Research Paper By Wei Shi
(Business, Life and Transformational Coach, INDONESIA)
My first experience with meditation was in the middle school as our new classroom teacher came with his new experiment on us and played us during the break CD music and we had comfortable positions and had to close our eyes and listen what he spoke with the music. Often he did with soft voice and spoke slowly and described us different relaxing pictures – sun, beach, sand etc. It was very relaxing. 25 years later I saw first time the definition Mindfulness in the ICA study and actually at the beginning I didn’t really understand well what it is behind and not really interested for this topic. Then few months ago I felt my 8 years daughter often spent a lot of time on homework which she should finish in quite short of time. The reason is that she is not very focused and often swift her mind and focus to somewhere else. This became the most discussion point between us. Everyday she came home and starts with homework and I already start telling her please keep focus on homework and try to finish it fast and well. This makes us feel both very tired and I started to find resources and help what I can do to keep her concentration remained and focused. Then I bumped into the word Mindfulness again. And with this research paper I would like to find out how many different tools I can apply to both of us for our daily living together and cooperation and if it will work out for us at the end. This will be a fun journey.
What is Mindfulness?
The probably most famous definition of mindfulness comes from Jon Kabat-‐Zinn: “Paying attention on purpose in the present moment without making any judgment”.
I also like the definition from Mark Williams, Professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre: “Mindfulness means non-‐judgmental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment”.
The Origin of Mindfulness
Many consider mindfulness to have its origins in Buddhism, but even before the Buddha’s birth some 2,500 years ago, Hindus practiced a range of meditations, some of which involved mindfulness. According to Wikipedia the Buddhist term translated into English as “mindfulness” originates in the Pali term sati and in its Sanskrit counterpart smṛti. The Abhidhammattha Sangaha, a key Abhidharma text from the Theravāda tradition, defines sati as “moment to moment awareness of present events,” but also, “remembering to be aware of something or to do something at a designated time in the future”. In fact, “the primary connotation of this Sanskrit term is recollection”.
Where will Mindfulness be applied?
Mindfulness will be used in many physical and psychological problems as for people with stress, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, eating disorder and addiction etc.
Stress reduction for people with chronic pain was applied with mindfulness exercises “The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)” which was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-‐Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. It involves an eight-‐week course conducted in groups, focused on practicing mindfulness skills and mindfulness meditations, as well as discussion of stress and coping strategies. Completed studies have found that pain-‐related drug utilization was decreased, and activity levels and feelings of self‐esteem increased, for a majority of participants.
According to a research published in the Journal “Mindfulness” that the Mindfulness-‐Based Cognitive Therapy is an effective treatment for depression. The 8‐week Mindfulness‐Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) program been shown to reduce the risk of relapse. There are three special theme emerges from the study. According to the study mindfulness practices of MBCT allowed people to be more intentionally aware of the present moment, which gave them space to pause before reacting automatically to other. Participants also reported that they became more assertive in saying ‘no’ to others in order to lessen their load of responsibility, allowing them to become more balanced in acknowledging their own as well as others’ needs. Being present to others enabled people to bring more attention to relationships and to appreciate their time with others.
The mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy is effective for Anxiety too. The mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy (MBCT) seeks to change the relationship between the anxious person and his or her thoughts. In mindfulness‐based cognitive therapy, the person focuses on the bodily sensations that arise when he or she is anxious. Instead of avoiding or withdrawing from these feelings, he or she remains present and fully experiences the symptoms of anxiety. Instead of avoiding distressing thoughts, he or she opens up to them in an effort to realize and acknowledge that they are not literally true. Although it may seem counter‐ intuitive, fully realizing the experience of anxiety enables anxious people to release the over identification with negative thoughts. The person practices responding to disruptive thoughts, and letting these thoughts go. By remaining present in the body, they learn that the anxiety they experience is merely a reaction to perceived threats. By positively responding to threatening events instead of being reactive they can overcome an erroneous fight‐or‐flight response.
Eating Disorder and addiction are similar to each other in that the individual is focused on a persistent thought of future actions: when he or she will eat or not eat in the future, fear of gaining weight, or when there will be an opportunity for the next high. There are also similarities in the experiences of self‐ criticism: in individuals feeling terrible about themselves for binging and purging or for using the drug, hating their bodies, hating their life circumstances, and experiencing a strong sense of shame. Mindfulness can be useful for relapse prevention by shifting the focus to the present moment rather than to future actions, and through self-acceptance of what- ever the present feeling or thought is without judgment and criticism. The individual can learn to note the urge, accept it, and let it go without acting on it. In addition, in the case of eating disorders, the “self‐observation skills developed through mindfulness training might lead to improved recognition of satiety cues in binge eaters, as well as increased ability to observe urges to binge without yielding to them”.
Mindfulness for Children
There are many literatures and articles writing about the mindfulness for adults, but not so much about the application for children. Mindfulness is also good for our kids. There is an emerging body of research that indicates mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. In short, it helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus. All the applications of mindfulness for adults can also be applied also for children with stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. According to Karen Hooker and Iris Fodor there are additional specific potential benefits for children like improving memory. Children often forget things because they are not paying attention. It is in this case useful for children with concentration problems and those with ADHD to use mindfulness as a practice to improve their attention and focus. Furthermore these exercises for mindfulness should help children to promote self‐control and self‐management.
Exercises of mindfulness for children
In the following there are few mindfulness practices for children that I think is easy to follow with clear instructions and fun for the young kids. The exercises for the kids should be clear and concrete. Important it should be shorter than the practices for the adults. The first exercise we choose to start with should be simple so that it could ends successfully. Also important we should not apply any exercises that we did not try out before. Except simplicity what is also need to be considered is mindfulness exercises may help kids to be more aware of the environment, of themselves and be more focused, but we should not put too high expectations to hope it will rescue the world and to change the children’s behavior totally. Children have their behavior patterns that are different as we adults and these make them as children. Finally it is important not to force the children do certain exercise if they don’t want to. Stop it and do something else fun with them.
Awareness of the environment
This first exercise is a simple one. Just seat with the child quietly in a comfortable pose and set an alarm for a minute. Ask the child to close the eyes with you and to focus on the sound around. He or she should identify so many sounds as possible in this one minute. The exercise can be verified in different ways with different objects. It can be applied while you have a walk outside and to see how many different colors the child can see in the nature and environment. Or how many insects the child can see during the walk outside etc. It is a very easy to applied tool for daily life. I tried this with my daughter and found out she could hear much more sounds than I did.
Awareness of an object
Ask the child to select an object to draw. Examples of objects might be a remote control, a shoe or a clock. Tell the child to draw a picture of their object. Remind them that the activity is not focused on their ability to draw, as this could cause frustration in some children, and to simply do the best job they can. Then the child should spend time looking at the actual object, paying attention to smaller and smaller details. Then the child should draw the object again. Compare the drawing of the first and second time and ask the child to see the difference and the details missed in the first time. Ask the child what it was like to spend time really looking at the object that might otherwise have been something they never took time to notice.
Awareness of the movement
This exercise bring the attention to the child’s own body. This exercise can be done with a group of children. Tell the children they should move as quiet and soft as possible, as if beside there is a big fat dragon is asleep and they should be get out this place without waking up the dragon. They should focus on their steps and their body moves. Ask them to feel how are their feelings and what they are aware about their steps and body movement. Afterwards also ask their feeling and thoughts to move away from this place. I did this exercise with my daughter, she was having so much fun and it was very nice to see her moving around quiet, carefully and concentrate.
Awareness of the sensations
Place the selected food on a plate in front of your child, e.g. raisin or chocolate. Take your child through the script below. Ask the questions like: what is its shape? What color has the food? What smell do you notice? What sensation you notice in your mouth as you look at the food? Pick up the food slowly and hold in your fingers and what does the food feel like in your hand? Bring the food slowly to your mouth. What does your mouth wants to do with it? Now bite into the food, how does it taste? Etc. Mindful eating requires you to be in the moment and to deliberately pay attention.
Awareness of the breathing
The breath exercises for the children should be shorter than for the adults. As children maybe not always feel attracted with the simple breath exercise there is variation to make it easier and funnier. For young children, an instruction to simply “pay attention to the breath” can be hard to follow. There is a game names “breathing buddy” exercise from Daniel Goleman: the child grabs a stuffed animal, and then lies down on his/her back with their buddy on their belly. They focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out.
The exercises above of the mindfulness for children are simple to apply and don’t take long time. Writing this paper gives me more opportunities to see what kind of methods and exercises we can apply for our daily life with our children who are growing up in such colorful but noisy world.
Karen E Hooker and Iris E Fodor: Teaching mindfulness to children
Greatergood.berkeley.edu: Three ways mindfulness reduces depression
www.huffingtonpost.com: 8 ways to teach mindfulness to kids
Susan Kaiser Greenland: The mindful child