Several months ago, I had the idea that I wanted to adapt some mindfulness and meditation practices into something that I could start teaching my two-year old, Baker. I quickly realized that I had nothing to teach her about mindfulness– she was the one teaching me about being present and aware every day. Young children are mindfulness masters.
Yesterday morning we stepped outside en route to daycare when Baker squealed, “The moon!! The moon is right there!!” I was in tunnel vision mode trying to get her to daycare and myself to work, but I paused in the driveway and looked up, following her pointing finger. “Hah, you’re right baby. The moon AND the sun are out today, isn’t that cool??”
“YES!” she yelled into the bright blue sunny/moony sky.
The whole ride to daycare, I found myself not thinking about work deadlines or to do lists as normal– I was thinking about outer space and how mysterious it all is. I was noticing how the drive to daycare was filled with Baker chatting about the cars we passed, the noises she was hearing on the streets, the way she would unashamedly express every raw emotion as it rolled through her body.
So Baker has mindfulness covered, but a toddler style meditation was still on my mind. I thought about how my favorite, most relaxing meditations and hypnosis sessions are ones full of vivid imagery. Scenes and people that make me feel safe, happy, and loved.
So began our “Baker Meditation” practice. Holding her so that her arms are wrapped around my neck and her head is resting on my shoulder, I simply started naming things that Baker loves. I thought it might evolve into a more sophisticated meditation, but the simple naming of things turned out to be the entire practice, and it quickly became something we both loved.
Baker loves going on walks
Baker loves going to the beach and feeling the waves tickle her toes
Baker loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Baker loves spiders and bumble bees
Baker loves to play games with her cousins
Baker loves monster trucks
Baker loves waking up in the morning and singing in her bed while waiting for mama
…and so on.
Depending on how tired I am, and how much calming down she needs, this listing of “Baker loves” can go on for as little as 30 seconds or as long as 4-5 minutes. This “Baker Meditation” does a few things. It immediately calms her down, her breathing slows, her eyes and wrinkled forehead relax. She starts transitioning into rest mode. And as I’m listing things that she loves, I notice how it can be both easy and hard to take an inventory of someone’s life and personality and pinpoint what they love. How well do we really know the people we spend most of our time with? It’s easy to name the big things, but what about the small, nuanced ones?
I throw in some easy ones, Baker loves monster trucks, Baker loves pizza, etc. But I also try to push myself into recognizing and naming the more subtle loves of her life. Baker loves when I make up silly songs and sing them to the tune of Wheels On The Bus.
Baker doesn’t consciously process this yet, but I like to think that part of this meditation practice is soothing because in a world that feels big and scary and overwhelming at times (for all of us, not just toddlers), it feels comforting and safe to be seen. To have someone hold you close and whisper all the things they deeply know about you. Baker now asks for “Baker’s Meditation” almost every night before bed, we both find it a sweet way to wind down our day.
A few nights ago, I was having frustratingly restless sleep with continuous wake-ups. I thought about Baker’s Meditation and wondered how it would feel to do that same meditation, but name things that I love. She loves it, why wouldn’t I? I pondered.
I gave it a try, mentally listing things that I love, and it had an amazing “counting sheep” effect one me. Except way less stressful than counting sheep. Have you ever actually tried counting sheep?? I have tried a few times but I start getting stressed about the counting (math is hard) and start thinking about how bad sheep smell, wondering what they’re supposed to be jumping over in this fantasy, and the whole thing becomes more complicated than intended. However doing a minute of “Courtney Loves” at 2 AM, I drifted off to sleep quickly and effortlessly. I guess this ain’t just for babies I chuckled to myself the next morning.
It’s a fun exercise in general, to think of and list the things you love. The more you name, the harder it is to come up with new things and it forces you to get granular. To be mindful and think about the tiny moments of your day (and existence) that you really enjoy and appreciate, but maybe haven’t stopped to fully recognize.
Getting in bed freshly made with clean sheets
The smell of roller skating rinks
The sound of mussels clinking together in a saute pan
Thinking about someone and they suddenly call you
Eating mint chocolate chip ice cream straight from the tub
Showers so hot they sting
A Saturday with no plans
A Saturday full of plans
An empty house and singing as loudly as I want
Rediscovering a song that I used to love and forgot about
No line at the carwash
Disney music while I work
Spontaneous foot rubs (i.e. I don’t have to ask, husband just does it on his own)
Morning workouts, and the feeling that lasts all day after
Snuggling with my sisters
Conversations where you lose track of time
Requesting a half sweet/half unsweet tea from McDonald’s and they get the ratio just right
Seeing someone you know in public and successfully remembering their name
Waking up in the morning feeling rested, 2 minutes before the alarm goes off
Falling asleep with the low murmur of voices or a TV on in the next room
Walking out of a clean kitchen with the dishwasher running
Walking in the front door and seeing the toddler and dog racing in my direction for hugs
Guessing someone’s MBTI correctly
Sour cream (in excess) and Mexican food
Alright, it worked. My blood pressure is down, my eyelids are heavy. On that note, goodnight.
What’s on your “I love” list?