If we want to fully enjoy life’s gifts, we must practice mindfulness throughout the day, whether we’re taking a bath, cooking breakfast for our child, driving to work, or working with children in the classroom. Every step and every breath can be an opportunity for joy and happiness. Life is full of difficulties. If we don’t have enough happiness on reserve, we have no means to take care of our despair. With mindfulness, we can preserve our inner joy, so that we can better handle the challenges in our lives. (Thich Nhat Hanh, Planting Seeds, p. 16)
Although I’m not a Buddhist, I’ve generally come to meditation and mindfulness practices through Buddhist traditions and writings, and I find these practices really helpful. I believe that practicing mindfulness is emotionally, intellectually, and physically healthy, much like taking long walks in beautiful places or surrounding ourselves with people we can truly trust. So, mindfulness (in day-to-day life) and meditation (like, actual sitting meditation) are resources I’d like to share with my children. But it’s not obvious to me when or how I might do that.
During college, I got a lot out of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus. I don’t remember how I came across that book, but I do remember the simplicity of the practices and the way they helped me ground myself during some angsty periods of my life. I remember walking down a path through campus, breathing in and breathing out. So when I saw the same author’s recent Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, I hoped it would help me figure out ways to start passing these tools along to my two young children.
There’s a lot to like here!
- The book is straightforward, interesting, and well-designed.
- Although the text is clearly rooted in a Buddhist set of beliefs, it’s pretty easy to set aside what doesn’t fit for your family and use what does–even if you’re totally secular or practice a different faith. (Indeed, the text actually invites us to do so on a number of occasions.)
- The activities and practices are simple, clear, and mostly very appealing. Most are appropriate for preschool-aged children all the way through adults.
- The book is aimed at anyone who lives and/or works with children, so some activities are intended for larger groups (as in a school or retreat setting), but others work for individual children. I can imagine some of the activities working very well in a playgroup setting, too.
Perhaps my favorite thing about it is its deeply loving tone, its way of taking children and parents and educators as real, whole people worthy of respect, affection, and compassion. Children and parents are included in the practices of mindfulness, rather than excluded by a monastic approach that so often leaves parents (especially mothers of young children) feeling that we must set aside our spiritual lives, physical/emotional wellbeing, and self-care for big chunks of our lives. I love reading a voice that assumes meditation can be a part of family life rather than something that must happen in spitup-free silence in a pristine room.