Swimming and sports as mindful movement meditation.

Conscious Daily Mindful Musings

My first love (as far as sports) is swimming. I began swimming competitively at about eight years old. It’s also how I met my husband. (Another story) Last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, not being able to swim was a mental and physical challenge. Regular walking, jogging, and mountain biking kept me sane and were daily movement meditations.

During the summer months, I love swimming outdoors. The Quail Ridge pool (local tennis and sports club) has been a sanctuary for many years. And this summer, when it closed about a month early due to mechanical issues, I have been swimming at the Taos Spa and Tennis Club. Starting next week, I’ll be moving to the Taos Youth and Family aquatic center; so grateful there are many swimming options in such a small town.

I’ve also enjoyed swimming in the Rio Grande, and have created a workout for myself by swimming upstream for a while and then coming back down to the John Dunn bridge aided by the current. Hoping to swim there for a few weeks more as the water gets progressively more chilly.

During this morning’s pool swim I was reciting mantras as a way to bring present moment awareness to movements while counting laps. (Lam, Vam, Ram, Yam, Ham, Om, + number of laps) and (May I be ….. based on first letter of the number of laps). Combining these two passions of swimming and meditation uses all the muscles of the body including the mind in a wholehearted and harmonious way.

Life is good in the present moment. May we be conscious and healthy as we move about our days. How can you bring mindful meditation to your daily activities?

Mindful FrontiersMindful Frontiers CommunitySAGE Institute for Creativity and Consciousness#meditation#movementmeditation#mindfulnesspractice#swimming#awareness#presentmomentawareness#presentmomentreminder#dailymeditation

Creating and Sustaining YOUR meditation practice: Meditation 101 – a 6-week course at Be Meditation.

Imagine this scene: You come home from work after a long day at work; tired and hungry. Walking in, you sense tension in the environment. Your first reaction is, “ugh, there goes my relaxing evening!” Then, you remember your mindfulness practice and take a couple deep breaths, feel your feet on the ground, hands at your side and notice your breathing in the body. This switches your attitude to one of curiosity and equanimity. When your partner rushes out of the bedroom with your screaming child in their arms, you smile, take a breath or two, remember self-compassion and conjure empathy for the situation. Your response is, “Hi there. I’m so glad to see you both. Can I join in the fun?” And the evening ends up filled with laughter and love. 

Mindful meditation is a practice with wide-spread benefits, including general relaxation, full-body rest, present moment awareness and emotional wellbeing. There are many types of meditation and while its history goes back many generations into ancient Asian cultures and spiritual traditions, meditation came to the US relatively recently: during the 20th century. Jon Kabat Zinn introduced Mindfulness meditation to medical center patients over 40 years ago. His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques have more recently taken hold for the general public. From its inception MBSR has spurred a mindfulness movement that is proving crucial to our spiritual and wellness transformation.

Being aware of the present moment by focusing on an attention anchor — sounds, sensations, or most commonly, the breath — is the fundamental principle of meditation. Learning to “be present” takes practice and is the foundation of mindfulness. Anyone can learn mindfulness meditation with curious intention and personal commitment. The beginner will find it easier to learn meditation with guidance from experienced teachers at a center such as Be Meditation. Creating and Sustaining YOUR meditation practice: Meditation 101, is an accessible way to learn meditation or renew a hibernating practice. The class will be held for six Thursdays (September 23, 30 and October 7, 14, 21, 28, 2021) at 8:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm PST and each class is 75 minutes.

We know the benefits of meditation and mindfulness; starting and sustaining a practice can be challenging. This 6-week course will give you the foundational skills to bring the powerful tools of meditation into your life in a meaningful way. Meditation is not one-size-fits-all, so we invite you to gather with like-minded people from all over the world and explore the many ways meditation can transform your life. And Inviting a friend to register with you adds a motivating and fun aspect to the course.

Why meditate? One reason is that meditation quiets the mind and settles the nervous system. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a bodily system that determines how we respond to emotional experiences. It is made up of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems. “These two systems are activated in times of arousal or recovery. Put simply, SNS activation leads to a “fight or flight” response, and PNS activation leads to a “rest and digest” response.” (Roxanna Salim, November 12th, 2019, Imotions.com). Although, as the name suggests, the ANS is automatic, we can stimulate the PNS response through meditation and deep breathing. By quieting the mind’s reactivity and calming down attachment to emotional thoughts, we settle fight, flight, freeze reactions, thereby stimulating relaxation which helps our body and mind come back to homeostasis.

Another reason is that through mindful awareness we learn about ourselves and our patterned reactions. By sitting in meditation and practicing present-moment awareness, we can pause and explore with curiosity and compassion, our internal and external environments. From this attitude of bearing witness, we learn to accept with equanimity what is going on right now in the present moment: the only time that reality actually happens. Practicing noticing what is going on in the present brings freedom of choice for how we respond to life’s experiences. Viktor Frankl famously wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. ” That freedom of response may be the most powerful reason to learn mindfulness meditation.

Although there are many meditation traditions, using breath awareness is ubiquitous to all styles. Some of the meditation practices that can help settle the nervous system include body scanning, sense awareness, mantras and breath practice. Using the breath as our attention anchor, we stimulate the vagus nerve (PNS) and move emotional responses away from the limbic brain to the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for logic and thinking. This may sound contradictory since many have heard that meditation involves “letting go of thinking”. Actually, this is a myth and one of the topics that students will learn about in this beginning meditation class. 

Topics of discussion will include how meditation affects the brain, loving kindness meditation, and using mantras and gratitude in mindfulness practice. Students will also learn how to set up a meditation space, and ways to bring mindfulness into their daily routine. Between each class, students will be encouraged to practice at home the skills learned in class. A central aspect of the course is Connection and participants will have the opportunity to share their learning with others in the class. 

Imagine this scene: You come home from a full day at work. Your partner and child greet you at the door with smiles on their faces. After putting down your things, the three of you settle down together for a family mindful moment before sharing the day’s adventures and then planning the rest of the evening together. Be Meditation is excited to welcome you to the life-changing practice of mindful meditation through this 6-week course. Registration is now open: https://www.union.fit/orgs/be-meditation

Sage Meditation Leader Program

Deepen your meditation practice or obtain credentials to teach meditation – See Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness page for more info on this well-rounded and complete 200-hour medtation leader program from which I am grateful to be a 2021 graduate.

Spotlight on Sage Graduates: Anne-Marie Emanuelli

Honored to be featured on Sage Institute’s graduate page

Anne-Marie Emanuelli is a 2021 graduate of the Sage Meditation Leader Program. She believes that mindful meditation is a holistic practice beneficial to human consciousness & personal growth. Her philosophy of wholehearted living includes the tenets that humans can learn from Nature, and that we are forever expanding our capacity for compassion and knowledge.

With a personal practice spanning over 20 years, Anne-Marie has been teaching mindfulness to children since 2016. Her credentials come from Mindful Schools and Sage Institute as well as an 8-week course in MBSR. She deepens her regular personal practice with silent & guided meditation retreats. Having retired from full-time classroom teaching in July 2020, she created Mindful Frontiers, an education-based meditation center in Taos, NM.

Mindful Frontiers welcomes a mindful future — one child, family, adult, educator, community —one present moment at a time. Anne-Marie teaches mindful meditation through Mindful Frontiers, Be Meditation and privately.

Testimonials

Life is a journey of struggle and blessings

A recent article published in Thrive Global as part of the Weekly Prompt series for Mother’s Day.

Article link

This poem was written for my mother over the span of many years; first as my Valentine’s Day gift in 2001 and culminating with the last couple stanzas for her funeral in 2010. It explains a journey of struggles and blessings and what her life taught me along the way.

A Life Come Full Circle

In your eyes I see the fullness of life;
a gathering of joys, challenges, disappointments
and mostly a life full of richness.

It began in French Morocco, exotic and rough;
learning Arabic at school a must;
"You aren't in your own country."

Your father, a military man,
taught his family honor, love, humility.
Your mother, a teacher, 
taught you manners, love and English.

You eyes in old photos show a life
joyful, honorable, protected;
surrounded by family, servants, Moroccan vistas.

Then war came like a lion 
and ripped apart your life forever
from a life of exotic panoramas,
family love and sheltered, elegant joys.

You came to the States with a husband;
the course was set for a life of challenge.
From a Casablanca wedding -- oh, so romantic, 
a honeymoon in the Atlas -- remember the mud?

In your eyes, somedays, I see the questions,
"What would my life have been
if I had not crossed the Atlantic?"

You accepted the challenge of travel:
Indiana, Ithaca, Minnesota, Pakistan, Iran;
the life of a war bride
based on honor and dignity.

Settling in New Mexico, your life came full circle;
destiny's course, so unpredictable; 
your life in a Moroccan adobe house; 
raising your family in a New Mexican adobe home.

And when your destiny left you, "a war casualty"
alone at 60, you say,
"Thank God he left me in Taos."

In your eyes, somedays I see
sunsets so familiar yet so exotic;
a familiar world that is no longer;
an accepted world that is forever.

Every day your eyes filled with panoramas;
a view never the same, yet so familiar.
Your French Moroccan dream that was,
became an American dream still living.

To your children, headstrong, you pass on 
your wisdom, your language, your way of seeing;
and though it was rough, I hope you'll see in my eyes,
great love and gratitude for all that you are to me.

Je préfère être une poire juteuse qu’un citron pressé.

Je t’aime, Maman.

Do What You Love, Share Openly and Abundance Will Follow

Openly sharing my passion for mindfulness led to unexpected abundance and friendship.

Sometimes abundance comes from just doing what you love and being wholeheartedly open. This is the lesson I learned last year after an unexpected encounter led to a generous donation to my meditation center.

Living in northern New Mexico is an enchanting lifestyle that requires acceptance and patience. This culturally and economically diverse area of the country attracts all sorts of people for its natural beauty as well as historic and cultural richness. One of the many benefits of living in this sparsely-populated area is our closeness to nature and the outdoors which translates into many opportunities for exercise outside. During the pandemic, this has been especially welcomed as the concept of “staying at home” extended into nature. Daily walks, jogs, bike rides or swims provided much-needed physical activity. During the summer months, swimming in an outdoor pool is my main daily exercise; soaking in sunshine as I move mindfully through water.

My dream for several years has been to teach mindfulness to elementary-aged children and their families.

Last summer, the outdoor pool opened in June with restricted access to lap swimming only. I was grateful to get back in the crisp and energizing water to exercise. Many regular lap swimmers met at the pool and though social distancing was enforced, we were able to enjoy friendly conversations and mutual support. One such encounter was particularly gratifying.

I met a couple visitors to our area who had decided to spend a month enjoying the enchantment of New Mexico. That month ended up being the entire summer as the pandemic intensified. Every morning we would say hello at the pool and we began having conversations that covered many interesting topics — a great way to balance physical and intellectual activity. At that time, I was looking towards retiring as a full time classroom teacher with the dream of starting an education-based meditation center called Mindful Frontiers. As my retirement date came closer and the business plan for my center more concrete, I shared my passion with these fellow swimmers. My dream for several years has been to teach mindfulness to elementary-aged children and their families. The vision is to welcome a mindful future — one child, family, educator — one present moment at a time. My dreams were openly listened to my these kindred swimmers as I opened up and shared my passion with them.

I felt so comfortable in our conversations that it seemed safe to be vulnerable about my dreams and aspirations.

Eventually, I was asked what I needed to really get my meditation center off the ground and of course financial backing was my answer. After all, I had plenty of time, energy and passion already. I felt so comfortable in our conversations that it seemed safe to be vulnerable about my dreams and aspirations.

As the summer came to a close an early cold snap shut down the pool a few days earlier than planned. Everyone bid each other a good end of summer and year ahead until we could meet up again in and around the pool. My new friends went back home after exchanging email addresses.

A month or so later, I received an email from one of the friends, asking how my business plans were going and with an offer of a donation. Within a few weeks, a gift arrived that provided the startup funds I needed to get Mindful Frontiers off the ground. I believe this gift was made possible by a willingness to be vulnerable, openly sharing my passion for mindfulness and believing in the vision of the endeavor.

Without this unexpected donation, Mindful Frontiers would have had a much slower start. I will forever be grateful for the auspicious encounter at the swimming pool that fueled a friendship framed by kindness and support. Because of allowing myself to be vulnerable and open, abundance was attracted into the open space of the heart.

Mindful Meditation Brings Hope in Times of Uncertainty

Contemplative and reflective practices are ways to welcome hope back into our life.

Mindful meditation is an insight practice in which a focus anchor is used. The breath, sounds, body sensations, and walking can all be used to anchor our awareness in the present-moment. Basically, that’s what mindful meditation is: bringing full attention to one thing (the attention anchor) in the present moment. By doing so repeatedly and routinely, the body and mind learn to relax and settle into the moment. We call meditation a practice because it takes repetition and commitment.

Just because someone “tried it once” and couldn’t settle their mind doesn’t mean we should give up on meditation. Like any healthy habit, we have to practice to achieve mastery.

All meditation styles use the breath as a concentration anchor. Counting breaths, following the breath through the four cycles (in, pause, out, pause), and simply being aware of the sensation of the breath going in and out of the body. The breath is used as a focus anchor because it is ubiquitous and we can either harness it or just be aware of its natural rhythm.

Other attention anchors would be sound, sensations, body scanning and eventually, open awareness which is where a meditator doesn’t use just one specific anchor. In this practice, we sit and welcome awareness of whatever comes along: investigating and appreciating thoughts, sensations in the body, and feelings / emotions, without attachment or engagement. Just being aware with equanimity and allowing present-moment awareness is a more advanced and freeing practice to which anyone can aspire.

Body scans are an effective way to release tension in the body and mind and are helpful for those who “can’t sit still.” Body scans use breathing and applied focus to release energy within the body in a systematic way. 

  1. The head to toe scan: This body scan takes the practitioner’s attention one area at a time starting with the crown of the head and ending with the toes. It should take about 20 minutes and can take even longer if the practitioner wishes. Starting at the top of the head, using breath and focus, attention is placed on the crown and then moved down the body.  With awareness, curiosity and mindfulness feelings or sensations are welcomed. As the body scan progresses, attention is placed one area at a time: the face, forehead, eye area, nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin. The same kind of breathing and focus is placed as attention is moved down the body:  back of head; shoulders; chest; mid back, hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet, ending with the toes. 
  2. The toe to head scan: This body scan is the same as #1 except for the direction of the focus. Starting with toes, attention and breath is directed upward through the legs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, back of head, face, crown. 
  3. Tensing and releasing body scan: This body scan can be effective at helping a person fall asleep as the body parts being focused on are tensed as breath is held and then released as the breath is expelled. The act of alternately tensing and releasing muscles is an effective way to encourage relaxation. 

With all these body scans, the key is to go slow and to keep the focus on using breath as an anchor of attention. The mind directs its attention to areas of the body while the breath encourages release of tension and relaxation. Body scans are very effective and can be done any time of the day, including to help induce sleep.

Another mindfulness practice for people who have a hard time sitting still is walking meditation.

In the Zen tradition, walking meditation begins with a very slow walk in which the breath is matched to footsteps. Breathing in when lifting the foot and breathing out when stepping down. After circling around a meditation room a few times, zen meditators generally walk more quickly for a few more rounds, allowing breathing to be natural and bringing the focus on the body. I have done walking meditation more casually during daily exercise walks by placing my awareness on the sensation of my feet on the ground, my breathing and my body.  I have also used sounds around me as anchors during the walk, or a mantra or song repeated over and over. 

There’s no easier time than right now to explore mindful meditation. During Covid19-pandemic social distancing and isolation, teachers from different meditation lineages are sharing guidance freely and generously. Even the Dalai Lama shares Buddhist teachings and spiritual rituals online. Additionally, there are many mobile apps that offer guided practices and my educational center, Mindful Frontiers, has a YouTube channel with videos for all levels and ages.

Mindful meditation guides us in navigating difficult experiences with calm introspection and balanced outward equanimity. Whether you’ve tried once and couldn’t sit still or you used to meditate and let the practice go, now is a wonderful opportunity to bring hope into our uncertain world. Start here and now; one breath at a time.

#weekly prompt— Published on March 3, 2021

Pandemic Fatigue? Transformation, a New Lifestyle and Raised Consciousness are Within Reach

Over the past year of social distancing, remote work and reconnecting with home, the practices that have improved my wellbeing are mindful meditation, physical exercise, and equanimity.

Welcoming a mindful future with strategies to raise consciousness and well-being
Welcoming a mindful future with strategies to raise consciousness and well-being

What in you needs transformation? The question was posed by one of my teachers, Caroline Myss, towards the beginning of pandemic social distancing and sheltering at home. I wrote the question on a piece of paper and laid it on my bedroom “altar”, unsure what would transpire over the span of the uncertain months ahead.

Reflecting over the past year, I am grateful for the changed lifestyle and expanded opportunities created by the pandemic. Strengthening family relationships, raising consciousness and creating a work environment that allows for a healthier way of life are the outcome. The transformation evolved through navigating fear, grief, and self-reflection; all the while building on practices that were ripe to germinate and grow.

Raising consciousness with mindful meditation

Mindful meditation is a practice of being aware of the present moment by focussing on an anchor such as the breath, body sensation or a mantra. Practices that contribute to an improved mental attitude and positive daily path for me are Metta (loving kindness) and Karuna (compassion). These are two of the Brahma Viharas that especially benefit us during times of stress. We combine these practices by using phrases, or mantras, whose sentiments are shared with ourselves, others and all beings. The phrases are: “may (I) you be well and safe; may (I) you be happy and at ease.”

During the pandemic, each day starts and ends with mindful meditation. Instead of rushing around to get ready for the commute to work, I sit on my cushion or bed and practice meditation. Sometimes, this is a solo activity while other days there’s the connection with a virtual group. Often, a meditation practice bookends the day with another virtual group gathering, a podcast or a meditation app session.

Mindful movement is a sanity break that expands the safety of home.

Another activity that contributes greatly to transformation is physical exercise. During this year of pandemic uncertainty, exercise has been a sanity break that was renamed “mindful movement”. Every day I spend about an hour engaged in walking, biking, swimming, yoga, or calisthenics. Other than staying in good physical shape, these sanity breaks provide important times of self-reflection and growth. Some days I listen to podcasts by wise ones whose words of wisdom and perspective help me work through anxiety, boredom, uncertainty.  

Pre-pandemic physical exercise was stuffed into the day between classroom obligations, at lunch or early in the morning. Remote work has transformed the idea of “home” to include the outdoors as an extension of that safe space. Mindful movement allows for planning time, phone calls, and self-care in the outdoor meeting space of nature.

Equanimity is an awareness that transforms relationships.

A person who goes with the flow of life shows us that a key to being happy is to stay grounded in life’s experiences. Equanimity is the trait in which a person is able to coexist with the world in a balanced, and non-reactive way.  

Reconnecting with family during the pandemic has strengthened relationships. Our family trio consists of my husband, teenage daughter, a cat and me. We all coexist within a 1500 sq ft home and at any given moment, we are each in a separate room working, learning, and creating or all together in the living room or dining room sharing thoughts, concerns and experiences. Evidently, there are times when we get on each other’s nerves and the home feels really tiny. This is where equanimity comes in.

Equanimity can be nurtured through the practice of mindful meditation. After developing basic concentration skills using meditation and releasing thoughts, a person gradually is able to stay present in the moment and not overreact to daily stimulus. Surely, it takes practice and patience to be equanimous and it is a trait that can be nurtured at any age.

Through equanimity, the daily grind of pandemic fatigue is transformed. During a meditation retreat with another of my teachers, Oren Jay Sofer, I learned that grief and the heaviness of uncertainty can teach us to find renewed strength. Using equanimity, that which we can’t control is acknowledged and allowed to transform into love and compassion. Consequently, equanimity grows relationships when we learn to accept each experience without overreacting.

During the pandemic, we have the opportunity to transform fatigue, grief and anxiety into opportunities to raise our consciousness and strengthen relationships. Mindful meditation, physical exercise and equanimity are well-rounded practices that can alter the course of a person’s life towards a more balanced existence, both mentally and physically. Whether one practices these for three months or three years, the benefits are long lasting.

#Weekly Prompt— Published on February 21, 2021

Mindful Meditation Can Reconnect Families

A pre-bedtime meditation routine for families is a beautiful way to finish off the day.

A fun and effective pre-bedtime meditation is the “Body Scan”. Children of any age can practice the following body scans. It would be helpful at first for the parent to provide guidance until such a time when the child is confident enough to do the guidance for the group or silently for themself.

  1. The head to toe scan: This body scan takes the practitioner’s attention one area at a time starting with the crown of the head and ending with the toes. It should take about 20 minutes and can take even longer if the practitioner wishes. Starting at the top of the head, using breath and focus, attention is placed on the crown and then moved down the body.  With awareness, curiosity and mindfulness feelings or sensations are welcomed. As the body scan progresses, attention is placed one area at a time: the face, forehead, eye area, nose, cheeks, mouth, and chin. The same kind of breathing and focus is placed as attention is moved down the body:  back of head; shoulders; chest; mid back, hips, thighs, knees, calves, ankles and feet, ending with the toes. 
  2. The toe to head scan: This body scan is the same as #1 except for the direction of the focus. Starting with toes, attention and breath is directed upward through the legs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, back of head, face, crown. 
  3. Tensing and releasing body scan: This body scan can be effective at helping a person fall asleep as the body parts being focused on are tensed as breath is held and then released as the breath is expelled. The act of alternately tensing and releasing muscles is an effective way to encourage relaxation. 

With all of these body scans, the key is to go slow and to keep the focus on using breath as an anchor of attention. The mind directs its attention to the body parts while the breath connects with these parts and encourages release of tension and relaxation. The reason body scans can release and relax is because in meditation, we use the breath as our anchor of attention. As our focus is directed, so does the breath and between attention and breath, the formula leads to relaxation through mindfulness of intention.

The article that follows explains more in detail the kinds of meditation as well as specifics according to age. 

How to teach children meditation: The attention span of a child is much shorter so we do shorter meditation practices. Also, the brain of a child is not yet developed in the frontal cortex area where focus and attention and emotional regulation takes place. When teaching children meditation, directions need to be very simple and imaginative. Since breath awareness is the most basic mindfulness practice, it is where meditation we start instructions for any level of practice. When teaching breath awareness to young meditators, we explain that the breath in the belly is similar to a balloon that is inflated when we breathe in and deflated on the exhale. Using a visual anchor is easier for young children to grasp. Also, young meditators are more likely to feel the breath in their belly than in the other anchor areas such as the chest or the nostrils. In my years of teaching mindfulness in classrooms most students enjoy sitting and focussing on the breath. It’s the first anchor that is taught although it is something they most likely have never done and they enjoy using their imagination as well as the resulting relaxation. Focusing on the inhale and exhale of the breath allows young meditators to get in touch with physical sensations which they may not have ever considered. Closing eyes is optional with young children and at-risk populations and I’ve found that hyper-active children do better lying down than sitting up. With young children and elementary-age students, we start with 1 minute and work towards 5 minutes of meditation.

The benefits of mindfulness for kids: This is where I am especially passionate! Mindful Frontiers, whose mission is to teach meditation skills to families with young children encourages them to incorporate mindfulness into their family’s daily routine. By teaching meditation to young children, meditation teachers believe this stress-reduction skill will be implanted in their brains early and as they grow and mature they will always be able to go back to it in times of stress. It’s a social-emotional learning skill that has long-term benefits. For example, even if a young person lets meditation go during adolescence as they pursue independence and autonomy, someday when they find themselves in a stressful situation, they can remember that as a child they learned this relaxation skill called mindful awareness and they can pick it back up. I would even say that a stressed out teenager who is thinking of suicide or, worse, using a gun to let off anxiety, would remember what it felt to meditate and decide to do that instead. Doing so would save lives!

Specific considerations by age: Toddlers and preschool age kids can listen to a bell / chime and focus on the sound from start to end. This age can also listen to sounds around them, gaze intently at an object, dance mindfully around a classroom. For breath focus, they can notice their belly inflate and deflate with the breath. With practice, a toddler could sit for a minute in silence. 

Older children (elementary school age) can learn to focus on their breath, listen to a bell/chime as well as listen to sounds as meditation anchors just as the younger children. The difference would be the length of time this age could aspire to sitting still. I would start with 1 minute of silent and guided meditation and work up to 3 minutes in about a week and then try to get to 5 minutes within a month. (Mindful Frontiers has  videos on the meditation page targeting this age group). 

Middle-school age and high school age is interesting. The brain of an adolescent is particularly active and believe it or not, the prefrontal cortex is developing at such a fast pace that it is as if they are toddlers again! The same kind of practice is done with this age group. What is different is that I start out with a story, a poem, or a video and then move on to the actual meditation practice. 

— Published February 21, 2021 on Thrive Global

Meditating Together as a Family Welcomes a Mindful Future

Mindful Frontiers’ mission is to welcome a mindful future — one child, family, adult, community — and one present-moment at a time. Bringing mindful meditation into a family’ routine is one way to welcome a mindful future. I believe this would transform our world into a kinder, more compassionate, and accepting existence.

Mindful meditation is a practice with wide-spread benefits, including general relaxation as well as encouraging full-body rest. The generally accepted definition of mindful meditation is paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, and with focused attention.

  • Being aware of the present moment by focusing on an attention anchor — sounds, sensations, or most commonly, the breath — is the fundamental principle of meditation.
  • Being aware of the present moment and practicing over and over trains the mind and body to relax into stillness. Meditation is called a practice because it takes time and repetition to master.

Although there are many kinds of meditation traditions, breath awareness is the most common.

  • There are many meditation practices that can help settle the nervous system, including sense awareness, body scanning, and breath practice.
  • The most basic is breath awareness. Our breath has four parts: in-breath, pause-in, out-breath, pause-out. Each part is a space of present-moment stillness, especially the pauses which bring deep relaxation to the body and mind.

Meditation quiets the mind and settles the nervous system.

  • The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a bodily system that determines how we respond to emotional experiences. It is made up of the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems.
  • “These two systems are activated in times of arousal or recovery. Put simply, SNS activation leads to a “fight or flight” response, and PNS activation leads to a “rest and digest” response.” (Roxanna Salim, November 12th, 2019, Imotions.com)
  • Although, as the name suggests, the ANS is automatic, we can stimulate the PNS response through meditation and deep breathing. By quieting the mind’s reactivity and calming down our attachment to emotional thoughts, we settle the fight or flight reactions of the SNS, thereby stimulating the PNS which helps our body and mind come back to homeostasis.

People are often attracted to meditation because of a need for emotional, spiritual or physical healing. Once a person starts meditating, they generally realize the benefits extend far beyond a healing practice. It becomes a state of being and a lifestyle choice.

Whether it is to get through a difficult illness, grief of losing a loved one, or simply to carve out a daily moment of non-doing, everyone can benefit from meditation. The benefits are plentiful and scientifically proven. A few of these include the ability to stay calm during emotional experiences, to be less reactive to behaviors, to listen more carefully to conversations, and to have compassion and empathy for self and others. There’s also the spiritual benefit of sangha that comes from practicing meditation with others, whether in a monastery or a virtual community of meditators.

Mindful Frontiers’ vision is to teach meditation skills to families to encourage them to incorporate mindfulness into their family’s daily routine.

“Mindfulness instruction for youth is a worthwhile cause to embrace which I believe would have a positive impact on our world. By teaching families with young children the benefits of meditation and present moment awareness, the skills learned and incorporated into their daily life would have long-lasting impact”.

The goals for teaching young people and their families meditation are to:

  • Teach families how present-moment mindfulness awareness can bring relaxation and social-emotional wellbeing into their home.
  • Explain that they aren’t judged by their thoughts, sensations, and feelings.
  • Show by example that mindfulness is a way to feel good about yourself, just as we are, in this moment.
  • Model what it looks like to be confident yet relaxed; to be happy and at ease while accepting that life is never perfect.

How old is “old enough” to teach children mindfulness, meditation, contemplation of self in the moment? Surely, the very young can sit and color a mandala, walk a labyrinth and follow a finger labyrinth. Eventually, each child could learn to focus on breath, bodily sensations, internal feelings and as a result, benefit from a practice that would last a lifetime.

The Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” This quote reminds methat teaching mindful meditation and compassionate awareness to youth are ways to encourage a kinder future.

The benefits of mindfulness for children and youth.

By teaching meditation to young children, stress-reduction skills will be implanted in their brains early and as they grow and mature they will always be able to go back to meditation in times of stress. It’s a social-emotional learning skill that has long-term benefits.

For example, even if a young person lets meditation go during adolescence as they pursue independence and autonomy, someday when they find themselves in a stressful situation, they can remember that as a child they learned this relaxation skill called mindful awareness and they can pick it back up. I would even say that a stressed out teenager who is thinking of suicide or, worse, using a gun to deal with anxiety, would remember what it felt to meditate and decide to do that instead. Doing so would save lives!

Toddlers and preschool age kids can listen to a bell / chime and focus on the sound from start to end. This age can also listen to sounds around them, gaze intently at an object, dance mindfully and joyfully around a classroom. For breath focus, they can notice their belly inflate and deflate with the breath. With practice, a toddler could sit for a minute in silence.

Elementary school age children can learn to focus on their breath, listen to a bell as well as listen to sounds as meditation anchors just as the younger children. The difference would be the length of time this age could aspire to sitting still. I would start with 1 minute of silent and guided meditation and work up to 3 minutes in about a week and then try to get to 5 minutes within a month.

Middle-school age and high school age is an interesting time of life. The brain of an adolescent is particularly active and believe it or not, the prefrontal cortex is developing at such a fast pace that it is as if they were toddlers again! The same kind of practice is done with this age group as with younger children. What is different is that I start out with a story, a poem, or a video and then move on to the actual meditation practice. Also, bringing relevance to the reason for learning meditation is important for adolescents.

Families that meditate together, stay calm together!

The idea that families with children can learn mindful meditation together is really inspiring and Mindful Frontiers was created with this particular demographics in mind. We offer meditation online courses, guided meditation videos, live meditation circles and a Mindfulness in the Classroom program. Furthermore, families can sign up for private coaching which would be a personalized way to bring meditation in to the home.

The image that inspires me is a family sitting comfortably and relaxed in the living room or around a table. A meditation teacher is guiding the family through a breath awareness practice (virtually, online or eventually in-home). Each family member is practicing together and supporting each other. After ten to fifteen minutes, they open their eyes, settle back in to the moment and then go about the rest of their day. Over time, this activity would be an integral part of the family’s routine and something each member looks forward to. It would build and nurture healthy relationships as well.

There’s no better time than right now to explore mindful meditation. During pandemic-related social distancing and isolation, teachers from different meditation lineages are sharing guidance freely and generously. These practices guide us in navigating difficult experiences with calm introspection and balanced outward equanimity.

May all beings be happy;

May all beings be safe;

May all beings be healthy;

May all beings be at ease.

Mindful Frontiers can be reached at MindfulFrontiers.net. We offer guided meditation videos, courses, live sits and personal coaching.

Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience to welcome a mindful future. Mindful Frontiers is an mindfulness education center located in Taos, NM, USA that offers mindful meditation guidance and instruction to families with children; as well as parents, adults and teachers who are seeking self-care options.

Semi-retired after 25 years as a classroom educator, Anne-Marie’s mindfulness credentials include certificates from Mindful Schools and a 200-hour meditation leadership program with Sage Institute for Creativity and Consciousness. Ms. Emanuelli also participates in online meditation retreats, workshops and classes to support her personal practice. Anne-Marie Emanuelli – Mindful Frontiers

Creative director and teacher, Anne-Marie Emanuelli, brings over two decades of meditation experience. She is Creative Director at Mindful Fontiers.

Lace Up Your Walking Shoes

Walking for fitness naturally helps you manage blood pressure and weight. It also helps reduce stress and releases feel-good endorphins. In other words, walking is a major mood-booster.

“Without physical exercise, I can get pretty grumpy,” says Anne-Marie Emanuelli. She’s the founder of Mindful Frontiers, a center for mindfulness and meditation in El Prado, New Mexico. Emanuelli attributes her calm, reflective mind to her habit of regular walks, jogs and bike rides.

Lace Up Your Walking Shoes

“When I exercise outdoors, it is an active reflection time to work out personal and work-related issues as well as tuning in to my body and mind,” says Emanuelli. She has worked out many issues with friends and colleagues during long walks in the countryside. “Usually, by the time I get back home, issues have been worked out and I feel much better.”

If you’re not used to walking regularly, try starting small with the Mayo Clinic’s 12-week walking schedule. It starts out at 15 minutes per session the first week. It helps you build up to 40 minutes of walking by week 12.

Excerpt from Embrace These 5 Mental Wellness Habits to Start the New Year Off Right The Hartford Extra Mile (December 15, 2020)