Please enjoy Mikaela’s beautiful book, describing her experience with Mindfulness, with Ms. Coleman’s third grade class at St. Christopher School.
If we remember to use it, mindfulness can help us deal with difficult situations- from ordinary every day difficulties like losing your cell phone, to more extreme difficulties like failing a class, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, having a friend go jail, or maybe even going to jail yourself, getting pregnant, or grieving a death in your family or community.
Mindfulness is much more than just watching the breath. For me, part of the power and beauty of mindfulness is that using it helps me when things are most difficult.
PEACE is an acronym for a practice that can be used in any difficult situation. Perhaps you can begin by practicing with small daily irritations. If you are dealing with more extreme circumstances you may need to repeat the practice many times a day, and you may also want to get additional help from a friend, a parent, a counselor, or a doctor.
The practice goes like this.
P- P is for pause. When you realize that things are difficult, pause.
E- E is for exhale. When you exhale you may want to let out a sigh, or a groan, or even weep. And after you exhale you want to?… Inhale. Just keep breathing….
A- A is for acknowledge, accept, allow. As you continue to breathe acknowledge the situation as it is. Your backpack with all your stuff is gone, your parents are getting divorced, your best friend is now dating the person who just became your ex. Acknowledging a situation doesn’t mean you are happy about it. It just means that you recognize the situation is as it is, whether you like it or not.
Accept- accept the situation, and your reaction to it. You are furious, devastated, heartbroken, jealous, or E all of the above.
Allow your experience—do you best to rest in the Still Quiet Place and watch the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Notice when you are tempted to suppress your experience by pretending you are fine, or to create additional drama by rehashing things in your head or with friends. And allow this to (smile). See if you can discover a middle way- of having your thoughts and feelings, without your thoughts and feelings having you, and making you act in ways you may regret.
C is for choose. When you are ready, and this may take a few moments, days, weeks or even months depending on the situation, choose how you will respond. At its best responding involves some additional Cs.
Clarity: being clear about what you want, what your limits are, what you are responsible for.
Courage: the courage to speak your truth, and to hear the truth of others. Compassion: compassion for yourself, for others, and for how incredibly difficult it sometimes is to be a human being.
Comedy: Actually I prefer the word “humor” but it doesn’t start with C. It is amazing what a sense of humor, and a willingness to not take ourselves too seriously can do.
E is for engage. After you have paused, exhaled, allowed, and chosen your response, you are ready to engage with people, the situation, with life.
Remember, if it is possible, practice with small upsets first, and for extreme circumstances you may have to repeat this process over and over, and receive additional support. And the more you practice, the more PEACE you will have.
An audio version of this practice is available on itunes; search Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Teens.
Copyright. All rights reserved Amy Saltzman 2010
This paper reviews research and curricula pertaining to the integration of mindfulness training into K-12 education, both indirectly by training teachers and through direct teaching of students. Click here IMEK-12 ARTICLE IN JOURNAL MINDFULNESS (ONLINE VERSION)-1
Teaching mindfulness to kids and teens has been described by Amy Saltzman M.D. as “the truest form of preventive medicine I know.” Click here to read the full article
Today Amy talks to us about what the still quiet place is for children and teenagers, the impact of her research with children, and a little practice and advice to help us parents, caregivers and teachers along the way. Click here to read the full interview.
When you’re raising a family or teaching students it’s often hard to be aware of what you’re feeling, experiencing, and thinking. The practice of mindfulness, or paying attention with kindness and curiosity before choosing your behavior, can decrease stress and burnout and increase empathy and effective communication. Tune in as we discuss how adults and children can benefit from learning mindful practices for everyday life.
• Amy Saltzman, MD, is a holistic physician, mindfulness coach, and scientist, and founder of The Still Quiet Place.
DOWNLOAD Entire Program (54:10 mp3 49.6 MB)
My friend and student, 9 year old, Nick, was recently featured in an article in Scholastic Parent and Child magazine. Although he was very disappointed that his personal comments were omitted from the article, he wisely chose to use this as yet another opportunity to practice mindfulness. Here is what Nick has to say about Mindfulness.
To use mindfulness is a great privilege. It makes you feel good, relaxed and happy. You cannot enjoy life without it. Mindfulness is a quiet place. All you have to do to get there is concentrate on your breathing. You can use mindfulness everywhere. When you are in arguments, if you are feeling unhappy or if you are in a tough situation you don’t want to be in. I’ve even used it when I find myself frustrated while playing video games or other times when I become overwhelmed.
Simply sit down, lie down or even stand up and just start breathing and listen and feel your breaths – focus on slow and deep breaths. Soon your worries and frustrations will not seem so big. Before you know it you will feel better. Afterward, I sometimes forget what was making me so upset. I am glad Dr. Amy showed me how to do it. You should give it a try too!
Click the link to read the entire article on Mindfulness for Children in Scholastic Parent and Child magazine
Since the 1980s, educators in California and elsewhere have been urged to help children build self-esteem to make them feel good about themselves and reduce discipline problems. Now, some researchers are saying a better approach is to cultivate self-compassion in children, to help them accept their struggles and guard against self-absorption. Read more
One day when my son was three, I walked into my bedroom to find him seated on the floor cutting thin green foam that he had pealed off some clothing hangers. I asked “J, honey, what are you doing?” He replied “I am cutting slack.” If a three year old can cut himself some slack then perhaps we mothers can do it too.
THE CRAZY PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
Most of us say “ I just want my kids to be happy….” However often, we so desperately want our kids to be happy that we make ourselves and our children a bit crazy in the process.
Loving our children and wanting them to be happy is absolutely natural. Yet somewhere along the way this natural impulse gets distorted.
Our culture tells us that happiness is found through “success”, accomplishment and the accumulation of things. And here is where things get crazy. When we indentify as our role of mother, and measure our “success” as mothers on the happiness of our children, we find ourselves frantically pursuing the activities and things we think will make our children happy.
This circular thinking “I’ll be successful when my kids are happy”, and “my kids will be happy when they are successful” has us scurrying around trying to make our kids happier, usually by trying to make them more successful in their endeavors—baseball, bassoon, ballet…. Ironically every time we do this we are teaching our children to calibrate their happiness on external circumstances.
This is where the fear and guilt and judgment come in. Even though we rarely admit it, we are terrified that we are doing it “wrong”, that we have already irrevocably damaged our kids, and that they will need years of therapy to lead even remotely normal lives. This fear fills us with guilt and doubt. We compare ourselves to other mothers, and often assume that they have it more together; what my wise mentor calls comparing their outsides (the stylishly dressed mother we see at the school book faire) to our insides (the more or less incessant chatter of “shoulda, woulda, coulda”). We harshly scrutinize and judge our mothering and theirs. This fear, doubt and judgment fuel the various mommy wars (tiger mom- pussy cat mom, working mom- stay at home mom, breast feeding mom- bottle feeding mom). As a result, we often parent poorly out of reactivity and paralysis.
So what’s the alternative? How about cutting yourselves, and other mothers, some slack? How do you feel when you read that sentence? Take a slow deep breath, let out a long sigh, allow the corners of your mouth to curve up just slightly and whisper or shout “ I am going to cut myself some slack!”
HOW TO CUT SLACK
While this sounds good in theory, most of us need some slack cutting instructions.
- Stop when you notice you are stressed out, beating yourself up, critically assessing your pathetic parenting, stop. Take at least 3 and preferably 10 deep breaths. And stop trying so hard to be the perfect parent.
- Lighten Up With a sense of humor (which is not the same as self deprecation), acknowledge that in this moment despite your best intentions, you are not being the mother you want to be.
- Accept that you are doing the best you can. Seriously, if you could do better in this moment you would.
- Cultivate compassion for how extraordinarily challenging it is to be “good” mother even some of the time, much less all the time.
- Choose what you want to do next—take 5 in the bathroom to recollect yourself, announce a “do over”, apologize to your child for snapping at her when really you were frustrated by a recent phone call with a colleague, set a clearer limit, get support….
And if worse comes to worse go into your closet with your children and several pairs of child-safe scissors, and cut everyone a piece of SLACK.
My friend, and fellow mama in the trenches (or at least the kitchen), recently wrote a brief blog about motherly multi-tasking on her website The Skinny Scoop.
With her usual humor, Erin captured the modern mother’s conundrum perfectly, “there is a growing body of “expert” literature that claims multitasking compromises productivity and could also be bad for your health and even dangerous. One study specifically says “the consequences of multitasking can be quite severe in situations like driving.” I wonder if they are referring to things like adjusting the radio, handing back snacks, reviewing for 3rd grade Spanish quiz, and reaching around to pick up sippy cup off the floor. All at the same time.”
While I teach mindfulness (paying attention here and now with kindness and curiosity) I must confess that, as Erin suggests, in order to arrive at school before first recess, I often multitask in the morning, and have on occasion quizzed my daughter on her spelling words during our short commute.
And on the day I read Erin’s post, I had just returned from a visit with my extended family in Colorado; the enormous, irrevocable costs of multi-tasking were fresh in my mind. The entire family had gone to see my 78 year-old father perform in Once Upon a Mattress. It was late, and my sister left at intermission to drive the youngest of our extended crew, her two daughters 5 and 3, and her husband home.
One of the girls was over tired, and Suzanne reached back to comfort her. Then she hit black ice. The car veered of the road and up a steep embankment, missing a power pole by inches. And if that weren’t enough of a scare, when the family was sitting in the police car waiting for the ambulance, the police car was hit by another car careening off the road.
This is a dramatic example of the ultimate cost of multi-tasking. And on a daily basis, in very real ways, our collective technological addictions are decreasing our efficiency, affecting our physiologies, impairing our learning, decreasing our IQ (in fact a recent British study showed that mulit-tasking decreases IQ by ten points; this is more than smoking marijuana or losing a night’s sleep), and perhaps most importantly disrupting our connections with the people we love.
As for the accident, the good news is that miraculously everyone was fine. Although recent research (see below) documents the costs of multi-tasking, there is nothing like seeing your sister hugging your mother, and choking out the words “I almost killed my family,” to bring home the very real costs of multi-tasking.
Below are some articles on multi-tasking. Perhaps as you peruse them you can notice your tendencies toward multi-tasking with curiosity, compassion and of course a healthy does of humility and humor.
Is Multitasking More Efficient? Shifting Mental Gears Costs Time, Especially When Shifting to Less Familiar Tasks– American Psychological Association
Media multitaskers pay mental price, Stanford Study
How (and why) to Stop MulitTasking Harvard Business Review
Multitasking Can Make You Lose … Um … Focus, New York Times
Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, New York Times