WHATS THE ISSUE? How can you help your child to: become resilient, increase their concentration as well as their capacity for self-kindness? This special Mindfulness Exercise helps you achieve these goals. It’s led by Marina Kastrinaki. Marina is a Mindfulness expert and parent of two who works with parents, kids and schools. She teachers emotional well-being. In this interview, she shares a 3-step process for building your conscious resilience, so that you can lead by example.
MINDFULNESS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN
ELENI VARDAKI: What is mindfulness, and heartfulness? I mean, what are those concepts, and how do they connect or relate?
MARINA KASTRINAKI: First of all, I think there is a lot of definitions out there. For me the founder of all of this in as sense is John Kabat-Zinn, so I would steer people there, as a starting point.
I called my work Mind-Heart Breath, because I find those are the three elements, for me. The mindfulness is really the paying attention on purpose, as John Culberson says. Paying attention on purpose. Non-judgmentally, in the present moment. And the heartfulness side of things is bringing compassion and gratitude and kindness to the things that you do, to yourself. The connector between all of that is the breath, you know. That’s your anchor. That’s what really helps ground you.
How I approached the lessons that I teach to children – and I love to teach through game – children and adults, together. I love to teach the two together. Let’s say, in a room, where they can learn the practices and tools of mindfulness and heartfulness, in a fun way. I think it sticks better that way. This is innately inside all of us, from a young age. We kind of lose it, I think, along the way a bit. The child then, it kind of reinforces it, from the adult. They can take this home with them.
Or if it’s just an adult that I am teaching, I won’t just do games like I do with kids, but I will infuse, it so that they can take in the feeling of: “Well, this is something that I could do with my child, at some point”, if you feel ready. If you feel that you’ve kind of embodied it, somewhat, you know when the time is right.
MINDFUL PARENTING: WHY THIS MATTERS
It took me quite some time to be like, “Okay, I feel like I want to do something, here, with my child,” and when the moment arose, I didn’t know how I was going to do it.
How did it come up? It came up at night, before going to bed.
My child – my older son – he couldn’t sleep. He was nervous about something for the next day. And so we work through a tool that I had ready, because I had been doing it with myself, and it just came out naturally in that moment with him.
Another time was when he couldn’t deal with his anger.
He couldn’t calm himself down. He was super upset. That was another opportunity. These things arose organically. Nothing needs to be forced.
And I think, very importantly, that when we are practicing ourselves – because our children have these mirror neurons, and they are absorbing and they are watching our every single move. What we do. They’re absorbing, just naturally.
If you’re starting to practice this and put this into your life, it’s going rub off on them without you having to do anything.
A CALL FOR SELF-COMPASSION
ELENI VARDAKI: Would you be happy to share an example of how to do that, because I want to try it myself as well.
MARINA KASTRINAKI: Yes.
So what I’m going to do is I’m going to bring a Self-Compassion Exercise into today’s talk.
It’s not always clear what compassion might mean, as opposed to empathy. But compassion is where you can actually keep some distance, and you don’t get drawn in totally to the emotion, and sinking in there. And you begin to feel the same emotions the other person does. You can’t be of any help.
Compassion is, like: “Yes, I totally understand, and I feel what you are going through”…but you’re able to remain stable. This word, equanimity, is a great word.
This sort of, “I’m on neither end of the spectrum. I’m right there, in the middle, and just by being there, I can be of support to you”.
Self-compassion is super important, because before we can even begin to understand how we can give that to others, we really need to practice with ourselves.
And I think the best way to think about it is how would you treat a friend.
It’s basically treating yourself like you would treat a friend. We’re maybe not even aware of how often we don’t treat ourselves as we do a friend.
And the patterns of thoughts and the words that we use towards ourselves.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: STEP 1 (Soften)
MARINA KASTRINAKI: So I’m going to take you into a visualization – you’re going to pick your own visualization, in a moment.
Don’t pick something too difficult, or too emotional. I just want that as a heads up, because you want to start with something quite simple.
So first I would bring a hand to my heart, and I just bring the intention to your awareness and to your wholeness: “ I want to intentionally be kind to myself, as I go through this exercise.”
You don’t have to keep your hand on your heart. You can just relax. You can be sitting or you can be on a cushion on the ground, or in a chair. You just want to make sure that you are comfortable and your back is straight but not tense.
You can close your eyes and you can lower your gaze, whatever is best for you. And you are going to visualize a difficult situation.You’re going to go back and just sink into the story a little bit.
So I’ll just give you a moment to sort of think through something that moment which was slightly difficult.
Remembering the emotions that you felt. You’re looking to see what comes up, emotionally, to see if you can name those emotions.
And with gentle validation: “I see anger there’s anger. And I see fear. And some embarrassment”. Whatever those emotions are that you feel that you can remember, which were really kind of a part of that time.
Now see if you can find which of those emotions, if there are several, maybe there’s just one. But if there’s more than one, see if there is one that’s stronger than the rest. And then located it, and give it its name. See if you can find where you feel it in your body. So we’re going to bring this into the physical realm.
Can you find the point? Or is it something general? It could be that you feel heat all over your body or cold. Or there might be some point which is jagged or tight.
It might be in your stomach area, or it might be in your chest. And this is where we are going to soften.
So this whole exercise – I didn’t really say it at the beginning – it’s called: Soften Soothe and Allow.
So we are going to start with softening, and how do we do that?
Let’s find that place that’s in your body that feels tight or pulsing or stabbing.
See if you can soothe it with a balm of compassion, as you breathe. So you are going to breathe into that spot, that overall area, and imagining that this area is softening up as you breathe into it.
Another way I like to think of it is: Think of the boundaries becoming more permeable.
And repeat to yourself, gentle, again: “Soften. Soften. Soften.”
Check in and see if you feel that if it is a little less tight, a little less sharp.
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: STEP 2 (SoothE)
MARINA KASTRINAKI: Now bring some soothing words to yourself: “I’m here for you. This will pass. I am not alone.” Whatever works for you.
You can also use touch. You can put your hands on your heart, or you might put it on your stomach, or you might just hold your arms. Whatever feels comfortable.
And repeat the words: “Soothing. Soothing. Soothing. I am here. For you.”
MINDFULNESS EXERCISE: STEP 3 (ALLOW)
MARINA KASTRINAKI: Lastly, we’ll pass onto “Allowing”. You might find that it’s still feeling strong, the emotion, or it might have lessened.
Whatever it is that’s coming up, you know, “Why did I do that? I feel so useless.”
Whatever is coming up for you, just notice it and allow yourself to be who you are. Authentic. You don’t need to be anything or anywhere but here right now, as you are.
And again, lastly, “Allow…” (you can repeat the words, if it feels right to you) “…Allow. Allow. These things happen. I’m still here, and the world is still here. I am human. I am a part of the human condition. Common humanity.”
And again, lastly, you can put your hands somewhere soothing, and wish yourself: “May I…May I feel peace. May I feel healthy. May I feel happy.” Whatever it is that you would like to wish to yourself.
And with a nice big breath in, and out, you can slowly open your eyes.
And welcome back.
ELENI VARDAKI: Oh, lovely!
MARINA KASTRINAKI: How did you find that?
ELENI VARDAKI: It definitely helped soften a part that was kinda feeling, like “Oh, you know, there’s this thing that I wanted to do, and this thing, and this…”
And it’s like, “Actually, you know what, it’s okay”.
So yes, what came to me was like: “I’m doing enough”. You know? “ I’m doing what I can.”
And gratitude to you, at the end – for this activity, which helped me kind of ground myself, again.
MARINA KASTRINAKI: Thank you, that’s great. That’s really wonderful to hear.
You said those words – I mean, they really resound with me, and I think they do with most people: “ I am enough. This is enough. It’s okay. I’ve done what I could, today. I’ve done the best I could.”
ELENI VARDAKI: Yeah. So Marina, is there anything else that you’d like to add, before we wrap up?
MARINA KASTRINAKI: Something that came up for me that I would like to just say two words about, is this thing of not being alone.
I think so many of us feel very alone in the experience that we’re going through.
I am, for certain, one of those people that always feel like I have to do it all on my own. And I often do feel alone in my experience, and I have that wish, deep down, like, “I wish I could share this with someone, or do it with someone”.
So this is a huge part of the practice of self-compassion, which is realizing our common humanity (and I get shivers when I say that).
I can’t stress it enough that once we do begin to realize that, whatever it is that we’re going through, it’s something that somebody else is, at the same time, we could even, say going through. There’s somebody else in the world going through the same thing as you, right now, in this moment. And just knowing that you are actually sharing a lot of what you go through as a human being, with so many other human beings.
And even if we have Facebook and all of these social media that makes us looks like we are all having a fabulous time, and not going through any difficult moments – we do know that everybody goes through them, the ups and the down and everything.
So that’s one thing, and then coupled with that is how important I feel it is to ask for help if you are struggling.
We do get caught up in our egos, or we’ve learned these behaviours from our own families, you know, that we have to go along, and just figure it out.
But it’s okay to reach out you, know it? It might be something small, like “I need help with an essay”, or it might be “I’m really struggling with depression right now”, or whatever. If there’s something going on, find the right person and reach out.
Because there are always going to be people out there who are going to understand exactly what you’re going through.
ELENI VARDAKI: Thank you, Marina.