“I have come to see the cultivation of mindfulness as a radical act – a radical act of sanity, of self-compassion, and ultimately of love.”
I love that quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn and truly believe that cultivating mindfulness is a radical act of sanity, self-compassion and love! It is an absolute joy to lead mindfulness workshops and teach mindfulness techniques when counseling individuals and couples. But I find teaching families mindfulness techniques to be particularly impactful and the epitome of nurturing peace in the world from the inside out!
Often times one of the parents will have attended a workshop I led on coping with stress and participated in some mindfulness exercises. They will have enjoyed the process and believe that having their children learn mindfulness techniques and deepening their own mindfulness practice would be good for the entire family.
I often begin my work with families sharing the health benefits of mindfulness and some of the amazing research showing improvement in learning and memory, regulation of emotions, deepening compassion and empathy, lowering stress and improving immune response. We have Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program he developed over thirty years ago at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center to thank for spearheading research on the brain and mindfulness.
Next I lead the family in the arrival technique a simple mindfulness technique to become truly present in the moment. What I love about this practice is that it supports people in three important aspects of mindfulness: connecting to your breath, bringing awareness to your body and observing your thoughts all in the spirit of curiosity and non-judgment.
After the exercise we explore what each member of the family noticed about themselves while doing the technique and how they thought the exercise could benefit them in their lives. Most people report feeling more present and relaxed after the exercise and noticing things about themselves they had not been aware of prior to the exercise.
That is the power of mindfulness, allowing us to become more aware of ourselves and creating space around us to be more accepting, compassionate and kind to ourselves as a result. This simply paying attention on purpose with curiosity and non-judgement is a radical act of self-nurturing.
And as a result of mindfulness, we start to create the space needed in our lives to make choices to respond rather than react. The more we cultivate mindfulness as parents the more patience and compassion we can have when responding to our children and the more we model an intentional and peaceful way of living together. Imagine what a powerful influence mindfulness could be for our family dynamics.
I share Jon Kabat Zinn’s belief that mindfulness is a way of being and understanding that “when we speak of mindfulness, it is important to keep in mind that we equally mean heartfulness.”
When we include mindfulness into our family life, we can be more present, heart centered and aware of ourselves, which benefits everyone!
So how could you include mindfulness practices into your time with your family?
Can you imagine beginning a meal together with a technique like the arrival technique that invites each member of the family to bring his/her awareness to the present moment?
What other benefits might your family experience bringing more awareness and compassion into your interactions?
As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us “Our capacity to make peace with another person and the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace with ourselves.” So let’s start with ourselves and expand to our families in order to nurture peace in the world!
May you bring more mindfulness into your family life as a radical act of sanity, compassion and love and may you nurture peace in the world from the inside out!
Sending you so much peace, love and gratitude,
Kelley Grimes, M.S.W.
Counselor, Author & Speaker
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