World-renowned actress and founder of the Hawn Foundation and MindUp, Goldie Hawn, contributes a thoughtful article on imagination and well-being and reflecting on the work of MindUp, exclusively for Imagination Matters.

Close your eyes. Take a nice deep breath and relax. Imagine your thoughts floating by as clouds. For three minutes. Do you think you can? Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but with practice over time three minutes will fly by. How often do you take time out of your day to reconnect? To be still and to check in with yourself?

I began meditating in my twenties to ease anxiety, and now it is a daily part of my life. When I first began to meditate I knew I felt changed, but at that point I didn’t necessarily understand why. Now, thanks to research, we know: the plasticity of our brains is really the most important aspect of understanding who we are and who we can become.

As humans we have beautiful, powerful brains, and our brains have the ability to bring to mind limitless opportunities and circumstances.

As the world has changes and continues to change, our children are increasingly struggling with stress and anxiety. Thirteen years ago I had a choice: to let the grief that our children are suffering overwhelm me, or to do something that made a difference. I chose the latter, and founded MindUp – the signature programme of the Hawn Foundation, which teaches meditation and mindfulness to school aged children.

So why mindfulness, and how can it help us flourish?

Because it is the very thing that can change the world for the better. As humans we have beautiful, powerful brains, and our brains have the ability to bring to mind limitless opportunities and circumstances. Through these thoughts we create our actions, and for better or worse, our actions create our reality. It is this incredibly potent power of imagination that allows us to interact with the world as we interpret it, and gives us the power to change it.

Through mindfulness we develop the skills to flourish: to take control of our own thoughts and actions, and create the world we wish to inhabit. Imagination is pivotal to this journey. Without the capacity for imagination, we would not be able to visualise, we would not be able empathise, we would not be able to reflect on ourselves and progress.

These are valuable lessons that our children are all too often deprived of. At schools they may experience physical education, but rarely are they given opportunities or the skills for emotional and spiritual education. We certainly do not prioritise these essential, life changing techniques.

Mindfulness allows us to be present in our moment, to truly experience life.

With a firm grounding in neuroscience, MindUp uses mindful awareness and positive psychology as a catalyst for social-emotional learning. Our program not only teaches children the science behind their brains, it also provides techniques for self-calming, inter-personal connections and empathy. Through MindUp our students develop the tools to manage anxiety and stress, to live in the present, and to experience the world fully. These skills lay the foundation for lifelong awareness of the self, of others, and of our world.

Our children’s minds are potent and important, but they are also vulnerable.

With more access to information than any generation before them, these young people are exposed to media on a daily basis that could create very real, lasting damage to a developing mind. It is essential that we provide them with the skillset to process their experiences. These are the skills that will allow them to use their imaginations to create a new reality as they grow into the world. Frankly, it is irresponsible not to encourage this as an integral part of their development. As adults, as teachers, parents and mentors, we have an obligation to prepare our children for the challenges they will face, as well as the joys they will experience.

Mindfulness allows us to be present in our moment, to truly experience life. In an age of technology our human to human connectivity is decreasing, we are distracted, we are rarely truly present and as a result we are not flourishing. Our children, and our children’s children, do not have to continue down this spiral.

Each child must be given every chance to survive and every chance to live in a happy, healthy world. Allowing them to connect with their imaginations, to become mindful, is the key that will unlock our future together. It is the key that will create the conditions under which we can flourish.

Posted by:Goldie Hawn

Goldie Hawn is an Academy Award winning actress, producer, director, best-selling author and children’s advocate. She is the founder of The Hawn Foundation, a public charity with a mission to equip children with the social and emotional skills they need to lead smarter, healthier, and happier lives. Alarmed by increases in school violence, youth depression and suicide, and the persistent failure of the education system to help children cope with increasingly stressful lives, Goldie began The Hawn Foundation in 2003 to apply cutting edge scientific research to create education programs that support the social and emotional development of children. Working with leading neuroscientists, educators and researchers, the Foundation developed MindUP™, an evidence-based curriculum and teaching model for grades K-8 that provides children with the tools to help them understand and improve their own emotions, moods and behaviors; reduce stress and anxiety; sharpen concentration; build confidence; increase empathy; and improve academic performance in school. MindUP™ is currently being taught in schools in the UK, United States, Canada, Finland and Serbia. Goldie is also the author of the best-selling A Lotus Grows in the Mud and Ten Mindful Minutes,Easy Steps to Joy and Mindfulness for Parents and Children. Ms. Hawn has been honored for her work with children. Among them, in 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) presented Goldie with a special award for her work to increase public understanding of mental health.

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