We live in a hurried world, multitasking as we dash through our daily schedule. From a child’s perspective, I often wonder what that could look like — busy, frustrating, onerous? But my experience of children is that they have no such concepts of time. Walking one day with my then one year old son, I had to stop – like so many other mothers – while a beetle was fully examined for a good five minutes, as it wandered, heedless of the inspection, across the cracked concrete to a safe flower bed. I can remember my initial reaction was to hurry the process, and then, remembering my mother’s words, I stopped and allowed the concentrated moment to take its full course. It was then that I too felt a peace and wonder that had not been present in my day…..
On the website for the Canadian Mental Health Association is a section on children. The headline reads “A child’s ability to cope with stress in the early years has physical and emotional consequences throughout life” (National Scientific Council of the Developing Child 2006). Earlier this year the Vancouver Sun published an article regarding Mindfulness training for children. The speaker, Richard Davidson, spoke of the health benefits of meditation and mindfulness training for children, such as stress relief, improved sleep patterns, and better health, to the increased ability to focus, and towards a more thoughtful, maybe even spiritual approach to how families deal with the every day matters of life.
So how can we bring a more focused and relaxed atmosphere into our home? There are many practices from meditation to quality family time that help families to focus and de-stress. In my walks with my young family, checking out the tiny aspects of nature that I would naturally miss in my hurried self-important adult life, I learned to be still, to concentrate better, and to be patient. To enjoy the moment, rather than allow my thoughts to wander haphazardly through my mental checklist of things I had yet to do that day. And the interesting part of this was that those walks often presented the opportunity for another thought focusing technique. Prayer.
Prayer is a technique long taught by spiritual thinkers as a way to turn thought away from self and towards a calming, clear presence of Love. The problem in modern society is that only too often prayer is seen as a “talking to God.” It is seen as the action of last resort, or as a passive, superstitious practice. But prayer can be some, or none of those things. Contemplative prayer, however, like concentration, is a learned, cultivated practice that refreshes, invigorates and brings new perspectives of life. This form of prayer can literally change thought from the multitasking, stressed and negative, to a focused sense of calm. It can change the way we see things, even how we see ourselves.
As we adults rush about our days, it’s easy to forget that children are sponges for thoughts and that children’s behavior can often mirror what is happening in their home life. By slowing down, focusing and grounding our own thoughts, we are showing and demonstrating to our children how to positively deal with the inevitable stresses of life.