16Growing up! – 20 Breaths of Patience

The first two activities in our series used the environment and hands to support the development of mindful presence. Our next activity uses mindfulness of breath to explore and develop the quality of patience.

Start on your own

This activity can be done in different ways but we very much encourage you to try it out for yourself first to become familiar with your own experience.

Begin by gently following your breath. There is no need to manipulate the breath, simply observe the natural rhythm of the breathing in and out. After a few breaths, start counting.

Breathing in, breathing out – one.

Breathing in, breathing out – two.

Try to count to 20 breaths. How many breaths can you count before you lose your concentration and forget where you are? This is harder than it sounds! Notice the thoughts and feelings that arise when you lose your concentration. Be gentle with yourself and meet feelings of frustration with kindness and patience. Then start again.

All together now

Encourage the child or group of children to sit comfortably on the floor. Begin by noticing the breath. Invite them to put their hands on their belly and notice the rise and fall as the breath goes in and out. Where else can they notice their breath? Maybe on the upper lip or nostrils? As you begin counting breaths together, remember that children’s lungs are smaller and so their breath pattern will be naturally faster than yours. Encourage the children to count their breaths in their mind and in silence. Can they get to 20 breaths without thinking about something else? Check in gently and notice how the children respond when they lose count. Meet their frustration with kindness and patience as you gently encourage them to simply start again.

After the activity, ask the children how they found it. What was easy and what was maybe less easy? Was there anyone who felt annoyed because it was more difficult for them? Together reflect on what patience means and how they can be patient with themselves rather than get angry. Remember that you will be a role model with your patient attitude to them in this activity.

Encourage them to do this activity on their own and be curious about how far they get. Is it easier to follow the breath with patience or when they are annoyed?

Why is patience important?

To practise patience is to taste the power of the mind. Life is full of uncomfortable experiences, from minor niggles and irritations to major confrontations and setbacks. When they happen, we have a choice about how to respond. We can either become agitated and upset, or we can stay calm and relaxed. Patience is the ability to control our reactions and retain our peace of mind.

Patience gives us the flexibility and strength not to be a victim of circumstance. It is like having a protective suit of armour. It doesn’t make us passive or resigned, or take away the ability to respond appropriately to difficulties and harm.  On the contrary, patience makes it far more likely we can respond in an appropriate way, because we retain the ability to think clearly.

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