Life is busy. You’ve got school, homework, sports, dance class, music lessons, friends and family to consider. It’s hard to fit it all in sometimes. Even if you are doing mostly things you like with people you care about, trying to do too much can leave you feeling stressed out. Things that are upsetting can leave you feeling stressed out too--like someone you love being sick, or your dog getting lost, or your mom or dad not being around.
It’s ok! Everyone feels stressed out some of the time. But it’s important, really important, to not let those feelings stay with you all the time. Too much stress can affect your health. Sometimes stress can cause you to feel like you have a stomachache or a headache. At other times it can leave you feeling grumpy.
The good news is that stress starts in your mind. It’s really just a way of thinking about things. Since you are in charge of your own mind, you can learn to de-stress yourself by thinking about things differently. One way people do this is by meditating. Today you are going to learn a quick and easy way to do just that.
Awake Naps are meditations that will help to quiet your mind. They work by focusing your attention on what you feel in your body as you do small and easy movements. So in a way, you could think of it as using your body to teach your mind how to relax.
These lessons are a great thing to do anytime you feel stressed out, but it also helps to do them on days when you feel good. It’s like brushing your teeth. You brush everyday to help prevent cavities. By practicing Awake Naps meditations everyday, you can help prevent stress before it starts.
One of the things that happens when you meditate is that your mind gets very quiet. In the next chapter, you’re going to do an experiment that will show you how well you can quiet your mind right now. Head over to the next chapter to give it a try.
You already know about some of the warning signs that tell you when you are stressed. But since we are talking about thinking differently, let’s also think about learning to meditate differently.
Did you know that when you learn to calm your mind it gets easier to focus and to be creative? It’s true. Scientists have studied this. They have also studied the ways that meditating can improve people’s health and leave them feeling happier. So you can think of meditating as a way of taking care of yourself when you are feeling stressed. Or you can think of meditating as a way of making your life healthier and happier each and every day.
In just a few minutes, you are going to do your first Awake Naps meditation. Before you do that, you are going to do an experiment. You are going to measure how busy your mind is right now. The video below is going to help you.
As you play the video, instructions will flash across the screen instructing you to sit, relax, breathe in and breathe out. When you see the instruction to close your eyes--do it. While your eyes are closed, a series of numbers (from one to thirty) will flash on the screen. The idea is to see how long you can just sit and let your mind be quiet--and not really think of anything. Once you become aware that your mind is wandering, open your eyes. The number on the screen at that instant is your number.
After you do the Awake Naps mediation, you will play the video again. Most people are really surprised by how much their number changes. Even if you only notice a little change, that’s okay. It means that you learned something while doing the Awake Naps meditation--you learned how to quiet your thoughts. With practice, you will get even better results.
To get started, find a quiet place to sit and play the video. When you are done, go to the next chapter. (There is no sound on the video--just words and numbers.)
The Awake Naps audio lessons in this program were inspired by my work as a Feldenkrais teacher. The Feldenkrais Method of movement can be a deeply calming and healing experience for bodies and minds of all ages.
I originally created the Awake Naps lessons in 2014. At that time, I was teaching at an independent school and was concerned because many students were exhibiting signs of stress. A colleague and I were developing curriculum for a yearlong wellness seminar to help combat this. The course included a variety of mindfulness-based methods, including meditation and Feldenkrais. Many of the students complained that their minds were racing so fast that some of the traditional kinds of meditation were making them feel even more anxious.
The response to the Feldenkrais lessons had been overwhelmingly positive, so I asked why they thought Feldenkrais helped ease their stress but meditation didn’t. One girl raised her hand and said:
Not thinking is hard when you have a lot that you know you have to think about. In Feldenkrais we only have to think about what we are feeling and it sort of stops all the other things for a while.
Her comment led me to reflect about the way experience resonates within us. The meditation approaches we had tried (such as focusing on the breath or on a word) seemed too vague to the students--especially when they were feeling intense pressure to get things done. But grounding the experience of meditation in action and sensation made the lessons and the results more concrete, and this gave the students permission to let go of everything else for a while.
Since I first created Awake Naps, individuals from the ages of nine to ninety have tried the lessons and found them beneficial. I hope that your child has had a similar experience. I would like to thank you for investing in this program for your son or daughter. If you would like additional resources, you will find some listed on the next page.