Having recently completed a two and a half week assignment of being granny-nanny to my three youngest granddaughters (ages 10, 8 and 3 years old) while my daughter in-laws served in Africa, the words to the LEGOLAND theme song “Everything Is Awesome” will be forever etched in my brain. Nominated for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards, the LEGO Movie song is infectious with its catchy rhythm; it’s difficult to not start shaking from side to side as if your body has turned into a little block-like-structure, bouncing around uncontrollably, when the words flow through your mind:
Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team!
Everything is awesome when you're living out a dream!
Was I living out a dream while spending 16 non-stop, action-packed, emotion-filled days dedicated to childcare… days which could easily be likened to one of the roller coasters at LEGOLAND, where we spent part of a week? Certainly… if this adventure was designed to assess and define the progression of my mindfulness practice!
How did I not lose my mind? By consciously and mindfully choosing to use as my sanity mantra the words, “Everything Is Awesome!”
Everything was awesome when you understand the various synonyms for awesome: amazing, breathtaking, daunting, formidable, inspiring, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing, mind-boggling, staggering, stunning, and wondrous! Search “awesome” on the Internet and you can even find it described as “a nice expression of awe.”
Yes, N.I.C.E. describes what made my divinely appointed assignment truly memorable, survival-able, and spiritual!
While it’s nice to be non-judgmental and neutral as a part of a mindfulness practice, the key for me has been to learn non-resistance! Let what comes, come! If your three-year-old granddaughter starts to have a meltdown, after determining she is safe, let it rip! Let it be awesome!
While getting breakfast with the kids, my youngest granddaughter decided she wanted Fruit Loops after I had directed her to choose a fruit cup. While she held it together momentarily, I knew the cycle of events about to happen. First the challenge, then the resistance, followed by the insistence (which always includes a “test cry”), and finally the all-out-can’t-catch-her-breath tantrum. It’s a pretty predicable roller coaster ride.
Taking a deep breath, I braced myself for what was to come with the grace of a big smile. I let RaeRae flop down in front of a dozen or more people and begin the reoccurring cycle; the difference was that I didn’t resist it. Calmly lowering myself to the floor nearby, I began to do some yogic three-part breathing, as I mumbled my three-word mantra, “Everything Is Awesome,” including a slow audible OM between my breath work. Within a short time, my little charge inched her way over to my lap to continue more sensible breakfast negotiations.
The true victory of this tale came the following morning as we waited to be seated for breakfast. In sweet satisfaction, my granddaughter pointed to where we both had sat the day before and said with a hint of pride, “Oh, look Granny, that’s where I had my awesome meltdown!” I laughed out loud! Everything had been awesome. Resist not; this too will pass. It’s one of the primary tenants of mindfulness!
To be mindful means to be aware, from moment to moment, of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Practice observation without judgement in all things! One of the best ways to stay mindful is to ask WHAT questions of yourself:
- What am I feeling in this moment?
- What is my aversion or resistance, if any, to the present moment?
- What’s happening around me causing me to reflect on the past or want to escape to the future?
All too often, the answers to our inquiries are feelings of being “out of control” or potentially “out of approval” from those around us. You can imagine the various thoughts that could have run through my mind as my grandchild wailed and flailed away on the floor. “What will people think? How can I control this child and get her to stop crying? What kind of granny am I anyway to allow this little human to make such a scene?” None of these judgmental questions serve me or the situation at all.
Rather, when asking, “What am I feeling in this moment?” let the response to whatever you are observing be, “Everything is awesome. Let me not resist what is!” You will be amazed how relaxed you become when your frame of reference is that of a preplanned positive thought-anchor. As we learn to inquire within, from a deep place of mindfulness, we soon train our mind to believe less of what appears to be happening and allow time to notice what really is happening. When we take time to inquire, we create a nice “sweet spot” from which to breathe ourselves calm, connect to the present moment, and let go of the judgement of self or what we perceive might be the judgement of others.
Calm creates calm! Period! Yelling, threatening, and frustration never works! While at LEGOLAND, I witnessed a young father huff, puff, yell, threaten and finally plea with his four-year-old son who was having a meltdown of his own. Nothing worked, especially because of the volume and intensity of the tantrum. Finally, in total frustration, the daddy just sat down with his head in his hands. Sympathetically I went over to sit with the man; without much prompting, he confessed that he was a returning veteran, and that given a choice, he would take the sound of mortar fire overhead over the sound of his little mortal son in emotional anguish! In consolation I offered, “Hey, I’m researching a new calming technique— would you mind if I try it on your son?” Without hesitation, he nodded in full surrender.
Asking the child’s name, I scooted over to where Marty, the young child, was flailing and began to use the universal soothing sound of “Shhh, shhh, shhh!” Here’s the technique part: I shushed to the tune of “Jingle Bells!” Can you imagine it in your mind? “Shhh, shhh, shhh, Marty,” I whispered, and then kept shushing to the age-old holiday tune, “Shhh, shhh, shhh, Marty… shhh, shhh, shhh all the way...”
By about the third time I whispered Marty’s name in between the calm shushes, the entire playground came to calm— a peace that passed all understanding! It was as if every child understood the sound and the energetics of an adult sitting down and calmly offering soothing, not shaming! Before long, Marty inched his way over toward me, crawled onto my lap, and peacefully laid his head against my chest. As I looked over at the father, there may have been a tear in his eye. Shortly thereafter, my granddaughter came out from under a pile of kids and disapproved possessively, “That’s my granny! Get off her lap!” Marty’s daddy was now sitting beside me, and it was easy to transfer his calm child from my lap to his. We didn’t exchange any more words. Rather, we gave one another a knowing look, aware that our lives will be forever connected with the soft soothing sounds of calm.
With my awesome granny-nanny assignment complete, several people have already asked if I’ll do it again– which feels a bit like asking a woman who has just birthed a child when she’s going to have her next one! The answer is of course… in due time! The lessons of LEGOLAND will long reside in my heart and serve to confirm the efficacy of mindfulness.
While the Dahlia Lama would say, “Practice kindness whenever possible, and it’s always possible,” my awareness is that of practicing N.I.C.E. Whenever possible, act N.I.C.E… and it’s always possible to be non-resistant, inquiring of self, confidentially calm, and evolving to a place where everything is viewed as awesome!
Final Note – A granny-endorsed amusement park:
LEGOLAND get 5 stars from me!
- The theme park is very educational and interactive, especially the Sea Life Aquarium!
- The rides are very age-appropriate– just enough adrenaline to thrill kids 8 years and over, yet safe enough that you don’t have to worry about their necks and back getting over stretched.
- Wherever there is a “big kid” ride, there is a very nice play area beside the amusement ride for the younger ones.
- The park staff members are very patient, friendly, and helpful to kids and adults.
- There were good healthy food choices at pretty reasonable prices for a theme park once you realized the size of the portions were designed to be shared! It’s an awesome place for kids 2 to 12 years old!
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