First Mindful Parenting Circle In London!
Posted by Trishna Shah on Feb 26, 2016
The seeds for this first Mindful Parenting gathering were planted over dinner at an Awakin Circle at our home about six months ago when I was speaking with John Evans, who has become a regular at these gatherings. I learned that John is a practicing Buddhist and school teacher with over 30 years experience in education, who most recently has been teaching meditation to children in schools! My first thought was, wow! It would be such a gift for John to share his journey and experience in teaching children meditation. So of course I asked him if he'd be open to holding a circle with a group of parents and he immediately jumped at the idea and this past Tuesday we gathered together with a group of mothers and John to do exactly this :)
As always, we started with meditation and followed this up with sharing from the circle of mothers about a mindful moment they had recently with their children or a parenting related moment of inspiration and the stories that everyone shared were so beautiful. From Sonal's experience of having her child remind her to pray in a difficult moment to Reva's journey of being a mindful mother amidst her own grief of losing both parents in the past year to Angela's memories of her daughter as a child, begging her mother to look for sparkly dew drops in the afternoon sun (and finding them, despite her mother's intuition!), to Amy's journey as a single mom pursuing a PhD in Mindfulness, it was a deeply reflective circle on how we as parents can learn to be more mindful in our interactions with children.
Over the course of the evening, John then enlightened us with his wisdom of over 30 years experience as a senior teacher in a school context, and then a meditation teacher in schools. John feels that the key to mindful parenting (or teaching for that matter) is what he calls attunement. We need to tune into the children's needs in a given moment and respond from that space. Acknowledge their feelings and demonstrate that you can relate by empathising with them. Tell them you're interrupting your normal flow on this occasion so they understand you are giving it extra attention. Be vulnerable and open to this space of attunement. He emphasized the role of child-centric parenting in our lives and how we need to understand the child's agenda in order to respond from a space of empathy.
He shared personal stories from his teaching days, like how he became a "singing" teacher after throwing his lesson plan out of the window one day to use a song as a way of helping the students learn the value of self-reflection and how to overcome your own ego. We learned lots of simple techniques to help children learn about different types of happiness (Hot being active and Cold being calm), different levels of energy (Hi-5's and Low 2's had us all laughing as John acted it out), and how to reassure kids that they can always try their best (the I-Can-Do-This chant with alternating finger combinations with the thumb).
We learned acronyms galore (John is a teacher after all) :) to help us remember how to be empathic parents:
BE COOL- a series of practices to do with your child when there is a conflict- (B) Breathe in, (e) expand, (c) calm - breathe out, (o) feel okay, (o) observe, (l) learn
CAARE - how to explain what mindfulness is to kids - (C) Caring, (A) Awareness, (A) Attention, (R) Remembering to do it, (E) Effort to do it and then repeat from the beginning
HEAL - a practice to honour positive moments - (H) Hold the moment, (E) Enhance it by elaborating on why it was positive, (A) Appreciation (explain why someone would feel grateful for what they did (L) Link what they did with positive qualities they demonstrated
Some of the practices John encouraged parents to try to integrate into their family lives included:
"Beditation" :) - Bedtime can be a nice time to reconnect with children, help them to calm down by finding some quiet time, and doing some meditation together. Possible phrases you can share during the meditation with children are "May I be well, May I be happy, May Mommy be well, May Mommy be happy, May dad ...." and you can expand it to include the wider community
Family Gratitude Practice - Helping children to understand the range of things they can be grateful for each day, so that they start to see how interconnected and interdependent all life is on earth
"Mind Jar" - getting a snow globe and using this as a method to help children calm their thoughts down when they are worked up
Synchronised Space - one of the most important things parents can do is to get yourself into the loving space that you want to bring your children into
As we moved through the evening, all of the mothers chimed in and shared wonderful personal stories from their own lives that related to all of these themes we were discussing, which enriched the circle further. By the end of the evening, we all concluded that we'd love to continue holding space in this way to explore how we can all become more Mindful Parents! And given how much we all felt we learned through John's lived experience, we were delighted to hear that he would love to speak on more themes and share his wisdom with us again at future circles!