October 09, 2012

Smiling Mind

The New Website and App for Mindfulness Meditation for Young People

Smiling Mind, a new website and mobile app, is a mindfulness meditation program designed specifically with children and young adults in mind. Developed by an Australian nonprofit, Smiling Mind is available completely free-of-charge with registry.

The program takes listeners through guided meditations, beginning with a "body scan" session and moving on to sounds, thoughts, and emotions—always returning to the ever-calming, grounding sensation of the breath. All meditations are presented secularly.

If the program is as simple and easy-to-use as it seems, and, more importantly, capable of overcoming taboos of meditation among children and adolescents—who, let's be honest, are the most difficult audience to win over—then there is enormous potential here. The truth is, it's hard being that age, as co-founder of Smiling Mind, Jane Martino seems to understand: "Young people face increasing everyday life pressures—from their mobile phones, social media, hectic after-school schedules and exam pressures. What they need are tools to help them cope."

Though children and young adults are Smiling Mind's main focus, there are a total of four age settings, ranging from 7-year-olds to adults, with corresponding exercises. (The adult exercises were a welcome respite from a busy day at the office.) So it's not just kids who stand to benefit. Imagine the iPhone, the ultimate distraction (it's practically the convergence of all distractions that have ever been invented) instantly transformed into a talisman of unshakable equanimous awareness.

Smiling Mind is currently running a pilot program in 20 schools in Australia. Their long-term vision is to integrate the program into the Australian national curriculum by 2020.


Give Smiling Mind a whirl here.

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cmoras's picture

My 8 year old and I did the first lesson on Smiling Mind last night and he loved it. He asked if we can do it every night. This program has done a great job using language and imagery that are helpful to younger children. Tonight I will try it with my 6 year old too.

Dominic Gomez's picture

"There is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon." (Brave New World)

jeffreyjh's picture

You seem pretty sure about what Buddha would think. Must be nice.

I couldn't disagree with your comments more. Kids have desire for devices (and peer pressure for devices) in the West (and the East) so this seems almost a subversive way to turn that desire into something that would improve their life. I don't think "many westerners" understand anything about Buddhism to begin with, but if they gave it any thought it all, it wouldn't involve a conclusion of production unthinking desire-machines. Quite the opposite.

I believe the over-riding idea here is that maybe they'll use this app to gain more insight into the way their mind works and become calmer, more well adjusted people. I've found that, as you learn to think and learn about mindfulness, your desires for "things" decreases naturally. So that's a good thing too.

How is this making a generation of children "terrified of thought"? Where are these comments even coming from?

I always regret reading the comments...

wtompepper's picture

I was joking about how Buddha would respond. The "turning over in the grave" remark couldn't possibly have seemed to be a serious "this is the true thought of Buddha" comment, could it?

The problem is that this kind of "mindfulness" is exactly designed to prevent people from gaining insight into how the mind works, to make them complacent, calm, and "adjusted" to the way things are, and never question things. As the nasty personal attack from Rami, below, indicates, it works quite well--one can automatically be mean and nasty to someone who provokes thought without even understanding what they said, and call it "mindfulness." This is exactly my point: be vicious to anyone who thinks IS the lesson of "minfulenss." Thinking is always a cruel, hostile 'troll-like" thing to do. Not thinking is beautiful and calming.

Tharpa Pema's picture

Dear wtompepper:

Do you see how your words could be received as "mean and nasty"? I don't think you "design" them that way. Perhaps you feel you are defending yourself, and other people with whom you identify, from a "vicious" attack.Perhaps you genuinely feel you are smarter or more knowledgeable than the rest of the populace, so that you have a greater "right" to be vicious while others do not. Maybe you didn't provoke it, but can you stop it?

I don't think you design to "prevent people from gaining insight into how the mind works" but the "viciousness" of what you see as your self-defense--but what some others newly arrived to the scene may view as unprovoked aggression--promotes rancor. Too much rancor obscures clear thinking, just as too much complacency does.

Can you see how you are acting like those you speak against? Can you see yourself having the courage to be the first one to stop?

Maitri, Linda

wtompepper's picture


I am, I admit, kind of bad at posting and sounding "nice." I really don't see how either of my posts here could seem "mean and nasty." I'm not saying they don't--apparently, they do to others besides you. When I read them, to my own ear they don't sound that way; I'm not calling anyone a troll or making a personal attack, and I think it truly is one of the goals of "mindfulness" to produce an automatic, unthinking fury towards anything that requires thought, and to make people wholly mind-less of the meanness and anger they are enacting--so long as that fury is directed at truth or thought. I just thought this was an irony worth pointing out.

However, as your post suggests, I do believe I am not at all skillful at posting on these boards, and my attempts to provoke thought and challenge assumptions only make people angry, and totally fail to provoke any thought at all. I don't start out addressing any particular people, but every time I post I get a bunch of hostile personal attacks--from people claiming to be kinder and more skillful in speech than me. I really was shocked on this one--this just story seems so obviously horrifying.

I think perhaps I need to stop posting completely on Tricycle. I'm sure many will be relieved.

jjmahern's picture

Wtompepper, could you elaborate on the part of your post that says

"I think it truly is one of the goals of "mindfulness" to produce an automatic, unthinking fury towards anything that requires thought, and to make people wholly mind-less of the meanness and anger they are enacting--so long as that fury is directed at truth or thought. I just thought this was an irony worth pointing out."

I have yet to find the practice of mindfulness (at least not the ones I have had exposure to) that has the goal of trying to get people to be automatically furious at anything that requires thought? I have, however, come to understand one component of mindfulness to be that of observing our thoughts more regularly so that we might be more aware of those thoughts. This awareness is not cultivated to promote fury (in fact quite the opposite). When not mindful, we are quite prone to automatic reaction without thinking to experiences with things like fury, fear, desire and so on. The point of mindfulness is to help people to see how we normally allow thoughts and feelings to unthinkingly dictate how we behave (and more specifically in unskillful ways). Once aware of these thoughts we can more consciously choose to evaluate these thoughts and we can choose to act upon them or not, believe in them or not, and proceed in a wholly deliberate fashion of our own choosing. So how is that promoting mindlessness? How is that promoting automatic unthinking fury toward thought or truth? Seems mindfulness quite logically has the goal of doing quite the opposite. How is it making people mindless of the meanness and anger they are enacting? The goal of mindfulness is also to gain more awareness around not only our thoughts but our actions based on those thoughts. Helping to allow people to more fully and consciously choose their actions and when fully aware of the consequences of these actions, generally will act with more compassion and less anger. We will own our own feelings more fully, being more aware that they are simply our reactions to the world around us and not blame others for their origination. Through this awareness we can begin to act increasingly with less meanness and anger.

So can you explain in more detail exactly what you meant by those statements? Cause I honestly have never run into anything remotely like this in my experiences with cultivating mindfulness. Your statement quite baffles me. Of course I am not an expert on mindfulness at all.

And no I don't think you are a troll or mean and nasty but you definitely have quite the irreverent sense of humor and what seems to be a lot of reactivity toward many of the articles published here. I would say that for me that poses no issue, as I can quite enjoy a spirited debate, but for others, they have a hard time seeing through your hard exterior to perhaps your better intentions below. I don't think you should stop posting to tricycle. I think it is always better to have a wide array of viewpoints. Maybe just cultivate a bit more mindfulness around your postings. :-)

DougHolmes's picture

I'm curious - how is a guided meditation (however mechanically contrived) to practice being aware of one's body, feelings, and thoughts, going to make one terrified of thought?

Dominic Gomez's picture

Rather than terrified of thinking the writer seems to be saying anesthetized to it.

rami's picture

It is really hit and miss, isn't it, comments. Thank you for yours.

I think this sums up perfectly the reason to share mindfulness practice with anyone, ever, whatever age:
"...maybe they'll ... gain more insight into the way their mind works and become calmer, more well adjusted people..."

It's no guarantee, as the trolls who comment even on this beautiful website remind us. Our friend here is one I recognize as prolific and nasty. Best not to feed the trolls, no matter where they show up.

matthewmgioia's picture

Rami: by "beautiful website," do you mean a website that only supports one perspective? Personally, the kind of thinking I appreciate the most is thinking that stirs up my own, points to hidden gaps in my reasoning, or simply contradicts what I take for granted to be "the truth." Why? Because it is certainly one of the most effective avenues, perhaps the single most effective, for gaining insight into how "my mind works" and how the world works. Listen to yourself: you are holding up this bit about becoming calmer and more well adjusted. To quote someone who isn't a Buddhist, is it any sign of health to become well-adjusted to a sick society?

matthewmgioia's picture

This could be a superb tool for "educators" in the forced schooling business to further entrap, control, and oppress the originality and liberty of young minds! Brilliant!

wtompepper's picture

Did you feel that vibration? It's Buddha turning over in his pure land.

Dominic Gomez's picture

But the app and the article are not about the Buddha or Buddhism.

wtompepper's picture

I would agree, Dominic, that this has nothing to do with anything I would understand as Buddhism. It is merely a strategy to produce a generation of children terrified of thought and content to mindlessly do whatever they are asked, so long as it is done on expensive high-tech toys. Unfortunately, as its mention here would indicate, the production of contented, unthinking desire-machines seems to be what many westerners understand to be the goal of Buddhism.