The other day, my children and I were walking in New York’s Washington Square Park. It was a beautiful day and there were at least five different groups playing music.
As we walked through the park, all the competing sounds of instruments and singing voices felt jolting and loud. So I asked my children to stop walking and just focus on the one man in front of us playing the guitar and singing “Imagine” by John Lennon. When the three of us just put our attention on this man and his guitar, all we really heard was his fabulous music. It was a beautiful experience.
Then we took a few steps back and I asked the children to focus on the drummers several feet away. As soon as we put our attention on the drummers, that's all we heard. We did it several times over the course of 30 minutes, each time focusing on a different musical group playing in the park.
What was so fascinating was that as we pulled our attention away from one specific type of sound, we just heard noise again. But each time we focused our attention, the beauty of each musical group came forward and felt pleasant.
The children were amazed that just switching their attention could have such an impact on their experience. I turned to them and said, “Now try to do that with your thoughts in your everyday life.”
A few weeks later, my daughter came home, upset that she had felt excluded at a party. After half an hour of feeling anguish, she turned to me and said, “You know mom, those kids at school are not the only thing in my life. I have other friends at school, I have my family, camp friends, and this evening I’m spending with you! I feel better already. It still bothers me, but when I put my attention on the other things in my life it becomes more of the background and I can feel happy again.” I thought to myself, Yes, you got it!
The above exercise is one of many I've created for my children to help them discover all that's precious in their lives — even when they are struggling with other issues.
Here are a few examples you can use to help your own children be more mindful of the special moments they often miss: