Sunday, 16 November 2014

Heart Box

I am having something of a parental re-vamp, at the moment. There have been a lot of changes at home, lately, bringing with them a number of challenges. It's OK to have these challenges in life, I think, but I want to be conscious of my parenting by being able to connect with my children as much as I can, in order to understand them. I want them to understand their own feelings.

That said, they are pretty good at being able to articulate their thoughts and fears. "I just don't know how to work this out" was a tearful remark made by my 5 year-old son, recently. This sentence stung my heart, because I could totally feel his pain and confusion in the midst of all these changes we are going through. I don't expect him to be able to "work this out"; I don't expect him to be able to process this all like an adult; I do expect wobbles and tears and fears and that is why I am doing my best to be able to keep this line of communication open, for my children to know that they can talk to me about their feelings; and for them to know that their feelings are completely valid and acceptable.

I want them to know that I know it's hard for them and that I am trying to make things better for them. I hope that I am, because I don't think I can try any harder than what I'm already doing.

Part of the work I have been doing in the schools I did some sessions with, involved choosing one of the printed intentions I'd organised. Intentions are sentences or themes which inspire the child (or member of staff) and can choose to follow each day. They select a sentence out of the box, and decide whether or not they are going to go ahead with it. It is a voluntary thing, but the idea is to practice mindfulness using this intention as they go about their day. My aim is for the individual to reach the end of the school day, and think, "yes, I achieved this" when they reflect back on their activities, conversations, lessons, and feelings. Reflection is a mindful activity in itself, and good practice in which to be thankful for ourselves and others, and think about how to modify any behaviours that the individual wishes to change - or to be able to simply identify a need to modify a behaviour/thought/intention etc - for the better.

I decided that today I would bring this into my home, because it gives us all a focus. It gives each of us a chance to not only pick an intention at the beginning of the day, but to re-connect with each other at the end of the day at our evening meal, give each other support, praise, encouragement and reflect together. My aim is that this will bring us closer together as a family, to give recognition for each other's feelings, as well as reinforce and grow our love.

What do you think? How do you bring emotional development into your family? I'd love to know and learn from other's experiences, so please share! Thank you.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


There have been frequent occasions where, whilst on a run, I have been greeted by this wonderful sight. The sun, reflecting on the ocean as a silvery-white glow, its gentle yet persistent beams striking through the clouds. Today's view, however, got to me so much I was almost breathless with awe (and it was not the result of running away from the inquisitive cattle in the adjacent field).
There was just something about the scene that was so powerful I could feel it in my chest, a rush of love and happiness to be able to witness the beauty that was there, in front of me. Free for anyone who could see it, to soak up the gift the eye gives to the soul. Who could look at this and not feel a stirring in their heart? The simple pleasure of being able to tune in to the surroundings and experience that moment of happiness.
I stood still, and drank up everything around me: the crisp, cool breeze that danced around the field; the chattering birdsong, mingled with the occasional "moo" from behind the hedgerow, and the loud sighs of waves meeting land; the delicate salty smell lingering in the air and the taste on my lips; the contrast of the dark blue sea, the heavy clouds, against the green of the fields and the striking sunlight on the water. I stood still, and took everything in. A few moments of stillness, where I closed my eyes, and listened to myself. I could only hear the quiet of my breath, and the joy of the moment, a tangible sense of peace for myself, the words "thank you" whispering in my mind, and gratitude for everything around me. What more could I ask for, at such a moment, other than the gift of presence?


One day, in the summer holidays, I took my five year-old swimming. He was under-confident and clung to me, having lost all the confidence he had gained in his swimming lessons, before the summer holidays began. Then the alarm for the 3-minute warning of the wave machine sounded. He panicked, began to shiver and asked me to take him out of the water.
"It's OK to be scared", I told him. He tried to pull me towards the shallow end, but I held him tightly, and stayed where we were. I decided to use this as a mindfulness opportunity. "I can feel how scared you are. What is it that worries you the most?" He replied, "being pushed over by the waves". So we had something to work on. "That's a possibility. You're scared of the danger, aren't you? That's OK, we can work with this, too. Are you still feeling really scared?" He nodded. "That's OK. But you know that right now, it is safe for you to feel scared, because I am here and I won't let you get into danger." He began to loosen his grip around me. I empathised with his feelings, naming his emotion (fear), and together we accepted the fear. As the wave machine began swirling the water around, he had already acknowledged that he was scared, accepted his emotions, and been given a safe space to experience it. When he accepted that his fear would not be realised, he relaxed a bit.
At this point, I moved a few paces deeper into the water, the waves colliding around us. He allowed me to do this, and I asked him how scared he was. "Not as much as I was" he said. Then he asked to get down and go under the water with me. We submerged ourselves for a few seconds, holding hands, before resurfacing. He was jubilant: "I did it!" He suddenly found his confidence, and he directed me to the shallow end, where we jumped over the waves together. His moment of fear in the past, replaced with fun and confidence.
I have used this sort of technique for all sorts of moments where fear is the thread of the situation. In all cases, once the fear has been acknowledged and accepted, the process of overcoming it can begin. Fear will remain as long as it is unexplained, or unidentified. By tapping into the fear and unravelling it, it can be overcome.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Child's play

Two giggly voices are echoing around the room, interspersed with the sound of paintbrushes dabbing furiously onto paper, and accented by the occasional SPLAT! of bare feet jumping up and down on the spot. This is the activity of two children painting, first thing on a Sunday morning. Oblivious to the November wind and driving rain outside, they are fully immersed in painting a forest: this one has purple, red and green apples growing there. Aw, how sweet! It also contains poo, but we won't dwell on that...

As the two friends continue to paint, they are unaware of everything else around them. I wonder if they would even notice if a horse clip-clopped its way across the kitchen, as they are really enjoying the act of creating this picture, together.

When they finish, they stand back a bit and admire their work. I ask them to imagine being in the forest: they immediately press their noses against the paper and try to get into the picture. "can you imagine how those apples smell" I ask them, and they both take in a big breath through their noses, as if to smell the fruit. Then they are done; they abandon their work of art, and run off to engage in the next activity, the painting forgotten in an instant, and replaced with the next delight.

It's easy to be a child in terms of living in the moment: to focus the mind and the body completely on whatever it is they are doing, block out the outside world, and totally immerse themselves in their present experience. If you've ever got involved in a task and become completely focused on it - then looked at the clock and surprised yourself by the unnoticed passage of time - this is what young children are like for most of their day. Lucky them: I might have to try it, myself!