As we drove in the car to various aunt’s and uncle’s homes for a Sunday visit, I fondly recall hearing my Papa say, “Look around you … pay attention to what is going on around you. Notice the leaves on the trees and how the wind moves them.” Little did I know, my Papa was teaching me early on the concept of mindfulness meditation.

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and was designed to deepen understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. Meditation is now often being practiced for relaxation and stress reduction.

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of mediation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of creating inner peace. Mindfulness meditation is based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.

In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions yet let them pass without judgement. The following is one way to consider integrating meditation into rhythmic movement with yourself as well as with the children in your life.

Rhythmic movement provides the opportunity to create a flow of repetitive movement that can produce the relaxation response. Examples of these types of movements include running, walking, swimming, dancing, rowing, and climbing. The meditation component requires being fully engaged in the present moment, paying attention to how your body feels right now. The focus is on the sensations in your limbs and how your breathing complements your movement.

For instance, if you’re walking or running, pay attention on the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the rhythm of your breath, and the feeling of the wind against your face. When your mind wanders to other thoughts, gently return your focus to your breathing and movement.

“The nature of life is itself to be realized in the acts of life.” – Joseph Campbell

Mindfulness meditation nature walks for children can include:

The Seeing Game – Set a timer for one minute before asking children to silently look around where they are walking. This includes what they notice above, below, in front of and behind themselves as they walk. Once the timer sounds, the children share their most interesting observations. Gradually increase the time they are silently observing the space in which they are walking in nature.

Silent Presence Listening – Set a timer for one minute before asking children to silently listen to the various sounds they are hearing. This includes what they hear close by and what they hear faintly in the distance. When the timer sounds, the children share the most interesting sounds they heard close by as well as the distant sounds. Gradually increase the time they are silently listening to the sounds around them as they are walking in nature.

When using this method, slow down the walking pace so that the children can focus on each movement of their legs or their feet. Concentrate on the legs and feet, repeating action words in their mind such as “lifting,” “moving”, and “placing” as they lift each foot, or moves each leg forward and place their foot on the ground.

“The fruit of SILENCE is Prayer

The fruit of PRAYER is Faith

The fruit of FAITH is Love

The fruit of LOVE is Service

The fruit of SERVICE is Peace”

– Saint Teresa of Calcutta

For more ways to integrate mediation into your life go to: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health nccih.hih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm.

Sandy Block-Hansen, MS is the St. Francis Healthcare Campus Family Footprints Coordinator, a Catholic Health Initiative Mission and Ministry program created to support, inform, and offer resources to parents in the role of parenting. She can be reached at sandrablock-hansen@catholichealth.net or 218-643-0475.

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