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Month in Moments - October '19 Edition

It's fall!!! And... hopefully we'll start to get fall weather soon. October is one of my favorite months - we generally start to get crisp weather, we don't have beginning of the school year "AHHH ALL THE THINGS" happening, and we're in the quiet before late fall/winter holidays. And, I think that makes this month a great time to fill the well - to make sure we are caring for ourselves, modeling self-care to the young people in our lives, and sharing mindful strategies with them! This month's calendar revisits the topic of my blog post on playing with mindfulness and fleshes out the "How to Play" part by offering daily ideas for practicing mindfulness with your family or class! Practicing mindfulness allows us to step kindly into the present moment, a truly useful practice in our relationships with young people. Mindfulness can reduce stress, yet it is easier to get into a head-space of mindfulness if you have a normal, consistent practice. Mindfulness for each person and each family looks very different and knowing what works for each of us adds tools to our toolbox for later. Some components of a mindfulness practice might include:

  • Breath awareness

  • Movement (anything from doing dishes to yoga to running marthons)

  • Sitting quietly (meditation or prayer for some people)

  • Creative expression

  • Mindful eating

  • Using affirmations

  • And more!

Download the October Month in Moments calendar here!

This month's calendar will help families and classes engage in mindfulness through creative expression, breath awareness, movement, and small doses of sitting still and quiet :). Here's a weekly overview and some useful links:

A "brain castle" made by a learner I work with! I can't wait to make some mind art with her and HG :)

1) Week 1: Fill your Mind - This week, you'll create two visual representations of what's going on in your mind and talk about what mindfulness is (one of them is inspired by this task!). I think when we hear mindfulness, we imagine meditation, which many of us think of as having a very quiet mind. That then turns us off of mindfulness if we know our mind is very busy. One way to think about mindfulness is that your mind is FILLED by the present moment. Some other thoughts and feelings may come drifting in. Something may stir up a worry. We try to let those thoughts, feelings, worries, etc stay small. We notice them, we respect them, but we don't tell stories about them. For example, your toddler has an old boo-boo on their knee. We might say, "Let's sit and be still and breathe for a few minutes" and they ask for a bandaid. We might pause and say something like, "Hmmm, you do have a little boo-boo. Let's let it be and let ourselves notice the wind and see if we still need a bandaid later". If your child is like mine, they'll likely need the bandaid the second you're done sitting still, but maybe we planted a seed that sometimes we can be in the moment and let go of other worries temporarily at least. You'll end the week by creating dice that give children suggestions on how to settle their minds when they are worried.

Breathing like lions (and/or dragons) at Story Time Yoga (a water spraying unicorn put out the fire from the dragon).

2) Week 2: How to Breathe - Our breath is always with us. We can use our breath to tie our mind and body together, pulling us out of our mind and into the moment. This week, you'll be invited to try a bunch of different ways to breathe and you'll use old socks to create breathing buddies! Some breathing exercises may make you or children around you feel very calm or very agitated. If something feels yucky or stressful, skip it! For example, the three part breathing with a staggered exhale makes me feel like I'm suffocating, so I generally avoid it :). On the first day, you'll try tracing your hand - breathing in and tracing up one finger, breathing out and tracing down it. I found this lovely idea in one of HiMama's recent Preschool Podcast episodes.

Rock ripples - We can let go before the ripple goes too far :)

3) Week 3: A Pebble in your Pocket - Inspired by my family's love of rocks (collecting them, giving them baths, etc) and Thich Nhat Hanh's A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles, this week uses pebbles as a tool to help us focus our attention as we practice mindfulness. Start the week with a gathering walk to collect rocks. Use the rocks to name emotions and chat about how we can feel more than one thing at once. Lubna and the Pebble by Meddour and Egneus is a perfect read for this week, AND it is a hard and important read in light of ongoing refugee and immigration crises - it is about a little girl in a refugee camp. She and her daddy get to move, and she feels happy and sad all at once. As the week goes on, you'll toss pebbles in water and notice the size of their ripples, you'll wrap pebbles in string naming happy moments as you go, and more. I cannot recommend The Miracle of Mindfulness by Nhat Hanh enough as a tool for adults starting their own mindfulness practice! For parents (and teachers), I think the Present Parent Handbook by Dukes is also a valuable read.

4) Week 4: Move and Sit Mindfully - For some of us, getting up and going is a challenge and for some of us, slowing down is something we dread. Whether you have a high activation energy (it takes a lot to get you going), or you're a perpetual motion machine, finding ways to move and sit mindfully add even more options for mindfulness practices to your tool belt. For those of us who would rather not sit still ever (and for most children), sitting still in small does is a wonderful way to learn to slow down, tune in, and practice self-regulation. We'll start in teeny doses, 20 seconds of stillness is a feat for a toddler or an overworked teen. Celebrate the attempt and keep it up! Mindful movement can help clear your brain, especially if it is VERY busy. Whether that movement is sun salutations, running miles, going for a hike to see fall leaves, playing soccer together, or chasing each other around the yard, you may find it easy to quiet the static in our minds when our bodies are fully engaged. For little ones, balancing on a log, low wall, or actual balance beam may be one of the most mindful movement practices ever :). The amount of focus it takes to balance can be all encompassing for our little ones. Want to try sun salutations? Try the video here or check here for my cuing guide.

5) Week 5: My Mind Space - Create a happy box where you can keep your mind jar, dice, breathing buddy, pebbles, and more :). When we are having very tough moments, being able to let our mind wander to a favorite place for a mental vacation, before stepping in to the present moment, can help us be more focused. This week, you're invited to collage an image of a mental vacation environment. Then, going back to my first blog post on mindfulness, you can create your own joy and worry jars to help you celebrate awesome moments and shed worry where you can.

Share a picture of your current mindfulness practice, your work and play at adding on to your mindfulness practices this month, and questions or ideas using #watchwonderbloom and @watchwonderbloom! I can't wait to learn with you!

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