Summer break can be a sun-filled, joyful time of the year. Still, with school out and the kids at home, navigating a family’s summer schedule can also be hard work. Sometimes, the difficult and joyful aspects of summer show up at the same time. When they do, it’s easy to become preoccupied with the challenges and entirely miss the delightful summer moments that can stay with us for a lifetime.
What if there was a toolbox of mindfulness-based strategies to help us navigate summer stress that also taps into a steady, enduring sense of well-being? And, what if we didn’t need to get, to build, or to learn something new to use it? If we need only recognize a quality of awareness that we have already; one that allows us to feel more relaxed, clear, and calm, regardless of what’s happening. If you’re reading this article, my guess is you know that this toolbox exists, and it’s stocked with strategies that stem from mindfulness and meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation are neither complicated nor esoteric; they’re as straightforward and commonplace as learning to float. When we try floating for the very first time, we quickly see how the more we struggle to stay on the surface of the water, the more likely we are to sink. But when we relax, lie back, and trust that we’ll be okay, floating is natural. The same holds for mindfulness and meditation; they come naturally too, so long as we get out of our own way.
Learning to Float
I was curious whether the instructions swim teachers use to teach people to float are similar to the instructions meditation teachers use to teach people to meditate. So recently, I typed “how to float” into a search engine and found a set of clear, concise instructions for floating that could have been instructions for meditators as easily as for swimmers. You can hear them below, in one of the thirty guided meditations for grownups in my new audio journey from Sounds True, Mindful Parent, Mindful Child.
Floating isn’t the only way to develop a relaxed, spacious, way of paying attention. Stargazing is another all-time favorite, and there’s no better time to practice than a warm summer night. To prepare, find a comfortable spot to gaze at the sky, and set up chairs or a big enough blanket for the whole family. Children of all ages like looking at the sky, but stargazing instructions for young children are a little different than those for older children and teens. The stargazing activity card below, from the Mindful Games deck, explains how to adapt stargazing so that it’s appropriate for all ages.
The surest way to teach mindfulness to a child is to become a mindful parent, mindful teacher, mindful aunt, uncle, grandparent, or other mindful caregiver. With school out and long days ahead, there’s no better time than summer to model mindfulness for the children in our lives. When we demonstrate self-care, when we embody awareness, when we speak and act with wisdom and compassion, there’s a ripple effect. Not just in our life, but in the lives of those around us. When summer vacation is over, and autumn rolls in again, who knows, maybe your children will extend that ripple effect, by bringing mindfulness into their classrooms when they go back to school.
Susan Kaiser Greenland is an internationally recognized leader in teaching mindfulness and meditation to children, teens, parents, and professionals and a founding faculty member of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center’s facilitator trainings. She played a foundational role in making mindfulness practices developmentally appropriate for young people with her first book The Mindful Child. Her second book Mindful Games, offers simple explanations of complex concepts, methods, and themes while expanding upon her work developing activity-based mindfulness practices. She recently released a new audio journey of thirty guided meditations for grownups, Mindful Parent, Mindful Child.
An audio excerpt and adapted excerpt from Mindful Parent, Mindful Child: Simple Mindfulness Practices for Busy Parents. Susan Kaiser Greenland, Sounds True. May 2019. Embedded and Reprinted with Permission. www.soundstrue.com.
Stargazing is from Mindful Games Activity Cards by Susan Kaiser Greenland with Annaka Harris. © 2017 by Susan Kaiser Greenland. Illustrations © 2017 by Lindsay duPont. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.shambhala.com.