Mallika Chopra Explores Why Mindful Meditation Is Beneficial for Our Kids
(The following is an excerpt from “Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More,” Mallika Chopra’s new fun and accessible how-to book on mindfulness and meditation for kids. We encourage you to share the below lessons with your children and also consider how you can implement them into your own life.
Understanding Your Brain and Your Body
Let’s take a moment and understand how your brain and body react to stress.
Thousands of years ago, humans had to survive with little shelter and to protect themselves against wild animals and extreme weather. When early humans were confronted with dangerous situations, their bodies and brains went into survival mode.
So, say you, as an early human, came across an angry tiger! Your body would immediately get ready to fight or run away! This is called the fight-or-flight response.
Your brain, sensing danger, would make your heart beat faster, send more blood to your muscles, and tell you to breathe faster so that you would have the strength and energy to escape or fight! Once you had dealt with the situation, your body and brain would return to normal, and you then would rest to recover.
Or, if you were really scared, perhaps you would just freeze, and well then, you would really be in trouble. You would hold your breath and your body would shake with fear.
Fast-forward to today. Most of us are not in the wild, fighting angry tigers. Danger may not seem as dramatic, but your body and brain still react in this same way. When someone is mean to you on the playground, when you don’t know how to solve a math problem, or when your parents are fighting, you still may feel vulnerable. And so your brain may react by sending the chemicals to the body to fight off the situation or to just freeze. This creates a sense of stress and tension, and even though inside you may feel that it’s dangerous, it is not as real as fighting a wild tiger. But your body doesn’t realize that! It reacts the same way as it would in that situation. And often you don’t take the time to let your body and brain recover after the “danger” has gone away.
Instead of just letting your brain react automatically to a situation—like that fight-or-flight or freeze reaction—you can help your brain take a pause and react smarter and calmer, and then come up with better solutions to handling difficult situations.
If you know how to deal with stress, then when someone calls you a bad name, or when you feel you have too much homework, or when you are left out of a group situation, you won’t automatically get upset or depressed. You know, instead, that you can access that safe, happy place to make a better plan. And you don’t let the stress build up! Instead, you give your brain and body time to rest and recover, and to stay strong.
How Meditation Can Help You
Meditation teaches your brain how to stay calm in stressful situations. It helps you find that quiet, safe, and happy place inside yourself and to get to it whenever you need it.
This is how meditation works: Your mind is usually racing with thoughts. One thought makes you think another thought, which makes you think another thought. When you meditate, you slow down racing thoughts. You create more peace inside. You realize that you can control your reactions or choose your next thoughts.
Meditation helps you pause.
So when you are in a panicked situation, as long as you don’t have to escape a wild tiger, you can take a moment to think if there is a better solution.
Meditation also gives your brain rest.
When you rest your brain, like when you rest your body when you sleep, your brain works better. When your brain is rested, you can make better decisions. So meditation can help you feel more in control of immediate stressful situations, but, more importantly, it can make you stronger for longer-term challenges.
The following is a meditation to try at home…
The Clouds in the Sky
Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. Your mind may be racing with thoughts. You may feel excited one minute and sad the next. You may be confused or feel alone or feel too much pressure from other people.
When your life feels overwhelming, sometimes it can be helpful to remember that you are part of a larger universe. While you have problems that can seem unique and momentous, others have had similar problems and have also solved them. Just like the clouds in the sky come and go, so, too, do the problems and insecurities that will float in and out of your life. If you have faith that beyond the clouds of your mind there is a peaceful, blue sky, then you will know that everything will be okay.
You can do this next exercise whether you live in a city or the countryside—all it involves is looking up at the sky.
Time Needed: 5 MINUTES
Location: A COMFORTABLE PLACE OUTSIDE
For this exercise, you need a blanket and to find a safe place outside, where you can lie on the ground. You should choose a time when the sun is not too bright (perhaps in the evening or even on a cloudy day). Take your time to find the right place. It may be in your backyard or at a park near your house. If you are doing this in a public place, ask your parents or a friend to go with you.
Lay the blanket on the ground. Lie on top of the blanket with your face toward the sky.
Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. In and out. Enjoy the feeling of being relaxed.
When you are ready, open your eyes, and look up into the sky. Feel how much space is between you and the sky. Does the sky end? Can you imagine space, stars, and galaxies continuing up, up, up beyond anything you can see?
Are there clouds? Do they look like cotton balls, or are they dark? Perhaps it looks like it might rain? Observe how the clouds move—slow or fast— across the sky.
They change shape and form, even color. Sometimes the sky looks blue, sometimes it is full of clouds.
Take a moment and note how this is similar to the thoughts in your head. Sometimes the thoughts—just like clouds—are so busy in your head. Sometimes they move quickly; other times more slowly. But just like the clouds in the sky, they move and change shape; they come and go.
But the sky continues to just be, reaching out endlessly into the universe.
Keep looking up and out at the endlessness of the sky.
When you feel ready, close your eyes again and take a deep breath.
The next time you feel overwhelmed with thoughts or have too many things to do, remember how it felt to look up at the sky. Remember the clouds coming and going.
And if it helps, maybe go outside and just look up at the sky again. It will always be there for you.
Mallika Chopra is a mom, entrepreneur, and the author of several books, including “100 Promises to My Baby,” “100 Questions from My Child,” and “Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace, and Joy.” She is the founder and CEO of Intent.com, a website focused on personal, social, and global wellness. Her intent is to harness the power of social media to connect people from around the world to improve their own lives, their communities, and the planet. Mallika is also the co-founder of The Chopra Well, a premiere YouTube channel that she launched with her brother, Gotham Chopra, and father, Deepak Chopra.