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Teaching Mindfulness to Children Hooker and Fodor 2008

Teaching Mindfulness to Children Hooker and Fodor 2008

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75
© 2008 Gestalt Intl Study Center 
Gestalt Review, 12(1):75-91, 2008
 
TEACHING MINDFULNESS TO CHILDREN
KAREN E. hooKER, PSY.D. &IRIS E. FoDoR, Ph.D.
ABSTRACT
Mindfulness, wic features fcused awareness training, is increasing in ppularity amng mental ealt prfessinals. Mindfulness training em- pasizes fcused attentin t internal and external experiences in te pres-ent mment f time, witut judgment. Wile mindfulness interventinsave been used in treatments fr stress, crnic pain, anxiety, depressin, brderline persnality disrder, eating disrders, and addictin, researcers
suggest that this type of training also can be benecial in everyday life.
Karen hker, Psy.D. is a Clinical Cild and Adlescent Psyclgistat Kings Cunty hspital Center in Brklyn, New Yrk. Se is als a
certied School Psychologist and previously worked in a New York City
 public scl.Iris Fdr, P.D. is a Prfessr in te Scl Psyclgy Prgram,Department f Applied Psyclgy at New Yrk University, a psycterapist, and a Gestalt trainer. Se as cnducted wrksps andwritten abut te integratin f Gestalt and Cgnitive terapy, anxietydisrders, bdy image, and mindfulness.Sara Tman, P.D. served as actin editr n tis article.
 
76TEAChING MINDFULLNESS To ChILDRENMst researc and writing n mindfulness training as been abut adults. Intis paper, te autrs argue fr adapting mindfulness tecniques fr wrk wit cildren. Te autrs prpse tat training in mindfulness as te ptential t enance cildren’s attentin and fcus, and imprve memry,
self-acceptance, self-management skills, and self-understanding. Specic
exercises t teac cildren t be mindful are presented in prgressin, be-ginning wit awareness f te external envirnment, ten awareness f te
self in the environment, awareness of the body, and nally, mindfulness
meditatin exercises tat feature attending t cgnitive prcesses. Sugges-tins are made fr incrprating mindfulness int scl curricula.
INTRODUCTION
Watever yu are ding, ask yurself, “Wat’s te state f my mind?” – Dalai Lama, 1999
h
ave yu ever arrived at wrk, nly t realize tat yu d nt remember anyscenery r landmarks during yur drive? At te end f yur swer, ave yuever realized tat yu are nt sure weter yu wased yur air? or mreimprtant, tink back t yur last cnversatin wit a lved ne: D yu remember tedetails f wat yu talked abut? Fr many, tese examples igligt te fact tat welive muc f ur days in autmatic-pilt mde. We ave ur rutines at me and atwrk, and we g trug te mtins, nt truly paying attentin t wat we are ding.our minds wander elsewere, and we end up eating witut tasting, lking witutseeing, and talking witut knwing wat we are saying.human beings are blessed wit te ability t tink abut te past, present, and fu-ture. We spend time tinking abut te past: yesterday’s meeting at wrk, last week’sargument wit a friend, r even mre fndly abut a appy memry frm years ag.We als spend time tinking abut te future: wrrying abut tmrrw’s presentatin,making a mental list f wat t buy at te grcery stre tnigt, r, mre favrably,tinking abut an upcming vacatin r an evening ut wit friends. Yet, many f us
do not spend a signicant amount of time thinking about the present.Stop for a moment and reect on the following questions: Have you been paying
attentin t te rm yu are in? Wat is te temperature? hw des it smell? Watare yu sitting n? Is it cmfrtable? And yur bdy: D yu ave any aces r pains?Are yur muscles tigt r relaxed? Is yur stmac pleasantly full r is it painfullyempty? Tere are many tings ging n rigt nw, suc as stimuli surrunding yuin yur immediate envirnment, sensatins in yur bdy, and tugts and feelings inyur mind f wic yu prbably were nt cnsciusly aware.Adults are nt te nly nes aving tis experience. Cildren can als mve trugteir days n autmatic pilt. It is true tat cildren can be mre fcused n te pres-ent tan adults. Tey fcus intently n a game r an enjyable activity wit friends.Tey feel teir emtins immediately, reacting t a current situatin, even if tey ave
 
77KAREN hooKER AND IRIS FoDoR 
difculty identifying or verbalizing those feelings. However, children also live in a
wrld f being tld wat t d: wat time t wake up, wat time t g t scl, wt d eac activity wile at scl, and s n. Teir lack f agency may lead t gingtrug te mtins f teir daily tasks witut cnscius awareness f wat tey areding. Ask a cild wat e r se ate fr dinner last nigt. Yu may be surprised tattey may nt remember. Tis is nt simply wing t a pr memry, but mre likelytat tey were nt paying attentin at te time. Tey ate wat was put in frnt f tem, peraps befre rusing ff t watc a favrite televisin sw, r just after arrivingme frm sccer practice.
What is Mindfulness?
If yu want t be appy, be. – henry David TreauWe can teac cildren t begin t pay attentin t tse tings in te present m-ment tat tey never nticed befre trug a prcess called mindfulness. Mindfulness
is dened as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the
 present mment, and nnjudgmentally t te unflding f experiences mment by
moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). The rst part of this denition expresses the idea
tat mindfulness is an active prcess; it invlves active attentin wic leads t aware-
ness. The second part of the denition highlights that it regards the present, rather than
te past r future. Te tird part empasizes tat te attentin is nnjudgmental andaccepting, witut tinking tat te experience f te present mment is gd r bad,rigt r wrng, imprtant r nt. It invlves attending t te external envirnmentsuc as sigts, sunds, and smells, as well as t internal bdily sensatins, tugts,and feelings. In practicing mindfulness, ne becmes aware f te current internal andexternal experiences, bserves tem carefully, accepts tem, and allws tem t be letg f in rder t attend t anter present mment experience.
Origins of Mindfulness
Te nly jurney is te jurney witin.– Rainer Maria RilkeMindfulness as its rigins in te Buddist traditin, trug Eastern practices f meditatin. It is ften learned and practiced trug meditatin exercises. hwever,mindfulness suld nt be cnfused wit meditatin. Te gal is nt t acieve aiger state f cnsciusness r t distance neself frm te present experience, butrater t ave an increased awareness f te present mment. T igligt wit anexample, ne frm f meditatin is meditatin using a mantra, in wic te fcus ist be aware f te canting f a syllable r prase, and nly n te canting (LeSan,1974). In cntrast, te fcus f a mindfulness meditatin is t be aware f and bservete cnstantly canging internal and external stimuli (Baer, 2003). Mindfulness als

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