Why all schools should teach mindfulness and meditation

If every 8 year old child in the world is taught meditation, we can eliminate violence from the world within one generation.
The Dalai Lama

When I did my first NLP training (I was thirty something), I remember thinking: “I wish this was taught in schools, it would’ve helped me so much”.
Of course it is important to learn to read and write and do math. And it would be really great if schools would also teach us skills for life. How to deal with our emotions and challenges that we will encounter. How awesome would it be if this were part of every school’s curriculum? If every child would have the same chance of learning these skills.

The other day I came across an article about the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore. This school did something really awesome. About two years ago, they stopped punishing kids that misbehaved. Instead, they send these kids to a “mindful moment room”. This room is set up as a meditation room with mats, comfy pillows and decorations. When kids are being send to this room, they are encouraged to participate in breathing exercises and mindful meditation. They also have the possibility to talk about how they ended up in that room.
The school also has a after school program that teaches the students mindfulness practices and yoga.

And guess what? The results are amazing. The school hasn’t had a single suspension since they started the program. Another school nearby that also uses this program, says that they have less suspensions and an increased attendance.

Even though there isn’t a whole lot of research on this topic, evidence so far suggests that there’s definitely a benefit to having kids practice mindfulness and meditation. Their ability to pay attention increases as well as class room participation and they have more self-control and respect for others.

Imagine if every school would add mindfulness practice and meditation to their curriculum. What would happen if every child would be given the chance to learn this? The possibilities would be endless.

I think our school is doing pretty good with incorporating the “love and logic” program and I think mindfulness and meditation would be a wonderful addition. I really want to bring this to the attention of our principle.
For as long as we don’t have a program like this at school, I’ve decided to read about teaching mindfulness and meditation to children. I have found some great resources (if you’re interested, I will put a few links at the end of this post).

Yesterday I found a site that offers free meditations for kids and I decided to do one with Lisa. When she went to bed, I asked her if she wanted to try a breathing exercise with me. She did (anything to postpone your bedtime 🙂 ). I chose the shortest to first see how it would go. She liked doing it. When I asked her what she liked about it, she said that it made her calm. I asked her if she wanted to do exercises like this more often and she said yes. So, we’re definitely going to try more exercises 🙂 .

Sites that I found during my search are:
Annaka Harris
Mindfulness for kids
8 ways to teach mindfulness to kids
Mindfulness for kids

 

 

King Solomon’s ring

There are several different versions of the parable of King Salomon’s ring, but this the one I like the most. This is the version as told by David Franko from Turkey, written down by Heda Jason.

One day King Solomon decided to teach humility to Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, one of his ministers. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot holiday which gives you six months to find it.” “If it exists anywhere on earth, Your Majesty, ” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has the magic powers, ” answered the king. “If a happy man wears it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man wears it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he took a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes a happy man forget his joy and a sad man forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah. He watched the old merchant take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it.
When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

“Well, my friend, ” said the King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, Your Majesty!”
As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “gam zeh ya’avor”—-this too shall pass. At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”

When things are getting rough, it can be hard to see the light on the other end of the tunnel and I find it very comforting to remember that “this too shall pass”. It doesn’t make things easier or go by sooner, but it does give hope. I think hope is one of the most important things we humans need. If there’s no hope, then, what is there to live for?

When you’re happy you wish that it will last forever. You don’t want to think of the fact that this will pass. At least that was the first thing I thought. But I actually came to appreciate it for my happy moments as well.

Because, aren’t we often taking happy moments for granted? How often do we not take the time to really enjoy because we’re preoccupied with all those other, often trivial, things? How often are we missing out on the beautiful moments life offers us because we got used to it? Until the moment it’s no longer there and you realize you should have enjoyed it more.

By remembering “this too shall pass”, I remember that I need to take time to live in the moment. That I need to suck in all of the love, happiness and joy I possibly can. Even if it’s closing my eyes and enjoy the sun for just a second. It’s important, because these moments too shall pass and we may need the memories of these happy moments to get us through more challenging times.

Emodiversity. Emowhat!?

This research project builds on the idea that our evolutionarily older brain systems are not solely a source of immorality and selfishness, but when tuned by our goals, can contribute to moral and just behavior. Thus, human flourishing does not come from the suppression of aspects of the self, but rather through the integration of all relevant processes together into a unified response.
How happy brains respond to negative things, by Summer Allen and Jeremy Adam Smith

Today I finished the first week of my course “The science of happiness” (the great thing about these courses is that you can do them at your own pace). There were a few things I already knew and there were some interesting things I didn’t know.

One thing I had never heard of was emodiversity. Emowhat!?!? Apparently I missed something. Emodiversity is the variety and abundance of emotions a person has. Study shows that people with a high emodiversity are less likely to be depressed than people that are high in just positive emotions. Also, high emodiversity is linked to better health. So, it may be better for our overall happiness to feel negative emotions like anger at appropriate times than to try to deny them and feel happy all the time.

I think that all emotions are parts of us that have a reason for speaking up, whether we like to hear it or not. I actually believe that all of these parts have a good intention for us as well. Some of these parts just don’t know how to express themselves in a healthy way.
Like I said in Egowise, I feel it’s important to listen seriously to what all your parts have to say in a neutral way. Then, see what they say is real and/or helpful or not. Not scientific at all, but my own experience is that when I don’t listen they only tend to scream louder. And maybe it doesn’t work for everybody and maybe it’s worth a try.

Curious about your emodiversity? Don’t worry, of course they developed a test you can do. And of course I took it 🙂 . Much to my surprise it said I have an emodiversity of 99%!? I know I sometimes feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t equal emodiversity 🙂 .

 

Too much Sex and the City?

The other day I started reading “Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life” by Anne Lamott. I haven’t finished it yet and I’m not entirely sure I will. I think I have a different sense of humor and I’m not too fond of her “on life” moments.
There is one thing she wrote that I do like though. She says most writers start with a crummy first draft and go from there. According to her it’s normal to write and write and end up using only a part, maybe as little as one sentence, of it and start (again) from there. True or not, I like to believe it, because that’s exactly what I do. I start writing down everything that comes to mind in the way in comes to mind, which usually ends up as an pretty unreadable first draft. Then, I read it again and start adding and removing (sometimes all of it).

I don’t know, maybe I’ve been watching too much Sex and the City? If you’ve never seen it: the lead character, Carrie Bradshaw, writes a weekly column (yes, you guessed right, called Sex and the City) for a newspaper. In most, if not all, episodes she starts with something, then has a writer’s block only to write down a perfect article in one breath (ok, maybe change a word or two, but that’s it) at the end of every episode. Yes… I know! It’s television! But still, I kind of imagined writers to have a reasonable sense of where they’re going, write it down and then start tweaking and tuning.

Anyway, I realized the road you take really isn’t important, as long as you go and end up in a place you like. If I’m ever to become a writer (pfff, that’s scary to say, it feels so presumptuous) there’s only one thing to do. Ok, two actually: write hard and stop ruminating.
If people like it, they will read it and maybe tell others about it and if not… Well, then not. And there will always be people that may not be interested or think you’re no good. But let’s keep it real, that’s life. No matter what you do or say, there will always be somebody who doesn’t agree, thinks you’re no good or whatever. As with everything in life it boils down to: love and respect yourself and others and make choices that reflect that en it you will have peace of mind. Life is really quite simple, it’s just the execution that may be challenging 🙂 .

The science of happiness

Isn’t it wonderful when life gives you what you’re looking for at exactly the right moment?
In search of more information on Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who works in the field of self-compassion (no worries, we’ll get to that some other time 🙂 ) I ended up at the site of the Berkeley university. Very interesting site, and as I was browsing, I noticed that they offer a FREE (hey, I’m still Dutch 🙂 ) course: The science of happiness.

The Berkeley site says:
The free eight-week course explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life through science and practice. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from the latest research, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Just so happens I was looking for a happy and meaningful life 🙂 so, I signed up. It starts September 6th, so if you might be interested, there’s still time to sign up. Remember: it’s FREE 🙂 . This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is offered through EdX.

 

The Alchemist

Listen to your heart. It knows all things, because it came from the Soul of the World.
The Alchemist

Have you ever read a book and wondered why you haven’t read it before? I just finished my new favorite book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Of course I had heard of Paulo Coelho and of The Alchemist, I just never read it. I didn’t know what it was about and I guess the title didn’t appeal to me. But Brene Brown quotes from The Alchemist and it made me curious, so I got it from the library. Now, I want to read everything Paulo Coelho wrote.

The Alchemist tells the story of a Spanish shepherd boy that dreams about a buried treasure at the pyramids. He decides to follow his dream (destiny) and travel to the pyramids. During his journey he learns about the Soul of the World, to not give up and listen to his heart. I found it the most inspiring book! It’s simple, inspiring, beautiful and profoundly deep. I just couldn’t put it away. What a gift to be able to write a book like this.

A few beautiful quotes from The Alchemist that I love are:

Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him.

Wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.

And these are just a few quotes. The book is full of it. Very inspirational and I if you haven’t read it yet, I would definitely recommend doing so. Even if you’re not into the “deep stuff” it is still a beautiful story worth reading.

If you’re interested, you can get the book on Amazon.

 

What to say

When I was young I was very shy. Saying anything (and I mean anything, just saying hi) to people I didn’t know (too well) required a lot of courage. What I didn’t realize at that time is that it can even be harder to talk to family.

Thinking back, I don’t think we ever shared a lot of things at home, not how our days had been and especially not feelings. I’m proud to say I’m getting better at talking, small talk as well as “bigger” stuff. Usually it’s easier to talk to people that are not related. Makes sense I guess when you consider a family has a history and certain patterns.

So what do you say when you want to deepen a relationship? I try to tell more about the ordinary things of life. I’d say that’s step 1. And then what? Open up? Doesn’t sound too complicated until the moment is there.
And it’s one thing to talk about how you’re physically doing. Even though I find it not so easy to talk about yet, it would probably help them understand me better. Sometimes I feel that they think I’m able to do much more than I actually can. If they do, it’s because I haven’t been clear enough about it. And yes, there are moments, days, if I’m lucky even a few weeks that I can do a lot (which is still less than the average person). Then there are days and weeks it’s hard to just get out of bed and do the necessary things.

And there’s how you’re emotionally doing. Let alone if there are things that annoy/bother or just flat out hurt you. What to say then? Oh, and what if you’re not even sure exactly what it is that bothers you? Is it just me or do other people have that as well? Something is bugging me and I’m not sure what. Realizing it may very well be something on my part I’d rather not bring it up. Somehow I doubt saying: “Hey, you’re bothering me and I don’t know why” would lead to a constructive conversation 🙂

Even if I know what is bothering me, then there’s the delicate art of what to say how and when. Personally, I find it very helpful to not respond immediately (if I can). There are times that I’m too emotional and just blurt out how I feel. Admittedly, not my most productive state. So, if I’m up to it, I will not respond at once, but first think about it when my head is clear. Then, if I decide to get back on it, I will make sure I’m calm when I bring it up. Trying to remain calm during the conversation, which can be challenging.

For everyone who can use a little encouragement:

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
Confucius

 

 

Prisoner or pioneer

Anger is just a cowardly extension of sadness. It’s a lot easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell them you’re hurt.
Tom Gates

When I read this, I was like: yes…that’s pretty much it. When I’m angry, often (or maybe always?) I feel hurt. Saying you’re hurt makes you vulnerable and in order to avoid that, I’ve developed a habit of being angry instead.

Luckily, wisdom comes with the years 🙂 . I started to realize that the only person hurt by my anger was me. I learned to look inside: what is it that makes me feel hurt and angry and why? What does that say about me? Could that person possibly have another (better) intention with these words than I think. And even if they meant for it to hurt, does that have anything to do with me or with them?

I’m working hard on becoming all Zen, peaceful, mindful and whatever and sometimes…. Ok, much more often than I’d like to admit, I feel anger wash over me when someone does and/or says something that (to me) suggests I’m not perfect. I’ll be honest, after trying to be perfect for as long as I can remember in order to be loved, even the littlest thing can set me off (depending on how I feel). Not proud of it, but I will own it (now that I feel good, I may deny when angry 🙂 ).

Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.
Deepak Chopra

So I’m trying to work my way through my anger. When I’m aware that I get angry, I breath in and out and take some time to think about it. It’s still very challenging to look at my own behavior and admit I could’ve done things differently. It’s still hard to say I’m sorry, because that still feels like admitting I’m not perfect and makes me fear rejection. And that’s ok, just as long as I keep in mind that it’s something I imposed upon myself and isn’t real and I can get past that thought.
I’m a pioneer, going where I’ve never been before.

Daring greatly

A couple of years ago, I made drawings of my cat and my rabbit. Despite having some limiting believes about my drawing skills, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. Not the work of a great artist, but I actually thought it looked good enough (maybe even to hang somewhere in my house). Pleased with my accomplishment I showed someone my drawings and this person responded with: Yeah… wouldn’t hang that in the living room.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore, like all the air had been punched out of my lungs. I felt like crying and crawling away in the smallest and darkest place I could find. It hit me, really, really hard. Having issues with perfection, I was quite proud of myself for being ok with something that wasn’t perfect, and then this. So much for ok, I put the drawings away in the attic and never had the courage to show them to anyone again.

Right now I’m reading “Daring greatly” by Brene Brown. It’s about vulnerability in a world where things are “never enough”. About the things we do to armor ourselves against being vulnerable and what it does to us and others and how we can learn to open ourselves up. I recognize a lot in this book. How I want to be perfect in everything I do, because I feel when I don’t I won’t be worthy of love. That’s why I was so crushed about the remark of my drawings. It wasn’t about the drawings not being good enough, it was about me not being good enough. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a lot and yet it is still challenging to let go of the “perfection armor”.

I’ve decided to start challenging myself to try to not want to be perfect anymore. I know I can’t reach perfection and it’s not exactly making my life easier and/or more enjoyable. Instead, I’m aiming for being myself and knowing I’m good enough the way I am.

As part of this challenge I decided to add the drawings I made, because I don’t want to be afraid anymore of what other people think. And regardless of what others think of the drawings, I want to feel I am still good enough. Daring greatly by taking one small step at the time.

flup nan

Chicken soup and not much more

Well, I officially survived the first two days 🙂 . Like I said, at first very few foods are allowed and apart from the grape juice and mint tea they were not really my taste.

Monday started kind of weird. Instead of making my usual smoothie I had to grab my book to see what to do. I made a “baked cheesecake” with carrots. It was edible, definitely not making it again. Lunch was two hard boiled eggs (the only decent way to eat an egg when not baked into something 🙂 ).

Sunday I started making my chicken soup. I had bought a whole chicken and borrowed a slow cooker from my neighbor. Chicken in de pot and cooker on, easy peasy. After a while the entire house smelled like chicken 🙁 (for people that don’t know me, I really don’t like meat or the smell of it). Later I added some veggies to give the broth a little bit more taste. The gross part was dissecting the chicken, but I did it, in fact, I even ate it. Well, few pieces anyway, still don’t like it. The broth was ok.

For dessert I had gelatin from grape juice with honey. Loooooooots of honey, I think I may have overdone a little. Friday I made gelatin for the first time and thought just grape juice would be sweet enough. Huge mistake, it was disgusting. I didn’t like the taste or the texture, so I threw it out. Wasn’t going to make that mistake again. So, second try, I added lots of honey. Still don’t like the gelatin. The taste is now ok-ish, but I really don’t like the texture of it. Since there was not much else except chicken soup, I ate some of it. Survived day one without hunger.

Day two, I definitely wasn’t going to make the “cheesecakey” stuff so I had carrot pancakes for breakfast. After all, who doesn’t like pancakes for breakfast? Actually I don’t, I don’t like warm breakfast, but eating gelatin for breakfast was far less appealing, so pancakes it was. I cooked some carrots, squeezed out the water, added some eggs and spices and started baking. They were ok, a little bit too eggy to my taste, but I think, when added some more carrots, it could actually work. Also I didn’t taste my spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) anymore, so I need to increase that as well.
Lunch was a boiled egg, and I had already had 4 eggs in my pancakes. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten that many eggs in one day. Eggs are far better than meat, yet still not something I care for.

In the afternoon I decided to experiment with the gelatin. Lisa said she liked it, so I wanted to try to make some fruit gummies. I thought the regular recipe was a little bit too soft for a candy treat, so I used a little bit less juice. This time I also poured them into a mold to make “candies” out of it. Luckily she likes them, I’d rather have her eat these than store bought candy. I don’t like ‘m. They made me nauseas, there’s something about that gelatin stuff that doesn’t work for me. Since my food options are very limited, I decided to do another experiment. I took some of the gelatin and poured in a lot of extra juice. After a couple of hours in the fridge it had a jam-ish texture and was way more edible. Next experiment with gelatin will be making jam.

Today I can start adding new foods, yay!!!! This morning I started with banana pancakes (just one really ripe banana and 2 eggs and some spices). The first one was really great, I made it really thin and the spices were perfect. Unfortunately, they’re really sticky and fall apart easily so I made ‘m a little smaller and thicker. They’re still good to eat, just not as great as the first one. Next pancake experiment will be banana/carrot pancake. I guess cooking is my new hobby 🙁 .

So, how do I feel right now? My stomach is doing pretty good and I don’t have to go to the bathroom that often anymore. Nausea, which is something that’s usually there (just lightly, I won’t have to throw up and I can eat through it and it comes and goes) is still here for now. Having pretty high hopes for the future 🙂 .