My son Anton started preschool a few months ago and it’s been fun, exciting and difficult, too. There’s this one boy that has hurt him physically a few times and a girl who keeps saying all these mean things to him. I decided to try loving kindness practice to help him handle it.
The plan was to help him feel better about himself through self-kindness but something unexpected happened.
To be completely honest, I’ve grown tired of talking about all the mean things the girl keeps telling him. Things like:
you’re a troll,
your hair is ugly,
you can’t play with us because your eyes aren’t blue,
your clothes are ugly,
Having to repeatedly explain to my son that he’s beautiful and smart they way he is feels surreal. But I guess, if you get to hear comments like that on a regular basis you start to believe that the mean things are true.
Happy Pigs And Micki Fine To The Rescue
I had bought Micki Fine’s wonderful “May All People and Pigs Be Happy” book and thought it might help my son during the Christmas holidays. And it actually did help my son. It helped me, too. As a bonus we came up with a new simple way to send kind wishes as well. I’ll explain what happened first and then about the insight we got about loving kindness practice.
The way Micki’s book helped us both was this…
There’s this event in the book where Claire, the main character in the book, discovers that she can send kind wishes to people who make her upset. That it makes her feel better to think of those people with kindness.
So, the night when we read that passage I asked Anton if there was someone special he’d like to send kind loving wishes to at school. I had asked him the same question every night we read the book at bedtime. This time was different.
I thought he’d maybe choose a good friend again, but to my great surprise he chose the girl who keeps telling him awful things!
We had talked a few weeks earlier about the fact that people who hurt others often feel hurt inside, that they have their own difficulties and that the anger and meanness is often rooted in their own difficulties.
What happened was amazing!
Anton sent a bunch of loving kind wishes to the “mean” girl. He told me that she probably felt bad inside and that he wanted her to feel better. Wow! I felt so proud! And I figured out that I had some space to grow personally.
I decided to send kind wishes to the boy who had repeatedly hurt my son physically.
Now… to be honest it wasn’t easy for me. I guess there’s still a limit to my compassion when it comes to violence. I actually saw the boy push my son to the ground and smile once. So, devising those loving kind feelings was a big deal for me.
I knew, of course, that the violent boy wasn’t really at fault, but rather in need of help–and yet… it felt difficult. Yes, mindfulness teachers have their own awkward struggles, too.
I’m going to be completely transparent… and I’m not proud of this but… I had felt this irrational anger towards the boy, his parents and the school for enabling something like this.
I think the reason I got so triggered and angry in the first place is that I was bullied at school to the point that I almost died and I was afraid for my son. But now, the anger I had felt subsided even more. Something had changed inside of me.
So, Micki’s book and my son helped me open my heart a little more.
That night truly felt magical to me. I had learned another lesson and my son had shown how big his heart is.
Heart Over Brain
Now, after a few weeks of practice, I’ve learned to send kind wishes to people who get on my nerves with more ease.
Yes, it actually helps… maybe it’s about recognizing that they have the same needs as I do, or that love and kindness truly are stronger than anger. Perhaps it’s about cognitively associating positive feelings with the person.
I read that the magnetic field of the heart is 5000 times stronger than the brain’s and that activity in one person’s heart can be measured in the brain waves of another person. If that’s true then maybe my heart has the power to overrule my rather limited monkey mind!
Some researchers refer to the heart as the “little brain.” There are 40,000 sensory neurons relaying information to the brain from the heart, leading researchers to call the heart the “little brain” and to coin the field as neurocardiology. – Dr Joel Kahn, 7 Scientific Reasons You Should Listen To Your Heart (Not Your Brain)
I’m not exactly sure what it is, but loving kindness sure does help in many ways. Here’s a great article summing up studies on loving kindness meditation if you’re interested.
You can find Micki Fine’s heartful book “May All People and Pigs Be Happy” here on Amazon.
Micki Fine, MEd, LPC, is a kind and compassionate mindfulness teacher and the founder of Mindful Living in Houston, TX. Sending you lots of love Micki! Thank you for creating the book!!
Needless to say, I recommend it highly. I plan to interview Micki about the book and I’ll write more about Pigalina and Claire.
A Simple Child-Friendly Way to Practice Loving Kindness Meditation
I like to practice loving kindness by saying these phrases silently in my mind with the recipient in mind. Like this:
May You be happy.
May You be healthy and strong.
May You feel safe and loved.
Simple and easy, yet children might not always get it. In fact, it can be difficult to hold yourself or another person in mind while you say or think the phrases–at least when you start out.
Saying the phrases can easily become something you just repeat without the intent or connection to the other person. So, we came up with the idea to use names. Like this.
This is me sending kind wishes to myself:
I wish Chris to be happy.
I wish Chris to be healthy and strong.
I wish Chris to feel safe and loved.
Now I’m sending kind wishes to Anton:
I wish Anton to be happy.
I wish Anton to be healthy and strong.
I wish Anton to feel safe and loved.
Simple! Saying his name creates an instant image of him in my mind. And that’s why it feels so easy, the loving intent is connected to that image. Using names makes the connection clear and it can be helpful for children to use names for this reason.
To make it memorable and to help them focus… you can ask the children to hold their hands on the chest to make it a self-hug and to make it easier to focus on the heart. A more advanced version of sending kind wishes includes paying attention to the heart area and any related emotions as you do the practice. After some practice you just might feel a warm fuzzy loving feeling.
Anton was super happy to go to school today after the Christmas holidays. He asked if I thought the two kids would be mean to him today and I said that they most likely wouldn’t but that we knew it wasn’t personal if they did. We did a round of mindful breathing on the parking lot and off to school he went. He took his toboggan ( sled ) with him and tomorrow he’ll bring his cross country skis to preschool, too.
Okay, I’ll pick him up in a few hours…. but here’s one last thing:
Now… I’m sending you the reader loving kind wishes… because it makes me feel good and reading about it just might make you feel good, too.
I wish You reading this to be happy.
I wish You reading this to be healthy and strong.
I wish You reading this to feel safe and loved.
PS If you liked this activity and want to support my blog then you might want to get 150 playful mindfulness activities in my five-star rated best-selling book:
“The Most Important Mindfulness Book You’ll Ever Buy” – Helen Hudson
Wishing you many heartfelt moments with your children :-)
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
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