What does it mean to be "zen" anyway? We often associate the zen way of life with yoga-and-meditation-inclined folks, but the word can also refer to a state of mind. And the link to meditating isn't unfounded—in fact, the noun Zen refers specifically to a school of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on practices of meditation and intuition. It can also mean, more or less, arriving at a state of calm, guided there by intuition.
For those moms and dads who are adjusting to life at home with the kiddos in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the term "stir crazy" has probably been thrown around a couple of times. Things can get a bit claustrophobic indoors—even if you find yourself lucky enough to have a back yard, patio, or balcony to get some fresh air. In a time when breathing is of the utmost importance, here are a few ways to focus in on your zen, to arrive at a sense of calm and balance, and to practice mindfulness alongside your little ones.
Do a DIY Spa Day
At-home face masks, nail painting, and scalp massages galore! You can comb the Internet for your favorite DIY recipes for face masks, hair masks, serums, and more—many of which can be made using simple, house-hold ingredients like avocado and oatmeal. Find all the nail polish you have in the house and set up a nail painting station. Then, head into the cupboard and find olive oil or coconut oil and do a revitalizing, moisturizing hair mask while you give each other scalp rubs.
Create a Meditation Garden
Whether you create a mini zen garden, like this one, or you go into the backyard and create a large-scale garden (talk about a long-term spring project!) this is a great way to talk to your kids about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Zen gardens, or karesansui in Japanese, originated in Japan during the medieval era, and are meant to reflect and imitate the simple beauty of nature. Kids can have fun with designing raked sand and smooth rocks, the combination of which evokes a Buddhist approach to peace and mindfulness.
Practicing Breathing and Find a Yoga Flow
Kids love—and need!—to move their bodies, so there's no reason that they shouldn't take this time at home to hone their stretching skills. Yoga can look like anything your family wants—it doesn't have to be a traditional flow (and odds are that little ones won't stick to one routine). Pull out some yoga mats, lay them out in front of a window that gets a lot of natural light, and maybe put some calming music on. You can also find a list (with images) of yoga poses just for kids here.
Flaneur Around Your Backyard
Of course, social distancing means that we need to stay in our homes and limit any time outside to only absolutely essential errands. Flaneuring—the art of mindful walking—is a great way for kids to move their bodies, get outside (even if it's just to the back porch, patio, or yard), and make mindful observations. They can later write these observations down in a book, or just talk about it with the family.
Channel Hygge With a Cozy Fire
The Danish word Hygge, according to hyggehouse.com, refers to “a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special.” So: dim the lights and light a roaring fire in the fire place. Donne your favorite set of PJs, and pick a play that you all love. Then, use cut-outs (or your hands!) to make shadow puppets against a wall. Sip on some homemade hot cocoa, and read a storybook out loud.
Make a Quiet Book
Creating a felt quiet book with your kids is not only a fun process, but the result is something they can hold in their hands and use to find a sense of calm. Create a book based on their favorite story, or challenge them to write their own!