HHCA: What are some ways to maintain stability in these unusual times?
Wendy: During these unfamiliar times, moments of meaning can be particularly helpful. Daily personal rituals, like brewing a cup of coffee in the morning and reading a bedtime story at night, give us purpose, stability, and help maintain the rhythm of life. They help us measure time and provide a sense of calm in the storm. Here are some “moments of meaning” examples:
- FaceTime with people you care about
- Daily meditation
- Deep breathing
- Counting blessings
- Sharing “what went well” with each other
- Exercising (and sweating)
- Going outside
- Walking dogs
HHCA: How can this help our students and families?
Wendy: Frequently in yoga and meditation, we say “rest” your attention on the breath. It’s a gentle act, not a struggle, and as a result of practice, we develop the ability to deepen our concentration. We also learn to be more aware of what’s going on inside ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts. That’s how we get to know ourselves better, and wonderfully begin to experience what’s happening with others more! It’s very cool. We start to get that paying attention is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves and for each other. It’s really neat how a practice that starts with paying attention to yourself, enhances our ability to pay better attention to the people around us. It’s like the first step to obeying Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves.
HHCA: How is it possible to rest (aka develop awareness and concentration) in the midst of such uncertainty and anxiety?
Wendy: These are indeed tough times, but we’re not powerless. There are things we can do. This is as true during a pandemic as it is when there’s not. Knowing ourselves and acknowledging our capabilities are keys. Practicing mindful attention teaches us to stay with feelings as they emerge. Rather than react or push uneasy feelings away, we’re able to stay with them, observe them, without necessarily giving in to the emotional energy around that thought. It is not ignoring what we feel, but looking at our thoughts like we might look at people passing by us on the beach, at an airport, or in a mall. No attachment to them, just observing. We can also train our minds to see the joyful things in spite of the stormy times. Just like Pastor Chuck Swindoll once said, “there are only two things for sure you can control: your attitude and your effort.” This practice of mindfulness and rest enhances your ability to right your attitude and adjust your effort.
HHCA: What are some simple steps families with younger children do to promote concentration, relaxation, and rest?
Wendy: Preschoolers through elementary age kids will surprise you. They intuitively know how to be mindful. Think of the tot on the soccer field studying the dandelions. They’re wired to be in the moment! Reading a book aloud slowly to them and interacting by asking questions is a wonderful way to tap into their natural mindful presence. Try this calming breath exercise called Polar Bear Breath. Have your child put his head down on the kitchen table and cover his mouth and nose with his hands. Tell him to inhale through his nose and exhale through his mouth to melt the snow.
HHCA: What about older kids?
Wendy: Kids of all ages like games, especially if it’s a challenge. Try this idea: give them a penny and ask them to walk around the house or yard while keeping the penny on their foot. The kid with the most steps without the penny falling off “wins,” but really you’ve won by teaching a mindfulness skill. They had to concentrate and stay in the moment to keep the penny from falling. Paying attention is a mindfulness skill, and balance challenges everyone, no matter what your age is. Try standing on one leg (in yoga this could be Tree Pose) for a minute or two. These exercises calm the mind and promote joyfulness.
HHCA: Could you suggest a beginner meditation that our whole family could do?
Wendy: Sure! This one’s a favorite of mine. It’s a sound meditation. If everyone is participating, set a timer to signal you to move from one direction to the next, about three minutes apart, for five chimes total. This is how to begin:
Find a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair with your back straight as if it was against a wall. Chime one, close your eyes. Listen for the sound of your own breath. Keep returning to the sound of your breath even if your thoughts begin to wander (and they will!).
Now at the sound of the second chime, direct your focus to the sounds immediately around you. Focus on just the sounds within the space or room you’re in at this moment.
At the next chime, extend your awareness to the sounds in the distance. Concentrate on just the sounds that are far away.
Finally, at the next chime, marry all three of these sounds you hear, your breath, the sounds within the room, and the sounds from far away. Listen intently to all three sounds as one.
The last chime will signal your sound meditation has come to an end. Notice how you feel afterward. Are you more relaxed? Hope so.
Wendy Methvin is a local and international yoga teacher, a married mother of two, and the owner of HHI YOGA. A resident of Hilton Head Island, she can be found teaching yoga classes and meditation training in studios like Jiva Yoga Center and online through a link from her website, www.hhiyoga.com. She’s certified in Children’s, Gentle, Restorative, Yin, and Vinyasa yoga and holds Yoga Alliance YACEP & E-RYT200 accreditations.