Dr Chrissi Hart is a Child Psychologist and author and hosts "Readings from Under the Grapevine: Inspirational Stories for Children of All Ages" on Ancient Faith Radio. She writes a regular child psychology column for ChildGood: The Journal for Creative Families, a leading parenting magazine, available on the Apple iPad. She has a private practice together with her husband Barry in York, PA, specializing in anxiety and psychosomatic disorders in children. She lives in York, PA with her husband and two children and attends St John Chrysostom Antiochian Orthodox Church, where she is a choir member. Chrissi is the author of several children’s books including, The Legend of the Cross and Tea with the Queen. Learn more about Chrissi’s work by visiting her website. Learn more about Chrissi’s work by visiting her website.
Life is a series of one moment after another. If we want to really experience life, instead of it passing us by, we need to be cognizant of our experiences on a moment by moment basis. The most important part of living mindfully is to experience the moment, to not be distracted, to be focused, fully absorbed and let go of other thoughts. This is perhaps even more important as we get older and approach middle age, to mitigate against the sense that time is flying.
Think about the richest moments in your life – the prestige moments like the birth of your child, your wedding day, or a spiritual experience. What is special about such moments? Is it that time stands still, is altered and appears longer? The memory is ingrained in your consciousness and you never forget it. Why can’t all our experiences be like that? It is probably because we are not mindful and thus do not fully experience the moment.
We live busy lives, multi-task and do too many activities while we are on hold on the phone, we wash the dishes, vacuum, write a letter, feed the cat or dog and juggle several demands at once. When we multi-task we do not do a good job even though we think we do. There is a limit on how many things we can do at the same time. Multitasking can create stress and a biological and psychological feeling of being overburdened. At such times, we feel we don’t have the resources to cope with the demands upon us, which is one definition of stress.
Psychologists have turned to Eastern Buddhist practices of mindfulness to teach children and adults relaxation and mind body awareness to relieve stress. Children and adults who practice mindfulness meditation are also happier. There is an overlap in spiritual traditions to mindfulness practices and how they help to free the mind. The fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church talked about the importance of our thoughts in determining our lives. Like Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Elder Thaddeus believed our thoughts can create heaven or hell around us in this world. What we need is to return to a life centered in Christ.
We each have a seed of mindfulness but we usually forget to water it. – Thich Nhat Hanh.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, believes that our mind is like a garden and thus the seeds we plant and nurture will be what grows. Thus we should be mindful of what we grow in our garden and cultivate kindness and compassion.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of the moment, without judging it. Not the perceptual kind of simplicity, but like clearing mental clutter. When you de-clutter your desk it allows you to think more clearly. Imagine clearing an imaginary desk that represents your life. Put aside what needs to be worked on and make a plan to do this. When you de-clutter your real desk or home, you can be more creative. The same applies to pulling weeds from your garden, both real and metaphorical.
Try this raisin exercise of mindfulness with your child or yourself:
Take three raisins and pick up the first one. Look at it and notice the color, the texture between your fingers, smell it and then take a small bite and chew it slowly. Taste and swallow. Repeat with the second and then third raisin.*
Teach young children mindfulness through books like Peaceful Piggy Meditation, Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids and Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children. Encourage children to go to their still quiet place when worried, upset or angry, by using the Still Quiet Place CD by Dr. Saltzman.
Living mindfully helps us enjoy the present moment, whether eating, walking, writing, painting or praying. To fully appreciate each precious moment, be childlike, be fully in the here and now, let go of worries and fears, forgive, be kind and express gratitude. Each day take the time to slow down. Do one thing at a time and be fully present and notice what happens next…..
“We must bear everything patiently and forgive all. If we have good thoughts and desires, these thoughts will give us peace and joy in this life and even more so in eternity. Then we will see that there is no death, that the Lord has vanquished death, and that He has given us eternal life.” – Elder Thasseus.
McClean, Kerry Lee. (2004) Peaceful Piggy Meditation. Albert Whitman and Company.
Roegiers, Maud. (2010) Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids. Magination Press.
Saltzman, Amy. (2008) The Still Quiet Place: mindfulness for young children. Available as CD and mp3.
Siegel, Ronald. (2009)The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems. The Guilford Press.
St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. (2010) Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica.
Thich Nhat Hanh (2011) Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children. Parallax Press.
*You may download this and other mindfulness mediations from www.mindfulness-solution.com.
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