Emotional Mindfulness - Week 5
Have you ever found yourself drowning in an emotional state or stuck in a mood? I believe we can all relate to having had this experience at least once in our lives. For some of us we have had many times like this, or where we feel like we’re frequently either on our own emotional rollercoaster or have boarded the car of our collegue, friend or child’s emotional state! When I have jumped on someone else’s rollercoaster, I notice a few unhelpful tendencies… I am no longer able to observe and listen when I’m on the car, but panic and want to take on responsibility and “fix” the other person’s mood, distract them from what they are feeling or in the most unhealthy form of apathy~ I take on the same mood. None of these “on board” reactions are my roles or responsibilities, nor are they very helpful.
In my role as a parent and teacher, I want to help children learn to accept and work with their difficult emotions by first recognizing my own tendencies, expectations and then becoming more mindful. Example: Do I expect my child to always be happy? Next, I want to be MINDFUL. Can I simply observe and listen without moving onto the rollercoaster with them? Examples:
- I try to fix things: “How can I help you?”
- I try to distract or help them escape their emotional state: “Or how about we…have a cookie, do something fun, or move on in some way” (aka: I need to save the day or am trying to escape the difficult moment.)
- I give the TEMPORARY emotional state, too much power. “Oh great, here we go again, our day is ruined”!
It can be really difficult to remember that it is OK for my children to have emotions and it is not my role, nor anyone else’s, to alleviate them from emotions that are unpleasant. I am not happy all the time and my children don’t need to be either. So what is my role? First, I am trying to handle my own emotional tendencies on my own yoga mat, in my own journal and through more mindfulness of my own emotions! Then, I am trying to use these first hand experiences to teach my children what I am learning by: MODELING, LISTENING, & GUIDING.
As a MODEL: I reflect out loud to my children about how I am feeling and (hopefully) how I am currently trying to work through that feeling or situation. This opens us up to a discussion in “safer territory”.… I have noticed that my kids love to hear that I am not perfect and that I also make mistakes, feel jealous, scared or hyperactively excited sometimes, just like they do! I believe engaging my children in sacred conversations where I am exposing the rougher edges of myself and how I am trying to soften and work through difficult feelings, is bringing deep moments of bonding. It’s like sharing a secret with your child, that (SUPRISE) we are imperfect and struggle sometimes and definitely don’t do everything right! But also, I model that I am reflective and am trying to learn how to cope! I believe beginning with this dialogue creates a safe container for sharing how we feel, without judgment and opens my children to honest communication and reflective moments.
As a LISTENER: Next, when my children decide to talk to me about situations that are troubling or how they are you feeling, I try to listen more than I speak. Through this time of listening, I have found more opportunities to observe the situation and reflect before acting and also to learn how to ask meaningful questions in response. These are questions that allow my children to know I am listening and care about what they say and questions relating to mindfulness lessons I learned on my own mat or smart questions that my teacher’s have asked me!! I suggest beginning by just repeating back to a child something such as: “so, your telling me that X happened and now you are feeling X”? Simply affirming that you heard the child and that you care about their feelings. This is very powerful starting point. Then here what they say in response and keep LISTENING!
As a GUIDE: Here is where I do the work of sharing and teaching the lessons of yoga! I like to have fun with emotions and create opportunities for discussion, visualizations and dramatic play! If I go into action or save the day mode, then I am taking the power away from my child to learn to help themselves. Personally, I don’t want to do that!!! I want to find ways to teach and empower my children so that they know how to understand themselves and work through their emotions!
This week on your child’s yoga mat… we used: Listening, Color therapy, Visualizations, & Breathing
- We began by taking turns sharing how we were feeling and listening to how others felt. We discussed where we felt those emotions in our bodies (this was more challenging). Then we experienced a mindful moment of practicing apathy, where we considered if we too had felt each of those emotions before. Hmmm… indeed we had all felt scared, sad, happy and mad before!
- Next, we visualized our emotions as clouds that we could gently see above us and used soft, long breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth) to watch float over us! We did this because our emotions are like clouds that will eventually pass over, but we can use our breath to soften them!
- We used color therapy by finding pom-poms that matched the colors of our feelings. We practiced blowing the pom poms across the room. Gentle breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth to calm angry or super happy emotions. For sad or scared emotions that we wanted to uplift we inhaled three quick breaths through the nose and one quick blow through the lips.
- We used storytelling and visualizations to pair emotions with our yoga animals through a silly story that the children took turns contributing too. We then took our story into the secret garden of deep relaxation where we rested and found a calm sanctuary to just be!
Mindfulness of Emotions is a practice that we all can benefit from! As a parent the more I become engaged with recognizing how I am feeling and using mindfulness techniques, the easier it is for me to to apply these skills into mindful moments of parenting! I hope that you find moments for self awareness in daily life, or maybe even on your own yoga mats, that can reveal itself as openness and acceptance within your homes!
Yours on this Journey to Breathe, Move and BE!