Dragon in the Sky
Guest Post By Jennifer Barrett
Mother, Yoga Teacher, Mindful Awareness Educator
When my oldest son was a toddler we loved to find pictures in the clouds. Sometimes he would get frustrated that I was unable to see his dragon, and I would try to show him my duck. Then of course the clouds would move and change and become something new. That was a long time ago. My boy is almost 18 and I have spent hundreds of hours training, researching, and teaching people yoga, breath work, and other mindful awareness practices. What I knew as a young mom was how right it felt to spend time with my son watching the clouds go by. But why? It is because that simple act of bringing our attention to the clouds as they moved and changed before our eyes was a perfect practice of mindful awareness.
Mindful awareness asks us to bring our attention to the present moment with curiosity. We can choose to play with different anchors for our attention; our breath, our body, or anything we perceive with our senses. So in that moment my son and I were purposefully directing our attention to the clouds. We looked up, our eyes perceived them, and we got to notice them move and change. We couldn’t hold them or keep them any more than I can keep my son a toddler. By the way life happens just like that. It goes by in tiny little moments whether we are paying attention or not.
In the coming weeks I look forward to bringing you simple mindful awareness practices you can do with your children. I want to remind you that this first one didn’t come from a book or a training. My boy and I were just playing. So make up your own games that ask you to pay attention to your breath, your body, or what you perceive through your senses. These are your tools, you already have them. Pause, look up from your phone, your computer, in fact stop reading this and look out the window. There may just be a dragon in the sky!
Here are a few more games you probably already know that help to direct attention to the present moment. You may notice that they ask us to use one of our senses. You see our minds travel to the future or rehash the past, but our senses are perceiving in the present moment. So when we bring attention on purpose to the perception of one of our senses, especially with a sense of play, we are practicing mindful awareness!
I spy with my little eye- Yes the old fashioned game… just look around you. Notice something with your eyes. And your playmate looks around too, trying to guess what you are looking at.
How many sounds can your hear? Set a timer for one minute and see how many sounds you can hear all around you. This game is especially rich when done outside. And make sure you are playing right along with your child. You may be surprised at how many sounds are happening around you and even inside you!
What’s that sound? Yup it’s just like it sounds. Have your child close their eyes if they are comfortable doing so. Make a sound. It can be anything; a zipper, a door closing, a paper bag crumpling, a guitar being plucked… Ask your child to guess what the sound was.
What’s that smell? Just like What’s that sound only using your sense of smell to figure out what something is. Oranges work well as their scent is pretty distinctive but get creative.
Mystery object- Give your child a small object and ask them to explore it only using their hands. You can ask questions like is it rough or smooth, cold or warm, heavy or light. They try to figure out what the object is without using their eyes. I have used acorns, toy cars, leaves; really you can use any familiar object. I always start by assuring them that the object is completely safe to touch and has nothing sharp on it.
Jennifer Barrett has been working with children for over two decades. She is the founder of We Grow Yoga and provides yoga and mindful awareness training to children of all ages as well as to the teachers and parents who guide them. She has designed curriculum for schools such as The Chestnut Hill School in Massachusetts and The Brooklyn Heights Montessori School. Jennifer holds degrees in elementary and special needs education from Boston College. She has a 20 year dedicated yoga practice, and is an active and registered member of Yoga Alliance. She is certified both through ChildLight Yoga and holds a 200 hour teacher certification through Breathe For Change with the lens of bringing yoga and mindful awareness practices to school communities. She especially loves her work as a mother of 3 amazing sons and as a meditation facilitator for The Community Mindfulness Project.
For more information about We Grow Yoga offerings go to wegrowyoga.com