Heather Grace MacKenzie is a Mindfulness and Compassion Teacher, Connected KidsTM Trainer and Tutor. She has taught mindfulness to children of all ages and stages in both school and family settings and is currently studying full-time for a PhD in Education with the University of Aberdeen, researching mindfulness and self-compassion in schools. Heather is an authoritative voice on mindful parenting and her years as a Reiki Master Teacher bring a compelling sense of spirituality to her work and her writing. She was brought up on the Scottish Isle of Islay, daughter of a farmer and a conservationist and now lives in Strathaven with her partner, her three children and her step-son.
Q & A – Awakening Child: A journey of inner transformation through teaching your child mindfulness and compassion
Why did you write this book?
It sounds a little odd, but this was a book that literally asked to be written. In the book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert suggests that ideas find you, and they ask you to work with them and bring them to fruition. So that’s what I did once the idea of this book found me, and my goodness it wasn’t an easy journey!
What surprised you the most as you researched or wrote it?
As I wrote the book, I started to realise that I wasn’t writing for lots of other people, I was writing for just one person – one person who, looking back, is essentially the child inside each of us. I would bring to mind an image of the two of us nestling a cup of tea in our hands and sitting side-by-side in an open doorway looking out to the hills and water beyond. I would imagine the two of us sharing our deepest longings and darkest fears, and it just felt really special – that’s the only way to describe it!
What will children benefit from learning mindfulness and compassion children?
It will give them the future that they deserve; that the planet deserves. It’s time to learn to be more present for each other, and teach children how to care for themselves and others not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Our minds are the most complicated tools that we will ever have at our disposal, and yet we don’t teach children how to use them because we simply don’t understand this for ourselves. That’s why in my book I encourage adults to go on the journey of learning by teaching a child. If you want to really learn something, teach it! Our story-telling minds create so much suffering, both for us and for those around us, and the present-day challenges are greater than ever as our children become the ‘distracted generation’ through overuse of technology.
How will this book help parents and carers – what will it give them?
The quick answer is greater peace. The deeper answer is greater connection. Many of our interactions with our children simply revolve around battles of will and attempts to assert authority. I suggest a different way of interacting that is based on presence and awareness of the needs that underlie the interaction. My BE.LOVE method for dealing with difficulties gives parents (and also those working with children) a practical way of doing things differently. One parent loves the method so much that she’s had it tattooed on her forearm!
How will this book help those working with children, e.g. teachers, social workers, counsellors?
Working with a child is such a special thing to do, and holds so many opportunities for growth and healing. When children learn to meditate, a world of possibilities literally opens up. The mind comes into greater balance, and the mind/body connection is strengthened. Children become happier, more resilient, more creative, more empathic, more emotionally intelligent, amongst many other things. Teachers I’ve worked with who have taught meditation in their classrooms have said that it has helped them as much as it has helped the children!
What do you think will surprise readers the most?
I think that many readers will pick up the book in the hopes of gaining practical information on how to share mindfulness with a child, but what may surprise readers the most is that I believe it’s impossible to read the book without being fundamentally changed by it on some core level. For some, the change will feel very real and very tangible; for others perhaps a subtler difference – something they can’t quite put their finger on.
What’s the most important lesson or message readers will get from it?
I feel that the most important lesson readers will get from the book is an ability to rest in the midst of chaos, in the midst of not knowing what to do for the best or how things will resolve, with a fundamental OKness (we mindfulness teachers love to add ness onto the end of words!). Our ability to be with the difficulties that we will inevitably face as human beings with a sense of kindness and an inner strength to weather the storm without lashing out at others or needing for things to be different, is fundamental to our evolution. We only have to look at the madness we see around us in world events today, to understand why we need to learn to do things differently.
Did writing this book change your life in any way?
I was looking back recently at some journaling that I did at the start of writing the book, and it was so interesting to see the self-doubt and wondering whether the book was worth writing. I don’t feel like that now – indeed I feel like a completely different person – because writing the book took me on a journey I needed to go on and everything has changed as a result. I hope that the book takes each reader on a journey that they need to go on.
What do you hope will come from others reading it?
I hope that a child will learn to bring kindness to themselves in a moment of difficulty. That simple shift changes everything; anything else is just lovely froth!