, mind, and speech. Listen carefully.
  8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. In Zen and the Art of Archery, Herrigel describes how he was taught to stand at the point of highest tension effortlessly without shooting the arrow. At the right moment, the arrow mysteriously shoots itself. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. Simply bring your full awareness and presence to this moment. Practice seeing that whatever comes up is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition. Your child needs you to be a center of balance and trustworthiness, a reliable landmark by which he or she can take a bearing within his or her own landscape. Arrow and target need each other. They will find each other best through wise attention and patience.
  9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing. An apology demonstrates that you have thought about a situation and have come to see it more clearly, or perhaps more from your child’s point of view. But be mindful of being “sorry” too often. It loses its meaning if you are always saying it, making regret into a habit. Then it can become a way not to take responsibility for your actions. Cooking in remorse on occasion is a good meditation. Don’t shut off the stove until the meal is ready.
  10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.
  11. There are important times when we need to be clear and strong and unequivocal with children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness, generosity, and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid, domineering, and controlling.
  12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and awareness. This ongoing work can be furthered by making a time for quiet contemplation in whatever ways feel comfortable to us. We only have right now. Let us use it to its best advantage, for our children’s sake, and for our own.

Excerpted from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-Zinn and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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Back to Reality

Back to Reality

by joanna on August 8, 2012

in Meditation

It’s been a glorious summer for us at 2bpresent.  We took time from the normal school year schedule and lived weeks in a very unstructured unscheduled manner.  As we are now in August, we have been struck by the reality of returning to a school and life schedule that is drastically different from the way we have lived for several weeks now.  In pondering this shift that is going to have to take place the following lyrics from En Vogue seemed apropos to share with all of you.

Back to life, back to reality.  Back to the here and now, yeah.  Show me how, decide what you want from me.  Tell me maybe I could be there for you.
However do you want me? However do you need me?  How, however do you want me?  However do you need me?
Back to life,  back to the present time.  Back from a fantasy, yeah. Tell me now, take the initiative. I’ll leave it in your hands until you’re ready…

Summer is a break from the reality of the hectic schedules that we have during the school year.  People asking of us and us pouring ourselves out to those we love and the causes that we support.  We are wanted and needed and needed and wanted 24/7.  By breaking from that for summer we are able to refuel and come back recharged.  The transitions from one to another are not without anxiety for us or for our children.  For our children they have shifted from school schedules to summer (camp or unstructured chill time) and now what they focused on so much is coming to a close and the hectic school schedules that they have are approaching them once again.   Can we incorporate the best of what they love from the summer into their normal school year schedule?  Can we put a little less on all of our plates this year and have more time to just be together as a family?  Will they miss something if they aren’t as busy?  Will we?

September also coincides with a climatic shift as the sweltering warm days start to turn cooler.  We go from shedding clothes to adding layers to stay warn.  As we look toward this transition, can we add mindfulness and meditation into the layers we wrap ourselves in?  Incorporating a mindful practice into the way we interact with those we love the most and those who we just barely touch.  Mindfulness can make those shifts be they seasonal or from summer back to school smoother and easier for ourselves and our families.

If you are interested in learning more about beginning a practice of mindfulness and meditation, please join us as we once again journey to find Real Happiness following the work of Sharon Salzberg and other experts in this field.  Click here for more information on this upcoming course and on our event hosting Sharon Salzberg in our community.

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Our Greatest Teachers

Our Greatest Teachers

by cheryl on March 19, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms

I had always imagined that I would one day be a wise old lady, imparting profound words of wisdom about life and teaching my children how to navigate through it.   After twelve years of motherhood, I now realize that I have learned more from my children than I ever could have imagined.  They have become my greatest teachers.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did whatever I could to learn about the big job ahead of me – motherhood.   I took Lamaze classes and bought all of the latest books on pregnancy, sleep training, parenting philosophies and childhood illnesses.  After many months of preparation, I went to what would be my last OBGYN appointment only to learn that the baby had flipped himself to a breach position and that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  I would need a c-section the next day.   At that moment, all of my planning and preparation for the way I wanted this birth to happen was down the tubes – no Lamaze breathing, no natural childbirth, no week to finish work and prepare for his arrival.

Similarly, after he arrived, all of my plans to mold and shape this little bundle of joy into a well-scheduled, sleep-through-the-night baby were also quickly forgotten.  No feeding schedules, no regular nighttime routines, no sleeping through the night were in our future.  Up to this point in my life, I worked hard in school and got good grades, worked hard in my job and got good performance reviews, and worked hard to keep my life well-planned, setting goals for myself and achieving them.  But this new role, motherhood, was going to be different.  The first lesson that I learned from my son was that despite my best efforts and best-laid plans, I was not in control.

The next lesson came quickly as well.   Much to my surprise, I learned that my role as a mom was not to shape and mold my children into the people I wanted them to be.  Instead, I would have a much different, more passive role in their development.   I have learned that my job is to love and nurture them, keep them safe from harm and simply watch them grow.  Parenting is like planting a garden.  We can water our plants to help them grow, add fertilizer to make them strong, and put them in the sunlight to help them thrive, all while trying to protect them from the dangers of hungry birds, animals and insects, but we cannot determine what type of plant will grow.  That is up to the seed itself.

Then came the most intriguing lesson of all.  My children are chock-full of great insight and wisdom.  All I have to do is be sure to listen.  When my son was four years old, he would cry and cling to my legs each morning at drop off, pleading not to leave him.  This routine broke my heart every day, until one day he looked into my eyes while I was giving him one last tight hug good-bye before the tears would begin to flow, and he said, “I’m OK mommy.  Just go.”  It was then that I realized through his simple, but incredibly insightful words that it was me who was having a difficult time letting him go and that he would be OK without me.

These words of wisdom from our children are everywhere if we just pay attention to them.  One rainy morning, on our way to school, I remarked to my children, “What a yukky day!”  My littlest child quickly replied, “It’s not yukky, it’s just raining.”  I have never looked at a rainy day quite the same since then.

More recently, my seven year old asked me if her Nana would be OK after she was diagnosed with cancer.  I replied, “I certainly hope so.”  My son then piped in, “You know that you can get very sick from even a common cold.”   To which my youngest child thought for a moment and then said, “Oh . . . (pause)  . . . what’s for lunch?”  This may sound like a silly conversation, but I found it to be quite profound.   As I listened to this exchange, I thought to myself, what a great way to look at life – to recognize that things happen which are completely out of our control and that often all that we can do is simply hope for the best and try not to worry so much about that which we cannot change, but instead live in the moment.  If only our minds could stay as clear and uncomplicated as the mind of a child.

As adults, we often dismiss our children’s insights as naïve and think that they are simply unable to comprehend the significance of the situation.  But instead, I think that we, as adults, often spend too much time worrying about all of the possibilities of what might be, making everything so complicated, and forgetting to notice what is right in front of us.

Our children have a magical way of staying connected to themselves and to the world around them.  We can all learn from them how to once again look at life with eyes untainted by judgment, cynicism and worry, to let go of our need to control what is or what will be and, instead, to live fully in each moment and enjoy the simple things that can be so amazing and so beautiful if we take the time to notice them.

 

**One of the most beautiful essays I have read about parenting is All My Babies Are Gone Now, by Anna Quindlen.  She writes from the perspective of having already lived through the ups and downs of mothering young children, and her insights looking back at those years are powerful.  She has inspired me to think more about parenting and about what parenthood is really all about.  Please check out her thoughts on parenthood by clicking here.

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All My Babies Are Gone Now

by Anna Quindlen

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach, T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education,all grown obsolete. Along with “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are”, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations–what they taught me, was that they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago pouring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China.  Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, “Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame.” The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded,”What did you get wrong?”.  (She insisted I include that.)  The time I ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.

The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

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Your Greatest Legacy

Your Greatest Legacy

by cheryl on February 20, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms, Uncategorized

If you want your children to succeed,

show them how to fail.

If you want them to be happy,

show them how to be sad.

If you want them to be healthy,

show them how to be sick.

If you want them to have much,

show them how to enjoy little.

Parents who hide failure, deny loss,

and berate themselves for weakness,

have nothing to teach their children.

But parents who reveal themselves,

in all of their humanness,

become heroes.

For children look to these parents

and learn to love themselves.

 

Parenting need not be a burden,

and one more thing you have to do

and don’t do well enough.

Instead consider your failures,

your sorrows,

your illnesses,

and your difficulties

as your primary teaching opportunities.

 

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching

 

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Our children’s lives are filled with “firsts” – their first day of school, their first soccer game, their first time riding a bike, their first exam, their first date, their first time away from home.   They would probably not classify all of these as exciting experiences, some might be considered terrifying experiences.  Yet, I admire how they march on each day into a world that is full of new adventures and personal challenges.

As parents, it is often tempting to want to protect our children from this scary world.  We want them to succeed so badly that we often feel the need to set them up in situations that will only offer them the possibility of success.  This is where one of the greatest challenges of parenting lies – allowing our children to experience failure and disappointment.  Through these experiences they build their inner resilience, their ability to bounce back from whatever life throws their way.  They learn that their self worth is not defined by their successes, but by their willingness to try and to rebound from whatever the outcome.

I love Michael Jordan’s quote on the true meaning of success.  He said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Unlike our children who face many great challenges as they grow, as we get older, it is easy to become accustomed to our routine and to what we feel comfortable doing.  When I turned 40, I realized that I missed that thrill of putting myself outside of my comfort zone and learning what it feels like to try something new.  So, at the ripe old age of 40, I decided to attempt an Olympic triathlon.  I always wanted to complete a marathon or a triathlon.  Each year I would come up with a million reasons why I would not be able to do it.   This time I was determined to push myself forward and accept this personal challenge.

Let me assure you that I am not a hardcore athlete.  I have always been committed to staying fit with moderate exercise as part of my weekly routine, but I was not a runner, biker or swimmer at the onset of this personal challenge.  Yet, after many months of training, I became a swimmer, runner and biker.   Look at that – a new definition of me at age 40!  I had already accomplished something.

After many months of training, the time had come to attempt my first Olympic triathlon.  This involved a .9 mile swim in the chilly waters of the Long Island Sound, a 25 mile bike ride up and down the hills of Westchester County, and a 6.2 mile run to complete the race.  Despite my rigorous training, the night before the triathlon I was terrified.  I am not a huge fan of fear and anxiety, but I am a huge fan of what happened next.  I found myself involved in quite an amazing self-coaching exercise.  I began to tell myself that I was prepared, that I had done everything that I could do to prepare for this day, that I would put my safety first throughout the race and if I ever felt that I could get hurt, I could always simply stop.  I reminded myself that it was just a race, and finish or not, I was going to try.  My family would love me just the same whether I came in first, last or didn’t finish at all.   They were proud of me for simply trying.  Most importantly, I was incredibly proud of myself.

On the morning of the race, as the sun was rising over the beach where we would start our swim, I watched the physically challenged athletes enter the water first.  Many of these individuals were without an arm or leg, or both.  I was in awe of their courage and the incredible stories of hard work, determination and sheer will power that got them to this moment.  Those brave individuals inspired me to get into that cold water and do my best.  I spent the next three hours taking it literally one stroke, one push of the pedal and one stride at a time, focusing on my breath the whole way and telling myself that I could do this.  At the top of the highest climb on my bicycle, I was brought to tears by an incredible feeling of accomplishment.  I realized that I could actually do this.

Much to my great relief and amazement, I finished!   I did not finish at the front of the pack, but I finished.  My family was there at the finish line to cheer me on and give me big hugs when I was done.  But it wasn’t their praise that I felt most, it was the incredible feeling that at the age of 40 I had done something that I never thought I could do.  I had experienced another “first” in my life.  I persevered, pushed myself and overcame my fears.   I was left with a strong sense that the human mind and body is capable of incredible things through sheer will and determination.  In many ways, I felt like a child again, experiencing the thrill of stepping outside of my comfort zone, and the pride that I gave it a try.   Just like in life, I thought, we have to have faith in ourselves, face our fears, and take each moment as they come, one step at a time, by simply putting one foot in front of the other each step of the way.

I am not suggesting that everyone should run out and sign up for a triathlon.  I am suggesting that there is great value in stepping outside of your comfort zone and encouraging your children to do the same.  It can be as a simple as trying a sport that you have always wanted to try, planning a trip that you have always dreamed of taking, or signing up for a class that has always peaked your interest.  Whatever it is, there is so much to be gained from putting yourself out there.  The only way to fail is by never giving it a try.

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On Friday, the 2mindfulmom’s had the pleasure of going to our 6th grader’s middle school for an event called Real Work/School Work.  We where asked to present to 4 different classes of 6th grade students about our company 2bpresent.  We explained to the kids how we started our company and how the things we learned in middle school where applicable to the work we are now doing.  We then had the pleasure of listening and interacting with them as we discussed meditation, breath work, stress, and tools for handling difficult situations.

The fun really was listening to their insights and leading them on a Guided “mini vacation” meditation to their most favorite place in the world.  The meditation we used was a blend of Real Happiness Concentration (Sharon Salzberg) and also included the work of  Linda Lantieri (http://www.lindalantieri.org/) from her Inner Resilience Program geared towards children.  The kids where guided to visualize being in their most favorite place and feeling what it was like to be there, smelling what it was like to be there and then spending time in stillness in that very special and safe place.

What was amazing for the 2mindfulmom’s was how receptive to this entire experience the kids where.  Whether we asked them to share their feelings or locations they went to they where all eager to share and tell us how good it felt to close their eyes and just breath.  Many of the kids took themselves to places in nature disconnected from the modern world and their very fast paced lives.

We stole a few minutes of mini meditations during these sessions for ourselves and absorbed the energy of these fabulous kids.

My daughter provided feedback from the informal lunch room survey that took place over sandwiches and the kids thought the session was really cool.  We encouraged the kids to try taking their parents on a mini vacation.

We hope everyone is having a good week with their sitting practices.

-the 2mindfulmoms

 

This post was included as part of our 28 Day Meditation Challenge with Sharon Salzberg for Real Happiness

 

Middle School Meditation Students

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Simple Step #3 – Slow Down

Simple Step #3 – Slow Down January 11, 2012

“Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make this moment last.”  Simon and Garfunkel, Feeling Groovy. After a very special celebration that took months and months of busy preparation, a good friend of mine complained, “I can’t believe it is over so fast!  How do I make time stand still so I can […]

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The House is Still

pot of tea November 16, 2011

Its as quiet in my house as it can be. The kids and my spouse have not awakened. The dogs are still groggy from a night of sleep and have not yet started to bark at the frequent squirrels who appear in our yard. The only noise in my kitchen is the whooooing sound of […]

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