I could feel it welling up inside me, bigger than me and totally uncontrolable. My brain whispered that this was an outsized reaction, but there were no brakes to stop this train. The emotions I felt could not, would not be contained, controlled, or subdued. I was afraid. What I was going to say or do was not me.
Those moments of my childhood were not frequent. They were, however, unforgettable. I don’t recall how I or my family dealt with those big emotions of childhood, but I know that I want to give my own children a bigger toolkit in dealing with their own big feelings.
When we know more we do better.
I do not fault my parents’ generation for the way they dealt with tantrums and other bursts of enormous emotions. However I do not feel comfortable using the same skill set with my own children. May I never say to my crying child “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Starting with the toddler years when my children express themselves in violent or vociferous ways, I start by getting down to their level. I remember that loss of control when the emotions balloon to bigger than the body. It’s scary. I calmly tell my child that he is having some big feelings right now and that can be scary. I love him, and I want to help him. Sometimes talking it out helps. Usually a hug and some breathing exercises work best with my youngest.
So when I received Big Breath to review I was pleased to put into practice a meditation that builds on the foundation I had already established. Now, instead of waiting for the big emotions to erupt and dealing with deescalation I could proactively create a pattern of mindfulness. My hope is that this will help calm my son and reduce anxiety in the first place. (Note: I don’t expect this to completely eliminate issues, we are all still human after all. But I believe a calm person will have more emotional resiliency than one who lives in a more heightened state.)
The book is listed for ages 4-11 and I read it with my children ages 3 and 12. My 3 year old didn’t sit still and follow all the instructions and I read through the guided meditation, but he stayed in the vicinity and did breathe with me when instructed. My 12 year old happened to be in the room with us when I started reading. I don’t know whether he followed the imagery in his mind at all, but I could feel his peace as we were done.
I love the power of meditation. However most of us need a little guidance in our meditative practice. This book does an excellent job of training adult and child how to use breath and imagery to calm the body and the mind. I plan to incorporate this regularly into our family routines, as an additional tool for our continual quest toward stability. May we all improve our mental health with a little more mindfulness.