Mindfulness. The ancient eastern practice of purposefully being in the present moment without holding any judgment. Focusing all of your attention on a moment-to-moment basis. A simple concept, but one that is difficult to achieve in our fast-paced world full of rigid schedules. We know that practicing mindfulness is healthy for us. It can help reduce stress, improve focus, and boost happiness. However, it seems impossible not to constantly be thinking (and/or worrying) about what we need to do next month, next week, or even the next minute. Imagine the benefits if as adults we all worked just a little bit more on grasping the concept of mindfulness. Imagine if we encourage children, who already have a natural tendency to be in the moment, to practice this art!
I recently read the book The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction, Self-Harm & Out of Control Emotions by Karyn D. Hall, PhD and Melissa H. Cook, LPC. One of the chapters touches on the practice of mindfulness and how it can contribute to a strong sense of self. While reading it, the thought occurred to me that as children’s librarians we often have golden opportunities in storytime to practice, encourage, and be an example of mindfulness. Here’s how I see it.
There is all sorts of wonderful learning going on in the more active and interactive portions of storytime. If you’ve been a storytime leader, you’ve also likely experienced those moments when your group becomes silent. You can actually see them thinking, contemplating. Maybe it is a picture that everyone is looking at, a song everyone is listening to, or a sentence you just read from a book. Whatever it is, it is striking a chord and some serious reflection is going on! The kids are unknowingly practicing mindfulness, right? So go with it. Slow down. Let the meditation be, however many seconds it lasts. In this moment they are working on developing and preserving a healthy practice that they can use throughout their lives, and guess what? You are benefitting from it too!
When those “moments” occur in storytime, recognize them. Let them happen. Ditch the to-do list, for now anyway. Flexibility and adaptation are good. So you have three more things you wanted to squeeze in with only two minutes left in storytime. Better to slow things down than to rush it along just for the sake of putting check marks on that list. I would argue that there is more benefit in what you got going on right then and there. Why interrupt it? Encourage it. These opportunities are fleeting, and how many do we really get in life? The present minute, the mindfulness, is not only happening before your eyes. You are a part of it. Now that is a beautiful thing. Yes it is.
Jill Eisele is the Early Literacy Librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library. She has a young son who reminds her every day about the beauty of being in the moment.
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