“Why is June going so fast?!? It needs to slow down!” my seven-year-old shouted, worried that summer break was slipping through her pink-tipped fingers. I had to smile at her being so aware of time and its preciousness. Usually she’s the one counting down months, not days, to her birthday and planning her Halloween costume in the spring, trying to hurry the calendar.
But because of my work in the mindfulness arena, I’ve tried to create a family culture that values our time together and points all four of us in the direction of peace. So here’s my formula:
PRESENCE + GRATITUDE = PEACE
It all starts here. If we don’t notice our moments, we aren’t fully living. Think of it like this: Moments are the building blocks of a day, days form into years, years make up a life. If you believe your time on earth is precious, embrace the moments. The alternative is regret (notice this isn’t part of the equation).
Ways to Incorporate:
a. During mealtime, everyone focuses on their senses and shares one thing that they’re experiencing right now. (Kids sometimes go the disgusting or hilarious route, like “I smell my boogers,” but this just cements the practice even more!)
b. On a walk or drive, each person points out something they’ve never noticed before.
c. Look people in the eye and listen fully (for more listening tips, check out this past blog entry “Huh? Four Essentials for Every Aspiring Listener’s Toolkit”).
Now that we’ve been paying attention, we actually know the abundance of goodness in our lives, so a big “thank you” is called for. When you include this part of the equation, you’ll discover that gratitude, joy, and love are all interwoven.
Ways to Incorporate:
a. During Valentine’s season, I found stickers that said “I love you because _________” and my family and I filled them out for each other. Try this with “I’m grateful for you because _____________”.
b. In my Wee Bold Souls program, the kids send Pumpkin (an adorable stuffed turkey) flying around the room; whoever catches him says one thing about the present moment that they’re grateful for. This is tricky because our default is to say “family” or “friends”, but see what other goodies—right here, right now—deserve your gratitude.
3) Peace Release
Once you’ve added equal parts presence and gratitude, you create peace. And that’s when it’s time to let go of the moment. You can put it on your memory shelf for safekeeping, but it’s not meant to be a place you dwell in for long stretches. It’s kind of like play-dough—we enjoy smooshing it and appreciate our colorful creations but when we’re done it’s time to disassemble the sculptures, putting each color back into its container. If we try to hold onto just one molded rainbow caterpillar until tomorrow, we’re left with a hard, crumbly mess.
4) Challenging Times
This formula absolutely works for difficult times, too. So if presence is bringing up some unpleasant sensations, just go with it. Feel it fully. Like I tell my kids, it’s alright to feel every kind of feeling. Just remember to then add in the gratitude.
Because remember how gratitude, love, and joy are connected? Regardless of the situation in which you’re expressing it, finding even one tiny thing to be grateful for releases love and joy within us. And this may let in just enough of the good stuff to tip the scale toward the positive, allowing us to begin seeing purpose in the moment.
So as your summer break marches along, make sure you’re steering it toward peace. One little equation is all you need, and lucky for you, it’s not the one in the picture.
How do you plan to create more peace in your life? Leave a comment below!