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Today I’m honoured to be chatting with my good friend and work colleague Angela!
Angela and I have bonded over a shared interest in all things personal development, mindfulness and meditation. She’s also my meditation retreat buddy!
Angela is always full of good tips and advice. I particularly wanted to share with you her experience of the benefits of practising mindfulness with her 11-year-old son Jake.
I hope you enjoy our chat!
Can you tell us a bit about how you first discovered mindfulness and meditation?
I’ve been doing it for quite some time now so it’s a bit hard to remember! I think I first came across meditation during a yoga class. It was a Hatha yoga class and was a bit different to yoga I’d done in the past.
What, like standing on your head and things?!
Yes, it was a lot more gentle than that! It was more about breathing and mindful movement.
I learned more about meditation itself during the online mindfulness summit a few years ago.
I really enjoyed the summit too
It was good listening to all the different speakers and learning about different types of meditation to try out.
How would you say your meditation practice has evolved since?
I was a bit sporadic with it for a while!
I now try to be mindful on a daily basis. First thing in the morning, when I get out of bed I try to focus on my feet on the floor and how they feel.
It can be a bit challenging when I’m tired though!
Now we have the dog, I go out into the garden and try to listen to sounds without naming them.
That’s so hard to do!
I know, I’m like ‘I can hear birds singing’…oh damn, I named the birds!!
I find focusing on sounds relaxes me so quickly though, don’t you?
Definitely, it’s a really good way to be mindful as you can do it anywhere!
Do you mainly try to build mindfulness into your life or do your practice more ‘formally’ too?
I do guided meditations for ‘formal practice’ but again I’m a bit sporadic with it! If I’m meditating for more than a few minutes, I prefer a guided meditation so I use Insight Timer for that.
What are your favourite guided meditations?
I mainly use meditation for relaxation so I would say the body scan and breathing meditations. I did try one where you had to imagine you were a mountain but I found that a bit difficult!
Yes! I’ve tried that one too. I found the same thing, I couldn’t decide which bit of the mountain to be!
For me it was that I couldn’t settle on one mountain, I kept thinking of different ones!
There are so many different visualisation meditations aren’t there? I found the one where you had to imagine you were a tree easier.
The leaves on the stream one we did on one of the retreats was nice too.
We’ve chatted before about how helpful you’ve found mindfulness practice to be with your son Jake. Can you tell us a bit more about Jake?
Yes, Jake is now 11 years old and he has a sensory processing disorder and autism. Anxiety goes along with this.
He’s had a lot of issues with anxiety from being small. He can get very anxious and stressed about all kinds of everyday situations.
How did you start meditating with Jake?
We first started doing it when he was about 7 or 8. He has always been keen and enthusiastic to do it. We started off doing it for short periods and have gradually built up the time and he can now sit for about 20 minutes.
We had a CD called Sitting Still Like A Frog and also found a meditation called the Spaghetti Test.
What benefits have you and Jake found?
It definitely helps him to relax and to feel less anxious about things. We do it at night and it helps him (and me) to sleep.
Before, his anxiety was affecting him at school and would get so bad that he couldn’t sleep or eat. Things are much better now.
What tips would you give to anyone thinking of trying mindfulness with children?
I would suggest starting with short periods like we did. Do it together and make it fun.
Try different types of meditation and see what suits best.
Most importantly, don’t force the issue, be led by the child.
Another thing I do with Jake if he is becoming anxious is to get him to spot 5 things he can see, 5 things he can hear and 5 things he can feel. It helps to calm him and bring him back into the present.
Is there anything else you can recommend for parents who have a child on the autistic spectrum. (Or who think they may have?)
The first port of call is the child’s school who should be supporting. Also, check out what services are available in your local area. We were lucky to find Daisy Chain who have provided masses of help and support. There are similar organisations in other towns too.
Anything else you can tell us about?
I’m doing a bit of that too, how’s it going?
It does feel a bit weird at first and it’s quite hard to recognise the negative thought patterns in order to replace them with a positive!
I’ve found the same thing. I spent a week trying to work out what my limiting beliefs were!
Once you have them, the trick is to replace them with a positive message that’s relevant to you. Also to make sure you say it in the present tense.
So, how about the one we both do where we think we say stupid things?
You could replace that with something along the lines of ‘I’m smart and intelligent’.
And say it out loud in the mirror every morning?
I have, up to now, been a bit sceptical about affirmations to be honest, but I’m going to give it a try!
Thank you so much, Angela, for sharing your story of meditation and mindfulness with children with us. I’m sure readers of The Little Blog Of Positivity are going to find it useful.