5 Lessons from the World's Best Mindfulness Teachers
There are thousands of wonderful meditation gurus and mindfulness teachers around the world. When picturing the best mindfulness guides you may call to mind Indian yoga philosophers or Tibetan monks... but what if I told you some of the greatest mindfulness teachers only JUST came into this world?
Women are incredible creatures. We are the very portal by which a soul enters into new life... yet it is children who teach us to rediscover life and its meaning. Though they're born little and nearly helpless physically, they hold such wisdom in their squishy little selves. Conjure up the feeling of holding a baby. This feeling has the power to slow down time for a moment and to make you appreciate each moment more. When gazing into their eyes it's like you're gazing into the entire Universe. You set aside your worries, your fears, and even your cell phone to enjoy the honor of being present in this moment. They guide you in slowing your breath and smiling gently with your entire self. You are holding a living reminder of how beautiful and miraculous life is.
Then, because time is the fleeting construct it is... they grow. Rapidly.
They turn into these semi-independent creatures with distinct personalities, quirks, and abilities. They explore life with bold excitement, stopping your entire day to take notice of the color of the sky or turning your mundane walks into a puddle splashing gigglefest. You're taught to see life around you as you once had, with wonder and awe. You accept the most beautiful bouquet you've ever been given... a bouquet of lawn proudly picked dandelions from a chubby-cheeked, yellow-nosed toddler. You pause, you play, and you are taught to rediscover the importance of both.
Babies and children share wisdom and love that flows directly from the Source. Their souls are pure, yet to be tampered with by the life experiences to come or the constructs of society. They've yet to be told who and what they SHOULD be, and simply express who and what they are. While the list is nearly endless, here are five lessons taught by the best mindfulness teachers:
1) Listen to and move your body intuitively
Watch a baby or young child as they first wake up. Often before their eyes are even open they strreeeeetch it out, bringing space between the vertebrae of their spine and lengthening out their limbs.
They listen to their body's needs and behave accordingly. The kiddos who are "fidgeting" in their classroom are often just listening to their innate need to MOVE! They stretch. They wiggle. They challenge their body to strengthen while testing their physical limits in order to grow their abilities.
When was the last time you danced in the grocery store when your favorite tune came on, or gave yourself time for a gigantic morning stretch? Whether you have a young child or not, take yourself to a nearby park or playground and allow your body to move in a way that feels fun to you!
2) Express your emotions authentically.
Much of our stress and anxiety comes from a lack of balance between what we say and do, and how we feel. Really consider that for a moment. The last situation that caused you stress... did your actions or words match how you felt about the situation, or were they out of sync? While their stage of self-expression varies developmentally from an infant's cry to a young child yelling their feelings concisely, they have not yet learned to be inauthentic. The phrase "kids say the darndest things" comes from their blatant (and sometimes painful) honesty. You rarely have to guess how a young one is feeling as they express it clearly whether or not we understand their reasons why.
3) You are perfectly enough, just as you are.
I recall our daughter looking in the mirror at age three and grinning with approval. She commented about how beautiful she was with her entire collection of headbands on her head and all down her arms, giving her shoulders a little happy dance. Imagine going through life with that kind of confidence and self-assurance. She didn't feel the need to adjust her mission in order to fit the mold of "acceptable" or "normal" within society. Instead, she loves herself just as she is, 27 headbands and all!
A toddler does not wait to perfect their dance moves, when music comes on they simply dance. A young child does not wait until their artistry rivals Picasso to pick up their crayon, they simply create. Let's try our best to be content with exactly who we are right now and love ourselves profusely for it.
4) Give yourself the gift of being present.
It often feels as though we're in a state of constant go. Our pockets hold the device that connects us with the rest of the world, and most of us have several more such devices in our home. When we're in constant "connection" that lacks true connection, we can lose the most important one of all... our connection with ourselves and those physically present with us. Step into a restaurant and you'll see the couple on their phones instead of engaged in conversation. At home, the parent checked out in front of the television as their child tries to get their attention with something they'd made. At a work meeting, a colleague scrolling social media instead of listening or participating. We worry about things yet to happen and stress about that which already has. It's easier than ever not to be present within our lives, with hours of distraction right at our fingertips. Children, however, are masters of living in the moment.
5) Take in the wonders of life around you.
Part of this mastery of mindfulness involves the skill of observation. Not simply noticing something and passing on by... truly allowing yourself a moment of gratitude and joy over the simple wonders of life. Take a walk with a young child and you'll find them stopping to jump in a puddle with delight, or noticing a tiny ladybug upon a blade of grass. They delight over the colors of a sunset or a cloud shaped like a bunny. Every hint at the change of seasons is miraculous and every new experience is something to celebrate.
We can enjoy being fully present and mindful in our lives by intentionally appreciating the miracle of life all around us. From intentionally taking a sip of tea and truly tasting it, to noticing the subtle change in weather, to expressing gratitude to these little mindfulness gurus in our own lives, may we live more present and joyful lives.
What other lessons about mindful living have your own mindfulness gurus taught you?