Our new App, Moving Meditations for Autism (available for Android and Apple devices), offers 18 short videos to help kids (and their families) find peace and balance. The videos are fun and engaging, and effortless to use—all you have to do is watch them!
But you might wonder, what does watching someone doing gentle movements have to do with meditation? Doesn’t meditation mean sitting still? And, what IS meditation, anyway?
Here are some answers.
First, “meditation” is simply a way of coming to a balanced, comfortable state. It means we are present and at ease, not stressed out and distracted. We are able to be with each other easily, to do what we need to do effectively, and generally to enjoy life.
It’s what we all want, right? Amazing how hard it can be to get there!
When we are stressed or distracted, we often get into blame and judgement. We may criticize ourselves or others, tell ourselves we should feel differently, or plan how things will be different in the future.
But, we can all recognize that this mental struggle does not really help. Our thoughts and judgements are really very superficial, and have little power to change our mood.
In the same way, if your child is stressed and anxious, just telling them to try to calm down doesn’t help much. Thoughts and words are just on the surface. It’s kind of like trying to stop the waves of the ocean by pressing down on them!
So, how can we change mood? In a word, MOVEMENT.
When we are babies, our parents relate to us first through movement. We are held, caressed, guided. Gradually we become able to do things for ourselves; we gain the skills to stand, walk, and do things, we develop a sense of self, confidence, pride. We learn about the world and ourselves through movement. We express ourselves through movement. We relate to each other through movement. Movement is fundamental!
Movement is not just physical motion. It is feeling! We speak of “being moved” by a beautiful story, or feeling moved to help a loved one. Movement is inseparable from impulse, from wanting, reaching, holding. It is how we relate to the world!
Have I conveyed how powerful movement is? Movement is what has the power to calm the agitation of the mind, to smooth the ripples and ease the deep tides of emotion.
The videos show you and your child images of movement; both images of a child doing the motions, but also images of natural movements, of birds, animals, water, trees. What happens inside you as you watch? Can you feel how these images trigger feelings of movement inside you? Can you feel a sense of settling, opening, softening? Our nervous system is designed so that just watching a movement triggers that same movement inside us! That is how we learn about the world as an infant—and that is how we can learn to find balance and ease when we are stressed or anxious. Best of all, no words are needed. So even someone who does not relate well to words—like a young child, someone with autism, or a person with dementia—can still learn to find peace and balance.
Of course you can also actually follow along and do the physical motions. But it’s not so much that you try to learn the movements as a skill, it’s more like you move with a certain feeling. It’s not about “getting it right”, but riding the wave of the feeling.
Then without the videos, during daily life at any time, you can remember the feeling, you can remember the images, you might even let your body move just a little bit, but mainly you feel inside the quality of the movement—the settling down, the floating up, the spreading out, whatever brings you back into balance and comfort. And, if your child has watched the videos, you can remind him or her, “remember the birds flying slowly in the sky? Remember the kangaroo? Remember the stars floating gently down?” And your child will feel again that same moving quality inside.
It may be interesting for you to know that scientific studies of the brain and nervous system fully support what have been saying. “Mirror neurons” enable us to feel within ourselves the movements we see. Centers in the midbrain link emotion with movement. Developmental neuroscience affirms the fundamental role of movement. Elsewhere on our web site you can find more about scientific documentation. Although you do not at all need to understand the science in order to fully benefit from the videos, we think it is important to know that these are not just pretty ideas, but thoroughly based in solid, verified scientific understanding.
Check out the links below for more about the App and the principles behind it, and feel free to email us with any questions at: BodymindScience4Research (at)Gmail.com.