Book Reviews Mindful Charlotte Mason

THE guide for mindful parenting

I consider THE book on mindfulness as a parenting style and family lifestyle to be Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Having  purchased this book years ago, I read it in bits and pieces as time allowed. (One of my greatest luxuries since becoming a parent is the ability to read multiple chapters of a book in one sitting.)  It is well worth any time carved out from daily life to read and absorb.

This book is co-written by a well-known name to meditators: the founder of MBSR Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and author of other books on mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn.The authors raised three children, and it shows. The book is real and believable because there is no vision of perfection or idealism—just ways to be with your child/ren mindfully and aware.  And one of the best ways to raise mindful children is to model it, practice it and show it to them.

“Parenting is a mirror in which we get to see the best of ourselves and the worst.” (p. 29)  Oh, how this is true, in those moments when I’m not mindful and losing my cool…I sound like a beastly person. This book, and yoga and meditation have become something to use as much as I can (even though, let’s face it, every parent loses composure now and then).  This book teaches us creative ways to mindfully deal with the daily situations that arise in parenting (and homeschooling).  It also talks about the practice of meditation and how it changes us.

Here’s a long but lovely quote from the book that, I feel, eloquently captures the essence of the book and meditation:

“It turns out that ‘just walking’ or ‘just sitting’ isn’t so easy. You have to work at it, and this working at it is called ‘practice’ or ‘meditation practice.’ Meditation is simply working at being aware of each moment, no matter what you are doing, and not being carried away by your thoughts or feelings, whatever they are.  It is not about trying to change anything.  The point is just to be aware of this moment as you are experiencing it.  If you learn this when you are young and it becomes a way of life with you, it can have an incredible effect on your life for years and years and years, because it develops your deep inner capacity for being a wise and a loving, caring, happy and playful person.  (wow.) “We all have it, especially when we are young, but age and life can sometimes weigh on people to such an extent that they forget that they are miraculous beings, and they they have tremendous capacities for wisdom and compassion and creativity. (I so want my kiddo to have these capacities!) “Meditation practice is a way to keep yourself from ever forgetting this, and a way to develop WHO YOU ARE, fully, across the entire lifespan.”  (p.134-135).

Fellow parents and homeschoolers, to me, that paragraph is a battle cry for teaching ourselves mindfulness.  That heart-felt, heart-opening message is a rousing speech of the gift we can give our children that will serve them their entire lives.  If that paragraph were an infomercial, I would be dialing before they had time to tell me “but wait, there’s more.”  If it were a speech by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society, I would be standing on my desk and saying “Oh, Captain, My Captain.” Let’s remind our kids, and give them the ability to remember themselves, that they are wise and compassionate and creative and miraculous (but wait, there’s more!) and that they can live life as a loving, caring, happy and playful person.

What does that look like? We play at meditation.  A little every day, or as close as we can get to that.  And I do my practice, for myself, so I can try to model it as best I can. Because meditation and mindfulness aren’t about being perfect, or changing ourselves, or making ourselves better.  Just aware of the present moment.

I’d like to share a few of the Intentions of Mindful Parenting.  At the end of the book there is a section with 7 Intentions of Mindful Parenting, and 12 Exercises for Mindful Parenting.  If you are a bullet journal junkie, or if you have a vision board, one or all of these intentions could be a quality addition.  I put things like this on my refrigerator, so they are in the heart of the house and at the center of the activity.  They are an invaluable guide for a mindful parenting life and homeschool. The italics are mine. 🙂

Intention One: I will bring my entire creative genius to the work of mindful parenting. As homeschooling parents, we’ve usually got some experience with this one. Parents of kiddos with neurodiversity or challenges have TONS of experience with this one.

Intention Two: I will see parenting as a spiritual discipline, meaning that it provides me with every necessary opportunity to cultivate wisdom and openheartedness in myself, so that I may come to know and express my true nature and share what is best in me with my children and with the world.  Charlotte Mason also felt that children should get the best of their mothers, and mindfulness can be a powerful tool in making that happen.

Intention Three: I will cultivate mindfulness and discernment in my daily life, especially with my children, using an awareness of breathing to ground me in the present moment.

Upcoming blogs will focus on how to actually DO these first three, especially with kids.  My next blog will be a quick-start guide to meditating (alone or with kids) and then I’ll highlight resources to help incorporate it into a homeschool environment.

I cannot recommend more Everyday Blessings for parents and homeschoolers hoping to embrace mindfulness as a tool in the home and classroom.  I am not affiliated with any booksellers but I assume most will have it.  Here are the purchase details:  Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, Hyperion Publishers, New York, 1997.

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