When I look at the world around us today I have reasons for concern. Many of our politicians have lost their sense of duty and honor, our government seems increasingly less responsive to the needs of regular folks, and our American society continues to become further divided and tribal. Peace seems to get further away each day, and for many of the world's citizens there is only conflict and pain. Selfishness and avarice abound. Like many of us I often wonder what can be done. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the magnitude of these concerns. Where do we begin?
We in the West are just starting to understand that the practice of Mindfulness is at the core of the actions that we need to take to heal our brokenness and pain. We comprehend that this is a long-term solution - that Mindfulness is not a quick fix. It requires years of sustained training and practice.
When we enter this practice as adults, we find that we are engaging in a demanding discipline that requires us to learn the practice and then use that practice to deal with our own baggage. Each of us has sustained some damage along the way and each of us must face the inevitable discomfort, fear, anxiety and pain that goes along with said damage. This all assumes a willingness on the part of practitioners to follow this nonlinear path and address the many vicissitudes that we each shall find along the way.
But what about our children?
What happens if we begin to train them in Mindfulness at an early age? What if this training begins before students start their K-12 educational experience? What if we integrate these practices into our schools and homes? Will this eventually make the world a better place? I would argue that the answer is a definite yes!
Those of us who have an established daily practice realize that the practice itself is, in fact, healing. It infuses us with kindness, love, compassion, understanding and awareness. It helps us to learn about our own baggage and to begin the process of lightening the burden caused by these afflictions. As a result we are kinder with ourselves and we naturally treat others better.
Now, begin to think about our children.
Most of them, at an early age, do not have much baggage. Nor, at an early age, do we carry the prejudices and opinions that can get in the way of learning Mindfulness. Young children are open and receptive, and they learn at a pace that far exceeds what adults can do.
I think that it is time that we get focused and serious about teaching our children that life is precious and that Mindfulness can give us the tools to connect with each other, to live deeply, and to open our hearts to our lives and to each other. We understand that this will require an experiential approach to the teaching of Mindfulness.
This cannot be learned by just talking about it.
It must be practiced.
This will require that adults with an established Mindfulness practice are willing to teach this practice to others. Students, teachers, parents, and the larger community will all need to know and understand the benefits associated with engaging in Mindfulness practices.
We will need to communicate how this practice will benefit them and their children, and how it will benefit the society in which we live. It is my understanding, which the current research is starting to support, that Mindfulness can be a powerful force for good for both individuals and for the larger societal interface.
It is not a quick fix, but it is a promising and effective way to begin.
For more information on teaching mindfulness to children:
Wisdom House Collaborative
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