Reviewed by Ellen Campbell. Ellen teaches yoga to children and adults in Tucson, Arizona. She is a LifeForce Yoga Level I practitioner and author of the Youthful Yogis Blog.
Eline Snel’s book, Sitting Still Like a Frog, is proof that good things come in small packages. Just one hundred pages long– and compact enough to fit in a purse or small tote bag–the book offers an engaging introduction to mindfulness meditation for children and their parents.
As founder of the Academy for Mindful Teaching and director of Mindfulness Matters, a training program for school age children, Ms. Snel’s commitment to combating stress in the lives of young people is inspiring. The breadth of her work is indeed impressive, as is her ability to distil the essentials of mindful-living into a book that is at once inviting, informative and practical for parents, teachers and kids.
Sitting Still Like a Frog begins with an overview of what it means to be mindful. The author states: “Mindfulness is nothing other than present-moment awareness, an open and friendly willingness to understand what is going on in and around you” (Sitting Still Like a Frog, p. 2). This is followed by a discussion on learning to observe thoughts, feelings and sensations without allowing them to define who we are, and a chapter on breath in which Ms. Snel shares techniques for observing the depth and rhythm of the breath in order to “bring friendly attention to how we are doing, right now.”
Interspersed within each of the ten chapters of this book are mindfulness exercises that adults and children can do together. In the back of the book readers will find a CD with ten mindfulness exercises, narrated by Myla Kabat-Zinn. Children will love listening to these exercises which include “Sitting Still Like a Frog,” “The Spaghetti Test” and “The Secret of the Heart Chamber,” just to name a few. Ms. Kabat-Zinn’s voice is calm and reassuring as she guides listeners to present moment awareness. In “First Aid for Worries,” children are taught to shift their attention out of their head and down into their belly. The narrator explains that: “deep down in the abdomen all is calm. There are no worries. There are no fights. There is peace and intense quiet.” In “The Pause Button” young listeners learn to take the time to note how they are doing, to “look at the inner self with curiosity and without judgment.”
Eline Snel’s work demonstrates a compassionate understanding of the effects of stress on the developing brain as well as a heartfelt commitment to combat this stress by teaching youngsters to “live in the present moment without judging or ignoring anything” (Sitting Still Like a Frog, p.3). She offers concrete examples of the types of stress that children are under and provides concise language to help individuals experience open-minded, nonjudgmental awareness. Many adults have worked years to arrive at a place of friendly self- acceptance. How wonderful that Eline Snel offers tools to support children on this journey as well.
Sitting Still Like a Frog is published by Shambahala Publications. Information about Eline Snel’s Mindfulness Matters method and the Academy for Mindful Teaching can be found at http://www.academyformindfulteaching.com/mindfulness.
We will be sending out a Summer Reading Issue of our Newsletter next week – which will include many reviews of some wonderful books and media for you to enjoy this summer. Stay tuned!