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Lions Roar : January 2019
I was intrigued by this commercial, and curiosity was exactly what the advertisers had been counting on. I didn’t even like Tootsie Pops, but I repeatedly exchanged my nickels for them and took them anywhere and everywhere—to the playground, up trees, and to the pea-green armchair by my family’s televi- sion set. Like the boy, I was trying to figure out how many licks it takes to get to the center. Yet, despite my due diligence, I was never able to answer the question any better than Mr. Owl. But Mr. Owl was wise. For he must have known that the true answer wasn’t “three,” which is what he proffered before impa- tiently crunching his way to the center of the boy’s Tootsie Pop. Mr. Owl was wise to ensure that I wanted to come to the answer on my own. To encourage our families to embrace meditation, we can employ a similar technique: we can entice our children to arrive—on their own—for the practice. The takeaway here is that the first step toward equipping youngsters with any kind of new skill is to arouse in them a curiosity to learn more about that skill. Only then can we support sustained practice and inte- grate it into everyday life. Awakening Curiosity for Meditation Children will come to meditation organically if they regularly see their parents practicing. With this in mind, next time you settle in to sit, you might sink into the family room sofa instead of running off to a secluded room and bolting the door behind you. For added allure, you might position yourself to face a window. Little ones, wondering what you’re watch- ing, will snuggle in your lap and experience the comfort- ing rhythm of your breath. Whether taking in a still blue sky or the business of life pass- ing by, their breath is likely to align with yours. Conscious modeling is more complex when it comes to older children who may not want to emulate anything their parents do. However, letting them experience the way medi- tation favorably impacts you, especially as it relates to their life, can pique their interest and motivate them to explore the practice. Once they’ve witnessed meditation’s trans- formative effect on you and experienced how it enables you to communicate more compassionately with them, you might include them in conversations in which you share an anecdote about how meditation has realigned your perspective on a par- ticular stressor, or has improved your ability to communicate with a difficult colleague, or provided you with a renewed abil- ity to manage a specific task. Whatever you do, keep it fun. When I first introduced eating meditation to one of my children, I sat at the table with a bowl of blueberries. After examining the pretty little fruit and pop- ping it in my mouth, I remarked that I was only able to chew the fruit a few times before it was all gone. “How many times can you chew a blueberry?” I asked, and the game ensued. It followed us on car rides and expanded to include other foods. Interestingly enough, my children always “won” even though I wasn’t trying to lose. With some creative forethought, nearly any practice can be made more playful. Keep in mind that you’ll want to choose instructions that are meaningful and easily followed. If you want children to focus their attention on their breath, it’s best not to tell them to focus on their breath. Telling a child to focus on their breath is the equivalent of telling a laboring woman to “relax.” The words aren’t likely to go over well because they’re not useful or informa- tive. Rather than telling your children to pay attention to their breath, you can suggest how they should do this. For example, you might propose that they notice how their breath feels as it enters their nose. You might ask, “Is it cool when it enters, and warmer when it leaves?” Maybe they’d rather explore whether their breath makes a sound or if it’s silent. Ask them if they’re able, with their mind’s eye, to follow their breath into their lungs and understand how their diaphragm moves their belly up and down like the sea. One of the simplest ways to use the breath to heel a wandering mind is through the act of counting breaths. See who can count to ten breaths and back down to zero without wandering too far afield. Pairing the breath with move- ment can be especially helpful at the outset of a practice when the mind is a flurry and physical energy has yet to settle. An easy exercise is to guide your child to inhale their arms overhead into a balloon shape and to exhale their arms beside them as they let the balloon go. For best Ava, age 5 PHOTOBYERINLARK 64 LION’S ROAR