Deborah Hopkinson

Deborah Hopkinson has a master's degree in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she studied the role of women in 13th-century Japanese Buddhism. She lived in Honolulu for 20 years and practiced Zen Buddhism with the late Roshi Robert Aitken, founder of the Diamond Sangha and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She lives near Portland, Oregon, where she writes books for children and teens. For more, see deborahhopkinson.com.

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This is a new day. A mindful day. Our day.

It’s still dark
when one small bird
fluffs his feathers
And lifts his voice
To sing up the sun.
Snuggled deep in our dreams,
we hear his clear song.
And we open our eyes
To the gift of a new day.
This day.
Our day.

Years ago, we attended a family meditation retreat with the beloved Buddhist teacher Thich
Nhat Hanh. The children loved him. He showed them how to count their breaths from one to
ten. (The best part was finding ten perfect stones to move from one pile to another.) During
walking meditation, he urged them all ahead with a running meditation. Another time, the
children served tea to the adults, moving carefully and slowly, focused intently on the task at
hand.

Today, there is growing recognition that practicing mindfulness has benefits for children
regardless of religious or spiritual background. From preschools to middle schools, educators
are incorporating mindfulness into their learning communities as a way to help young people
cope with emotions and anxieties.

Mindfulness can also start at home. Here in Oregon, the OPEC (Oregon Parenting Education
Collaborative), a public-private parenting education effort, provides evidence-based parent
resources on mindfulness: “The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness with Children at Home.”

I hope my new picture book, Mindful Day, with gorgeous illustrations by talented California
artist Shirley Ng-Benitez, will also be helpful to families. Rather than a how-to, the story instead
follows a young girl, along with her mom and little brother, as they go about the simple,
ordinary activities of a day: eating breakfast together, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and
going to the market.

 

Shirley’s child-friendly artwork makes the characters come to life and examples of how to
practice mindfulness are integrated into the text. As the young girl pops a raspberry into her
mouth she says, “I chew slowly. It tastes sweet as summer.” She also practices being aware of
her breath. “Together we breathe: in out, soft slow. I look and listen. I play.”

 

 

Mindful Day was inspired by the time I’ve spent with my toddler grandson. I hope readers will embrace Mindful Day and make mindfulness part of their own family life. In this way, we can better treasure each precious moment—and help our children learn to do the same.

 Thank you,
Deborah Hopkinson

 

Deborah Hopkinson has a master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where she studied the role of women in thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhism. She lived in Honolulu for 20 years and practiced Zen Buddhism with the late Roshi Robert Aitken, founder of the Diamond Sangha and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She lives near Portland, Oregon. For more, visit deborahhopkinson.com.

 

 

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3 Ways to be Mindful with Your Family This Holiday Sea...

Mindfulness has long been essential to spiritual practice, but recently it’s been embraced by schools at all levels. Recently, as an author visit at a middle school, I saw for myself the results of starting the day with a moment of silence and encouraging students to be mindful of others in hallways. Here are a few suggestions for family mindfulness during the holidays.

Start each day with mindful breathing.

During the holidays, we often wake up with our minds already spinning and busy with a long to do list. Take a few moments, in bed or in the shower, while brushing your teeth or waking your child, to follow your breath. The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we have to be present to be here, fully live each day. Even better, practice mindful breathing with your child.

Light a candle each day.

There’s something magical about lighting a candle. Creating ritual is one way to slow down and be mindful of each moment. It might be hard for busy families to have dinner together during the holidays. And maybe everyone in your house rushes out to the bus or car without sitting down to breakfast. But this time of year, when many of us struggle with darkness, the simple act of lighting a candle can help center ourselves.

Treasure the joy of quiet reading time.

The holidays are a great time to gather together to watch films, but don’t neglect the joy of quiet reading, which nurtures our imagination and allows us to be quiet together. If you have children, it’s a great way to share together. If you’re visiting relatives, take a risk and suggest a read aloud activity. We all love to be read to, whatever our age. And as we come together with those we love in the wonder of books and stories, we are reminded of what we treasure most.

 

Deborah Hopkinson has a master’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, where she studied the role of women in thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhism. She is the author of Under the Bodhi Tree: A Story of the Buddha. She lived in Honolulu for 20 years and practiced Zen Buddhism with the late Roshi Robert Aitken, founder of the Diamond Sangha and Buddhist Peace Fellowship. She lives near Portland, Oregon. For more, visit deborahhopkinson.com.

The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way. 

EXPLORE NOW

 

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 Some time ago, I found a strange bloom in the kitchen. It was elegantly twisted, like a dragon at a Chinese New Year celebration. It was frilled, purple, and pungent. This exquisite thing grew out of a chunk of purple cabbage that I’d put under the sink to go out for compost. Instead of fading quietly however, it burst into new life in the dark grotto of my cabinetry. It blossomed into something unexpected, unusual, and fiercely beautiful.

Reflecting on the discovery of this “flower” in the shadows, I’m reminded of, and heartened by, the fertility of dark times. Many people are feeling a collective spiritual darkness now, exhausted and frustrated, maybe also angry and scared. Having compassion for ourselves and others is especially important in times of literal and metaphorical darkness. How can we do this if we already feel overloaded?

Nature is our ultimate model and guide—in the light, in the dark, and in the most surprising and gorgeous ways. Cue the weird, glorious cabbage flower which came to life in the dark. What was being shown there?

There is the clear compost metaphor. Compost is the stuff we reject, the moldy, wilted, too hard, too soft, nasty bits that don’t make it to the table. It’s also the leftovers from delicious things we appreciate and enjoy, silky mango skins, green tea leaves, dark coffee grounds.

It all transforms into a rich sloop that eventually nourishes future plants. Our personal work includes processing our own “dark” sides, the parts we’d like to hide or discard. Self-compassion (and compassion for others) holds both the rejected and respected parts of who we are. Like composting, it isn’t always pretty, but it’s potent. Research shows self-compassion helps us stay present and kindhearted without sinking into absorptive empathy, which can lead to overload and burnout. This meditation is part of the toolkit in the audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out.

The cycles of the natural world, into which we are interwoven, take time. It’s hard to be patient, to let everything, both scorned and enjoyed, stew in our symbolic personal compost piles. The speed with which that brew changes from nasty to nourishing varies widely with the internal and external conditions. Sometimes all those different elements take a long time to dissolve and break down. Sometimes it turns around faster than we think possible, like time-lapse photography of a log rotting on the forest floor with new green shoots springing to life overnight. Compassion is the magic ingredient that turns our personal “compost” into personal evolution.

The dark supports transformation. Times of literal darkness are needed for regeneration. Roots, seeds, and bulbs prepare. People and animals sleep. Times of symbolic darkness are also helpful. In darkness, transformative processes happen without spectators, often below the level of our conscious awareness. These are periods of catharsis, healing after trauma, cocooning in preparation for the next version of ourselves and our world.

We sometimes feel hopeless and helpless in the dark. Our society avoids sinking into it. Instead, we gravitate towards purveyors of easy “love and light!” spirituality, shying away from the deep, gooey work that happens to the larval versions of ourselves (and those around us) when we’re in the darkness of the cocoon. Self-compassion is most needed when we’re a mess.

The dark is a vital part of the wheel of our days, our years, our lifetimes. We need it to survive and be healthy in the long term. So, let’s embrace it, explore it, and be gentle with ourselves as we confront our fear of it. From this darkness we are nourished to bloom into the light.

@ 2021 Mara Bishop MA

Preorder Shining Bright Without Burning Out now! 

Mara Bishop has over 25 years of experience helping people find spiritual health and well-being. Her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method blends shamanism, psychology, intuition, energy healing, and nature-based practices. She lives in Durham, NC with a beloved family of people, animals, and plants.

More information about Mara is at www.WholeSpirit.com

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