One evening, my daughter told the rest of us that she wanted to teach us an activity she’d worked on in yoga class at school. She sat us on the floor and handed each of us a cherry tomato. She instructed us to hold them, to really feel what the tomatoes felt like in our hands. Next, she told us to close our eyes and put the tomatoes in our mouths, WITHOUT CHEWING THEM UP. (She made that part very clear.) “Just sit and concentrate on how the tomato feels to your mouth.” After awhile (I think she was counting between instructions), she allowed us to chew the tomatoes, but very, very slowly, taking the time to really think about how they tasted. Once we had chewed for what seemed like an eternity, she let us know that we could now open our eyes and finish our tiny tomatoes. The exercise lasted about 2 minutes, which sounds like nothing, but think about the last time you’ve spent two minutes contemplating a single bite of anything. My girl then prompted a discussion on our tomato experience, asking us about how they felt and tasted, and at this point I realized that we’d just been led through a guided meditation by a 6 year old.
What is Meditation?
The quick and simple answer is - mindfulness. It is a process of being still and focusing on your breathing, training yourself to be present and helping to quiet the noise in your head. The people behind my favorite meditation app, Headspace, do a great job of describing meditation and debunking common myths. The word “headspace” is a great way to think about the benefits of meditation - both creating space in your head and putting space between you and your thoughts/worries, etc.
I’m new to meditation, and for my racing, distracted mind, it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’ve heard anecdotes to the effect that many people that have been practicing meditation for decades still struggle and do not consider themselves experts. So I’ve let that part of it go and try to just do the best I can on any given day. Meditation looks like the picture of peacefulness - sitting still with eyes closed, focusing on breathing. However, being still is HARD - there is a lot going on behind that peaceful facade. The idea behind meditation isn’t stopping thoughts altogether. The goal is to merely observe your thoughts without judgement, briefly acknowledging their existence and allowing them to pass. Over and over and over and over again. As mentioned above, I love the Headspace app, as it guides you gently through the process, giving you tips along the way like counting breaths or focusing on a physical sensation, such as the feeling of the ground beneath you. Plus, Andy, the narrator and creator, has the most lovely and peaceful voice. Sigh.
Looking at my kids, I notice that they meditate all of the time - when they focus on play, get absorbed in the soft fur of our puppy, notice the flora and fauna I often miss when taking a hike, or enjoy eating a cherry tomato. It isn’t new-agey or complicated, just beautiful kid focus. Watch and learn, grownups!