The second book in the Kid’s User Guide to a Human Life series teaches kids (and inner kids) about mindfulness techniques for working with emotions. It looks closely at how feelings arise and how to navigate the sometimes tumultuous river of emotions, and it shares simple, yet very effective, ways to sort through them. Through different techniques, kids will be able to learn more about being mindful and figuring out how they feel to help lead them towards better emotional well-being and health.
The Kid’s User Guide to a Human Life series helps the reader discover the answer to the question “Who am I really?” by explaining all the ways in which we change and shift from one role in our life to the next, and how even our body doesn’t stay the same for long. It is great for parents, teachers, and counselors who are interested in learning more about mindfulness for kids and how to discuss and teach the important points and ideas.
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"Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment."
— Lao Tzu
When you are living only from your Chattering Mind you see yourself as a solid, set self. Your Chattering Mind has an entire story of who you think you are — a son, a daughter, a student, a soccer player, a good kid or a bad kid. Your Chattering Mind has created an entire solid-feeling persona based on these roles. It feels so solid that when you first meet someone, after telling them your name, you quickly follow with telling them all the roles you play. The habit of thinking of yourself in this way is so strong that at first it feels strange to even question it.
However, everything about you is continually shifting and changing. Look more closely at what you normally take to be the solid you — your body, Chattering Mind, emotions, perceptions and experiences. Pay attention long enough and you'll begin to see that these parts of you are all in a constant state of flux. You are more like a living river of changing sensations, experiences, feelings and thoughts. The reality is that nothing about you or life is static. So let's begin this adventure by asking, "Who am I really?"
Let's go back to your persona — built on the roles you play.
Maybe you first answer the question "Who am I really?" with the answer "These roles"— a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother. These roles seem really solid at first glance. However, the roles you play throughout your life are always changing. Sometimes the student, sometimes the teacher, for part of your life the child, maybe someday the parent. One year the artist, the next a musician. Sometimes the good student, sometimes the struggling student. As you move through your adventure, you'll play many different roles. Sometimes, even multiple roles in one day.
So maybe you go on to answer "Who am I really?" by saying you are your body, your physical form. But if you look closely, you'll see your physical body is definitely not static. You are roughly one centimeter taller in the morning than you are by the end of each day. You shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour. Each day you lose about 60,100 strands of hair. You get a new stomach lining every three to four days. Your nose and ears never stop growing. And your body produces 300 billion new cells every day! Once you had the body of an infant, then a toddler, now an adolescent and eventually an adult. Your body is not some solid, fixed entity. It is a living system in constant flux.
Begin to pay attention to your senses. They are bringing in a continuous changing stream of sensations and experiences. What your eyes see is never really the same — shifting light and shadows, changing colors and hues. Your nose brings in an always-changing smellscape from the moment you awaken — smells from your breakfast, the shower, the breeze on your way to school.
Sounds are always fluctuating as they enter your ears — loud, soft, high and low. Tastes are continually arriving and disappearing from your tongue — sweet, sour, spicy, bland. Your skin is constantly bringing in sensations from your environment — clothes, weather and the embrace from a loved one. A river of experience and sensation is continually pouring through you and your senses.
So then you might answer, "I am my thoughts, my Chattering Mind." But look and you'll see that your mind and thoughts work much the same way. If you look closely and openly at your Chattering Mind you'll see that your thoughts arise naturally then dissolve on their own. One moment you may think an idea you have is great and the next moment you may think it's foolish. Even the stickiest thoughts, when allowed time and space, eventually shift, change or transform. A thought that may have caused your Chattering Mind great distress a year ago is now a faint memory.
Emotions follow this same dynamic pattern. When allowed their natural flow, they tend to surge up like a wave then pass on their own. You may wake up one morning feeling down. By lunch you may feel overjoyed spending time with your friends. By the end of lunch you may feel annoyed by these same friends. And then that night at home you may feel lonely for your friends.
You see, the "you" your Chattering Mind takes to be so solid is actually always shifting and changing — year to year, month to month, week to week, day to day, moment to moment and even second to second. No part of you is ever the same. So then, who are you really?
KEEP IT SIMPLE, ADVENTUROUS ONE
Your breath is always in the present moment. Every time you place your Inner Attention on your breath, you step out of the small, solid-feeling Chattering Mind and back into the flow of life.
Wherever you are, when you "wake up" to the fact that you are not present and lost in your Chattering Mind, kindly invite your Inner Attention to your breath.
Follow the experience of your breath with your Inner Attention. Really feel what it feels like to breathe — the tickle of air through your nose, the expanding of your ribs fully, the feeling of release as you exhale.
As you feel your breath, stay connected to the spaciousness of your Open Mind. Let the spaciousness of your Open Mind into your attention. Feel your aliveness. Remember, you are not just your Chattering Mind.CHAPTER 2
"Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life."
This dynamic life is constantly flowing through you. Life pours in through your senses creating different sensations, experiences, thoughts and emotions. Yet how is it that your Chattering Mind feels so solid if every part of you is always in flux?
Your Chattering Mind naturally registers the flow of life as it comes in as Like, Dislike or Indifference. Your Chattering Mind then begins to build a solid sense of self by Attaching to what you Like, Resisting what you Dislike and Checking Out when you are Indifferent. This constant, unconscious categorizing begins to cut you off from the dynamic, alive Present Moment Adventurer you truly are. Most of the time this process happens so fast and unconsciously that you are unaware that you are labeling your experiences and yourself this way. So let's look a bit closer ...
When you Like something, your Chattering Mind Attaches to it, even grasping after it and clinging. Imagine eating ice cream on a hot summer day with a friend. The sensation of the cold dessert is refreshing. The taste of the sugar and cream is satisfying. And the experience of sharing with your friend is uplifting. You start to see yourself as someone who likes ice cream.
On the surface, this doesn't seem like a big deal. But what happens when your love for certain ice cream flavors changes? Or you come to dislike eating ice cream on cold days? You may even start to prefer smoothies instead of ice cream. Or what if you become allergic to ice cream altogether?
When you Like an experience, your Chattering Mind builds an entire story around how much this experience reflects who you are. Over time, you keep telling yourself that story and you take it to be solid and undeniably true. When you are able to repeat the experience you are happy. But when you can't, you are unhappy and defeated. Your Chattering Mind may even go as far as to declare that you could never be happy unless you have it.
The same is true for experiences that you Dislike. When you don't like something, your Chattering Mind Resists it. Imagine you are caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella or raincoat. You are wearing your favorite outfit and you're getting drenched! This is not what you wanted to happen today, yet here you are soaking wet. For most Adventurers, an inner Resistance quickly comes up — "I don't like this! Why is this happening to me? I don't want this to happen to me!"
When you Dislike an experience your Chattering Mind pushes it away — sometimes internally, sometimes physically and sometimes both. And your Resistance surely worsens the situation. You are getting wet and it feels cold and miserable, yes. However, adding anger and Resistance to this situation will only increase your distress.
Your Chattering Mind also builds an entire set story about your Resistance being who you are — "Nothing ever goes my way! Why do bad things always happen to me?" And getting caught in this only narrows your Chattering Mind's perception and small sense of self.
At other times, you are Indifferent to your experiences. Things you do over and over every single day tend to register as benign. During activities like brushing your teeth and hair, eating the same old breakfast and getting dressed and off to school you Check Out. If you begin to pay attention, you'll notice that as you move through these activities, you're not at all present. Most times, you'll find your Inner Attention lost unconsciously in the noise of the Chattering Mind.
When you are Indifferent to an experience, you move into an automatic way of being. Without paying attention or being very present, you automatically move through your day in Chattering Mind mode. You may be brushing your teeth physically, but mentally you are going through a conversation or experience with your best friend. This seems harmless enough, but when you look closely you'll see this makes you out of touch with and forgetful of the alive, dynamic quality of life. And this may be happening the majority of your days! This continually keeps you out of touch with the alive, dynamic Adventurer you truly are.
Attachment, Resistance and Checking Out happen countless times each day. However, when your Chattering Mind is unconsciously Attaching to the experiences you Like, Resisting the experiences you Dislike, and Checking Out during the experiences that cause Indifference, you are unknowingly solidifying a small, solid-feeling sense of self. Lost in your small self, you begin to forget the awake, aware and dynamic Adventurer you really are.
Like, Dislike and Indifference are also the starting point for all of your emotions. When you consciously allow emotions to flow through your own Awake Awareness and Open Mind, they bring clarity and connect you deeply to your life as it unfolds moment to moment. When you are unconsciously lost in emotions, they tend to reinforce the small sense of the Chattering Mind. And being lost in the small self is uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. Seeing this more clearly will give you a greater understanding of your emotions, allowing you to have a brave and courageous relationship with them. And beginning to have a brave and courageous relationship with your emotions will lead you closer to answering, "Who am I really?"
KEEP IT SIMPLE, ADVENTUROUS ONE
The sensations of your body are also always unfolding in the present moment. Your beating heart, the feeling of your feet in your shoes on the ground, the texture of your clothes on your skin are all bridges to bring your Inner Attention out of your Chattering Mind and back into the present moment.
When you "wake up" to the fact that your Inner Attention is lost in your Chattering Mind, kindly invite your Inner Attention to the feeling of your whole body.
Feel your feet in your shoes placed firmly on the ground. Feel the wind and sun on your skin. Feel the sensation of your palms resting on your legs.
As you experience the feeling of your body, stay grounded in the openness of your Open Mind. Bravely live into, with your Inner Attention, the spaciousness of your Open Mind.CHAPTER 3
"Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body's reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body."
— Eckhart Tolle
When you Like something — a thought, a person or an experience — and you are functioning from your Chattering Mind, you Attach or cling to that experience. Imagine your favorite outfit. You love how it fits, looks and feels. You wear that outfit at least once a week. It feels like a true reflection of your style and personality.
Now imagine that your younger sister has asked to borrow this outfit on the same day you plan to wear it. She has a big presentation in science class and wants to look her best. Reacting from your Chattering Mind, you quickly and aggressively say, "No Way! That is MY outfit!" As your sister leaves your room defeated, you think, "How could she even think for a minute I'd give up my favorite outfit? I need this outfit!" Attachment and clinging give rise to feelings of greed, fear and possessiveness. When you are not mindful of Like leading to Attachment and clinging, these are the emotions that naturally arise and influence your perspective and behavior. Even though you succeeded in thwarting your sister's attempt to borrow your clothes, you are left with these feelings swimming through you. And no Adventurer ever feels at home when greed and fear lurk within.
Emotions and thoughts such as greed and fear also change the chemistry of your body by turning on the stress response. When the stress response is activated, your brain quickly sends signals down your spinal cord, through your nerves and to your adrenal glands telling them to release the hormone adrenaline. When released, adrenaline increases the amount of sugar in your blood, increases your heart rate and raises your blood pressure.
Your brain's remarkable hypothalamus simultaneously signals your pituitary gland to stimulate your adrenal cortex into producing a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol keeps your blood sugar and blood pressure elevated to give you energy to escape from danger.
So here you are — your actions, thoughts and subsequent emotions over your sister's desire to wear your outfit have now created an entire biochemical response in your body. Stress hormones, high blood sugar and rising blood pressure now have to run their course. Unfortunately, this is physically, mentally and emotionally uncomfortable. And many times your Chattering Mind's grasping creates an ongoing loop with the physical responses in your body. They begin to feed one another, looping continuously, and can lead to anxiety, obsessive thinking or depression.
However, when what you Like is met from your present Open Mind the feelings that naturally follow are joy, kindness and generosity. Imagine being present and open when your sister explains that your favorite outfit would help her breeze through her presentation with confidence and ease. Chances are you would feel the grasping of wanting to hold on to your outfit, but at the same time recognize that you would enjoy helping out your sister.
You remember how nervous you get when you have to present in class and you would like to ease that discomfort for your little sister. You've got plenty of other great clothes anyway or maybe an even better outfit to share. Because of staying connected to your Open Mind you are able to bravely be with your own Attachment and clinging and then step beyond it and open to the truly kind Adventurer you are.
This conscious "stepping beyond" also creates a chemical change in your body. As you bring your Inner Attention to your Open Mind and deepen your breath, you are able to move your diaphragm fully, thereby activating the vagus nerve, which in turn activates your parasympathetic nervous system. From here your heart rate slows down creating a deeper sense of ease, blood vessels dilate oxygenating your blood and lungs, digestion is activated releasing nutrients into your body and energy is restored.
At the same time, your prefrontal cortex becomes accessible. Your prefrontal cortex, when activated, suppresses negative emotions, quiets the reactionary part of the brain called the amygdala and increases your ability to think clearly. You may decide to not share your outfit, but chances are you will be open and kind, creating space for you and your sister to find a resolution.
Emotions and the physical changes they create come when you Dislike something as well. Normally, when you Dislike something and you are functioning unconsciously from your small, habitual Chattering Mind, the tendency is to Resist. Imagine summer has just begun and you take a fall on your bike and break your arm. You experience immense pain from the break and great discomfort from the cast. And now you learn that having a cast means you can't go swimming for six to eight weeks! You are simultaneously fuming and devastated. You do not want this to be your summer! You spend your days lost in your own mental anguish over your ruined summer.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Kid's User Guide to a Human Life"
Copyright © 2016 Rebecca Brenner.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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