“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud.” – Goldie Hawn
I recently finished reading Goldie Hawn’s 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children- and Ourselves – the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives and I was so inspired that I wanted to share some of her wisdom and practical applications.
As someone who comes to consciousness and mindfulness as a secular pursuit, Hawn’s brain-based explanations of the benefits of mindfulness were particularly engaging. The book begins with an introduction as to why we, as a nation, need to embrace a more mindful lifestyle and goes on to explain the brain-mindfulness connection in detail. Her focus is primarily on teaching mindfulness practices to children, but the information is useful even for people without children. As she writes, Hawn includes personal stories that give the material a more intimate feel and she provides professional references for the facts she cites throughout. The latter chapters cover specific areas of mindfulness and each chapter includes games to play with your children to introduce and strengthen their capacity for mindfulness in each area.
In this post, I’d just like to share a few of the Mindful Sensing and Feeling Games she includes in the book. Not only are these games great for building mindfulness skills, but the are also great for spending one-on-one quality time, building connection and, some don’t require much other than you and your child, so they can be used anytime you find yourself waiting somewhere with a fidgety child.
Mindful listening is much like active listening: being fully present and listening without judgement or interruption. Practicing mindful listening allows our children, and ourselves, to practice being fully present, truly hearing what others are saying and building empathy and awareness of the feelings of others.
Hawn suggests a game called Echo in which you ask your child to tell you something as you listen carefully and then repeat it back, word for word. You then as your child to do the same for you. You take turns going back and forth, practicing with longer and shorter sentences. Afterward you can discuss what the experience was like, if it was easy or difficult and if anything helped your child to remain focused on listening. With little ones, silly sentences could make this even more enjoyable.
According to the book, an estimated 80% of the information our brains absorb is visual, registering more than thirty-five thousand images an hour. Mindful seeing slows this process down and, when we use it with our children, allows us to step out of our thoughts and really see our children, as they are, at that moment, without any preconceptions, “shoulds“, or judgement.
Hawn suggests a game called Really Looking to practice Mindful Seeing. Before playing the game, you need to gather a number of similar looking objects – pebbles, rocks, leaves, popped popcorn – and put them in a box or bag. Once you have the back, each person chooses an object from the back and studies it for a few minutes, asking, “What does it look like? What colors or markings does it have? Is it smooth or rough?” You then place the objects back in the back, shook it up and dumped out the contents. Then each person must try to find the object they were holding. Afterward, you can discuss the game and ask how mindful seeing helped identify the object and what other ways you could use mindful seeing to be more aware.
In the section on mindful smelling, Hawn sates that the olfactory gland is the strongest gland in the body, the greatest trigger of memory and the one that has the biggest impact on our emotional state. She lists a number of scents that bring about specific moods and cites studies that connect specific smells to deeper states of relaxation and improved memory and performance among students.
In the game, What’s that Smell, you choose four things that have distinct smells, ask your children to close their eyes and smell each item one at a time. After they smell each item, ask if they can identify it. When they are finished, if they are old enough, have them choose a few different mystery smells for you. Afterward you can discuss how the felt about the smells. Did they prefer some smells over others? Did they trigger any memories?
In speaking of Mindful Tasting, Hawn brings up the obesity epidemic in America and the importance of being mindful of what we eat. She also talks about how, when we eat in a rush, we not only miss the flavor of food, but we also often overeat, as it takes our brains 10 minutes to feel full. She also emphasizes that mindful tasting reinforces the pleasures of sitting down and sharing a meal together.
In Look and Taste, you walk your children through mindful tasting by giving them raisin or small piece of chocolate. You first place it in their palm and ask them to look at it closely. Then ask them to smell it. Then allow them to place it on their tongue without biting down. Finally, allow them to bite down and eat it slowly. Afterward ask them to describe the experience and contrast it with just popping the item into their mouths quickly.
As with exercise, mindful movement, has many positive effects, including the emission of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us a sense of well-being. As with any mindfulness practice, mindful moment also helps us bring our attention to the present moment and also allows us to enjoy freedom of movement through our bodies.
Similar to Freeze Dance, but the a slight variation, Freeze and Melt involves having your child run, dance, jump, hop, skip or otherwise move around wildly, stopping whenever you say, “Freeze!” You should instruct them to tense their entire bodies and freeze on the spot. When you call, “Melt!” they should relax and slowly melt to the ground. Play for as long as they enjoy it.
Moving on from the senses to feelings, Hawn talks about the importance of optimism and the ability to teach the skills and practice of optimism to your children.
In Rainy Day Blues, you pretend that its raining outside and take turns acting out feeling sad or happy about the rain. This game could be continued with other scenarios, like getting sick, moving to a new home, ending a school year, etc. After each, ask your child how each charade them feel?
In the section on Mindful Happiness, Hawn explains that the more a thought is practiced, the stronger the circuits that hold it in memory become. When we continually imagine happy outcomes instead of negative ones, our brains build resilience and we are more likely to feel happy.
In one of my favorite mindful suggestions, Hawn describes the process of making a Mindful Happiness Wall. She suggests choosing a place you and your children pass often and making a collage of pictures and drawings that make you happy. You can use children’s drawings, family photographs, pictures cut from magazines or anything else that brings you and your children joy. Add to the wall regularly and remind yourself, and your children, to look at it any time they need a little more happiness in their day. If sectioning off a wall is too much of a visual commitment, this same idea can be applied to a box or scrapbook.
These are just a few of the practical applications of mindfulness practices described in the book. For those well-versed in mindfulness, it may offer a lot of known information, but, at least for parents, I feel that it offers a lot of ideas, inspiration and encouragement to make it a very worth-while read!
Thanks for reading!
What about you? Have you read 10 Mindful Minutes? What did you think? Have you been inspired by any books lately? If so, please share!