My family finally got around to seeing Disney’s new fantasty/sci-fi adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time in the theater. Our girls were taken by the cinematic grandeur, all of the sparkles, and of course, the many main characters of color on the screen. Given our youngest daughter is convinced she is going to be a fashion designer/inventor of the first smart device with teleporting capabilities, this movie was a perfect spark for her imagination.
The story follows the family of a NASA scientist who discovers the ability to warp time and space with his consciousness and travel billions of light years through the universe. By attuning with the vibratory frequency of love, he enables his discovery, the phenomenon of a universal “tesseract”, to manipulate sound and light waves. This creates an opening in the fabric of the time-space continuum, allowing him to “tesser” to other planets.
Unfortunately, the father gets stuck in a dark corner of the universe, and his children set off on a journey to help him get home. Without giving too much away, the children finally learn that to break free from the evil planet holding him captive and “tesser” back home, they need to tap their red glittery slippers together and…. Oh wait – oops, wrong movie!
Back to A Wrinkle in Time – to get back to Earth, the main characters are challenged to be warriors for light and peace by: (1) feeling the “one-ness” of the universe while remaining true to their unique diverse qualities; (2) courageously confronting their darkness while staying connected to light; and (3) letting go of all resistance while vibrantly resonating with the innate frequency of love.
Though the ambitious movie is not without its own faults, its main message to young viewers of loving compassion for self and others is inspiring. In theory, the concepts sound good, but how does a kid exactly “align with the right frequency”, trust that “love is always there, even if you don’t feel it”, or recognize that it “isn’t gone; it’s just unfolded,” as the movie suggests? Perhaps it all starts with cultivating a relationship with love…
Many contemplative traditions include practices that help to cultivate various innate positive character strengths and virtues of wellbeing, including love. Loving-kindness meditations are a perfect example.
Loving-kindness practices carry the intention of nurturing a relationship with the shared human capacity for love. They ask us to attend carefully to the embodiment of love that arises as we open our hearts to our selves and others with curiosity, interest, and patience. Research suggests that engagement in such practices can be a source of harmony and health.
Meditations on loving-kindness can begin by feeling into sensations within the body and heart space. They explore inviting a sense of loving friendship by bringing to mind a loved one for whom it is easy to generate such tender feelings. Holding this invitation to love, practices attend to the embodied experience through noticing shifting sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they unfold.
Resting within the awareness of loving presence, the focus of practice then centers back upon one’s self to nurture the natural capacity for self-love and self-compassion. Practices often close by expanding attention to include others - sending out wishes for love, peace, and prosperity to family, community, and even the world beyond.
Feelin’ All the Feels
Younger children are more inclined to be open to the idea of feeling into their heart and generating love. The younger they are, the more freely they tend to give and accept love. When sharing these practices with little ones, sometimes just a few cues for inquiry can uncover a range of experiences. Allowing children to freely explore how love feels and expresses itself within their bodies, minds, and hearts is all that is called for. After a few calming cycles of breath, you may consider the following:
Using Universal Prayers
Children who are in their tween years and beyond may need a bit more guidance when exploring loving-kindness practices in this way. Feeling into the body can be more challenging, while shifting emotions can be harder to define. Even if it is difficult for them to connect with the presence of love, often helping them stay open to the intention for love, well-being, and peace can be enough.
Mantras or affirmations may be used to encourage relationship with loving intentions for self and others. These phrases are focusing tools that help build connection with the “felt-sense” or embodiment of their words. Universal prayers for love and peace exist in many wisdom traditions. A simple, yet powerful, suggestion comes from renowned Western Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg.
If the exact wording doesn’t make sense for you, or if English is not your preferred language, feel free to use whatever word(s) you would like to encompass similar meanings. Truly honoring one’s self and others requires the ability to draw upon attitudes of trust, patience, compassion, as well as a willingness to allow for mistakes and building resilience. The words you or your child choose may shift and change, but the intention for connection with loving presence remains.
Watching the journey of Meg, the main character in A Wrinkle in Time, certainly transported me back to memories of adolescence and the general awkwardness of it all. It also reminded me of a Sanskrit universal prayer for wellbeing and peace that I learned back in my youth[i]. At that time, I really did not grasp the depth of meaning behind its words. I have been revisiting it these days in my own house during loving-kindness practices with my older daughter. She will be joining the ranks of tween-dom very soon.
Below is an offering of our current interpretations of what it means for us in the context of cultivating loving-kindness. (For anyone interested, the Sanskrit words are in the endnotes.)
Whether or not you choose to explore any of this, either for yourself and/or with the children in your life, we are sending you wishes for boundless love and peace.
So can the vibration of love really allow us to travel through space and time? - That was a question hotly debated in the car on the way home from the movies. Our youngest declared, “Well I can feel Grandpa and Appuppa (grandfather) whenever I send them love during prayers at night. I can see them in my heart. I can feel them smiling at me. And they don’t live here any more. So I’m going to say – YES.”
[i] asato ma sat gamaya; tamaso ma jyotir gamaya; mrityor ma amritam gamaya; om shanti, shanti, shanti – From untruths to truth, may I be led; From darkness to light, may I be led; From death/limitations to the sweet nectar of immortal life, may I be led; Universal peace, peace, peace. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28)
I recently was asked to look into the links between meditation and creativity for an article in Spirituality & Health Magazine and thought I’d share here.
As the number of studies looking at the health and cognitive impacts of meditation keeps increasing, there have been a few very small studies looking at the effect of meditation practices on creativity. An interesting study amongst nineteen healthy adults in Netherlands published in 2012 compared the impact of focused-attention (FA) meditation and open-monitoring (OM) meditation on creativity tasks.
Researchers found that OM styles of meditation, where meditators sustained a receptive, open awareness, promoted divergent ways of thinking more so than FA styles of meditation with a single-pointed focus of concentration. Divergent thinking refers to the generation of many new kinds of ideas and can be a key aspect of creativity.
Another beautiful reminder that when we intentionally pay attention to present moment experience with kind curiosity and patience, we create the space to connect with our innate strengths, including creativity. When we can bring a loving mindful presence to whatever it is we are doing, we naturally create the conditions necessary for innate creative intelligence to flow through us.
Looking for a quick creative boost in the middle of your day? Consider trying this open-monitoring style of meditation known as The Sky of Awareness, and if you already have an established practice of focused-attention meditation, consider integrating something like this towards the end of your sitting to just explore what arises. Enjoy -
When I first discovered Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as an evidence-based medical intervention for patients with a variety of stress-related indications, I was absolutely thrilled. Here was an elegant, beautifully thought out curriculum for teaching contemplative practices and mindful movement within the medical professional sphere. It was the perfect way for me to bridge my traditional self-care practices with patient care in a secular format.
Done. I had found a home at last within my career. And when friends and family would ask about my clinical practice I’d happily let them know I was teaching yoga and meditation in a secular way through mindfulness-based interventions. “Oooo, aaaa, so nice,” they would say, “After all, contemplative and self-inquiry practices are not religious. They are examining the human condition.” Secular Mindfulness…
My proud use of the word secular was rightly challenged though a few years ago, while attending my first professional teacher training retreat through the Oasis Institute (University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness). Well-respected mindfulness leader, Saki Santorelli, EdD, who co-created MBSR with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, was one of the teachers.
In one of his key lectures, Dr. Santorelli expressed that secular literally means devoid of sacredness. “Is this work we do with mindfulness really devoid of the sacred? From the beginning, it has never been anything but sacred. Sacred in the same way the doctor-patient relationship is and always has been sacred, held deeply in the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm.” He went on to emphasize just how much heartfulness was embedded into cultivating a relationship with the self, those around us, the unfolding of life, and humanity. Rather than secularization of mindfulness, he and Dr. Kabat-Zinn preferred the phrase “mainstreaming of mindfulness.”
My heart was deeply touched. Being a doctor and always having to justify the benefits of cultivating mindfulness through scientific and clinical evidence, it can be easy to be carried away into the science and vast array of conceptualizations. So as a way to always honor the SACRED aspects of mindfulness, I created a mnemonic. (I was after all a medical student at one point in my life, and one thing us med students were all experts at was creating tools for memory.)
I initially created the mnemonic for myself as a way to pause and remember my intentions as I work with patients, but recently I shared it publicly while teaching at an advanced yoga teacher training with Yoga Medicine. It is still changing and evolving, but here it is as an offering to remind yourself of all the SACRED work you may already be doing everyday by just paying attention, on purpose, with kindness, playful curiosity, and care.
S. Stilling – This is simply pausing, an invitation to tune in, just as a first violinist may pause to tune her instrument in sync with the orchestra before a performance begins.
A. Attending – Bringing Attention to all the dimensions of being with Attitudes of care, curiosity, openness, patience, and kindness.
C. Connecting – Resting into a connection with innate awareness
R. Responding – Choosing skillful Responses
E. Engaging – Engaging with yourself and the entire world around you in more meaningful ways
D. Deepening – Deepening into the experience of humanity
Rashmi S. Bismark
I'm a preventive medicine physician specialized in mindfulness, lifestyle, and community health. I'm a yoga teacher, an educator, a researcher, a devoted mom and expatriate wife, living a blessed global nomad life.