People of almost all faith traditions practice some form of meditation. Why? Meditation is a super power!
Light Watkins, says, “Common side effects of daily meditation are increased energy and feelings of contentedness and inner happiness.”
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to sit silently and empty your brain to meditate. Meditation can include any number of practices that help you strip away distraction and encounter your innermost being. This can start with something as simple as focusing your eyes for a period of time on some object like a bird or a flame, and when your thoughts start to wander, notice, and then return your attention to your focal point. You may be wondering how on earth that helps you encounter your inmost self, but do this enough and you’ll start to identify patterns in what’s tugging at your attention. When we hurry and scurry, distract and scroll, it’s possible for us to live any number of days without encountering ourselves. Meditation is a way to reconnect to what is present within us.
Start with Guided Meditation!
Guided meditation is a great starting point for children and new meditators alike. You don’t have to be an expert, or have studied some ancient practice. All you have to do is close your eyes and visualize what you’re hearing.
When my children were younger, we started every day with a guided meditation, often the one linked on the left. Those are my two older kids, about fifteen years ago when we had family meditation time every morning. It was a great way to settle and center before getting into the work of the day.
Try joining your kids for a guided meditation, and discussing the experience over breakfast!
Make a Calm Down Jar
Calm-down jars are a mesmerizing way to help our brains step out of a stressful moment and settle like glitter.
- 1/2 C hot water
- 1/2 C corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp glitter
- 1-4 drops dish soap
Mix water and corn syrup in the jar. Add glitter and shake. Dish soap will help the glitter clump less, but will also make it settle faster, so add a drop at a time and test before adding more.
Next time you’re stressed, give it a shake, and envision your feelings settling with the glitter.
Meditation Spaces Around the Valley
You can meditate absolutely anywhere but the Willamette Valley is rich with excellent places to help you flex your meditation muscles.
If the great outdoors is your thing, Starker Arts Park is a lovely place to sit for a nature meditation beside the pond and focus your attention on a dragonfly or the surface of the water. If you prefer gazing across the distance, Fitton Green is a delightfully short hike out to a bench that’s just perfect for observing the horizon and tracing the line where the sky meets the mountains.
Maybe insulated silence is more your jam. If so, check out the Grotto’s cliffside meditation chapel next time you’re in Portland. Pictured in the higher image on the left, it’s open to the public during operating hours and is a beautiful space for quiet contemplation in a warm and protected silence.
A little closer to home, you can enjoy a walking meditation in the Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan’s courtyard labyrinth, shown in the lower image to the left. This space is always open to the public, though during office hours, you’re likely to have an audience of church administrators. And while I haven’t seen it myself, I’m told there’s a second labyrinth that’s open to the public behind the cancer center near the hospital.
Homework for Caregivers
Just being with ourselves is getting harder and harder as the world fills with digital distractions and opportunities for immediate gratification. It’s easy to want better for our children than we demand for ourselves, but role models are the best teachers. If you’ve been particularly stressed, or self-medicating with social scrolling, try setting aside a mere five minutes a day to try on of the techniques above. Notice how you feel in your body before and after your five minutes. Once you’ve tried it yourself a few times, consider inviting your kids to join you. Tell them why you wanted to try meditating, and how it’s going, and see if they’d like to try with you.
Meditation might seem weird to your children at first, but many children feel a sense of inner control that is comforting to them after a very short amount of time developing their meditation muscles. When so much outside of ourselves seems big and scary, knowing that we can turn inward and trust ourselves can be a huge source of security for the smallest members of our families.