animals and mindfulness – butterflies

Posted on 4 Aug 2017

animals and mindfulness – butterflies

First comes a butterfly
Who lays an egg
Out comes a caterpillar
with so many legs
See the caterpillar spin and spin
A little Chrysalis to sleep in
Out of the chrysalis, my, oh, my
Out comes a beautiful butterfly!

In our classes this week, we spoke about butterflies and how they can teach us about mindfulness. Butterflies can sit very still on a flower, almost looking as if they are a museum specimen. So, again this week, we spoke about finding that quiet place, externally and within, that many animals seem to find.

Butterflies also have a very long, tube-like tongue (proboscis) that helps them to suck up nectar from a flower. We practised sitali breathing (cooling breath) to mimic this, although I called it Butterfly Breath! To try it, stick out your tongue and curl it up at the edges. Then breathe in through your mouth. Notice how cool the air feels on your tongue. Breathing in this manner can really help one to cool down when you are feeling very hot.

I then handed out an array of beautiful butterfly pictures. I asked each child to pick one and look at it. I asked them to notice the colours and patterns on their butterfly’s wings. I asked them to notice a similarity between the patterns on their butterfly’s wings and the patterns on another animal e.g. zebra, leopard, cheetah. I asked them to notice anything else distinguishing on the butterflies. I also asked them to look and tell me how many wings a butterfly has. Most kids immediately said “two”, but a few of the older children looked a bit more intently at their pictures and then hesitantly suggested “four” (which is correct). This was a good exercise for visual attentiveness and noticing small details.

When then moved onto a wonderful mindful movement sequence of the life-cycle of the butterfly. In one of the classes, a little girl was so eager that she demonstrated her own version of the sequence before I had a chance to start. Such enthusiasm! It was delightful to see. 😊 And my favourite part was how she explained that the little, teeny, weeny caterpillar munched on some leaves, and then he munched on more leaves, and then he munched on more leaves and then he had become a huge, fat caterpillar but he still munched on more leaves, and more leaves, and more leaves. I was worried the caterpillar would burst before he had a chance to spin a cocoon!

So as the poem suggests, we moved from an egg (child’s pose) to a caterpillar inching forwards and backwards. We then spun our cocoons by doing roly poly hands in front of our bodies while kneeling and then to both sides of our bodies. We also tried doing roly poly hands the opposite way which needed a lot of focus and concentration for some! And finally, we emerged as the beautiful butterfly. With the soles of our feet together, our bent knees formed one set of wings. And with our index fingers as antenna on the sides of our head, our bent elbows offered a second set of wings. The children had great delight in flapping their butterfly wings. We then moved into flower pose so that our butterflies could have a rest and drink some nectar (sitali breathing). This pose uses a lot of core muscle strength so it was wonderful to see many of the children managing it. And, as always, there was much laughter as the flowers rolled over and everyone wiggled their legs and arms in the air.

We then moved into the guided visualisation. I read the children a meditation I had written about a beautiful garden with lots of colourful flowers and insects. I asked them to notice the wonderful smells in the garden. And to notice the different sensations like stepping into the mud on the side of the stream with their bare feet and enjoying the squishy, squashy sensation of mud between their toes. I asked them to listen for the wind as it gently blew through the leaves in the trees. I then suggested that if they listened very carefully, they might even hear the wings of a butterfly flapping overhead. Finally, I asked them to simply let go and enjoy their time in the garden, listening to their own breathing and enjoying the quiet.

After the visualisation, we joined hands to form a circle and said our Mindful Minis Mantra. I feel that this is an important part of the class and often one which the children look forward to. Or maybe it is just the stamp that they get afterwards that they are excited about! But I like to believe they find strength in the mantra and that it helps them to connect inward. 😊

In the classes which did artwork this week, we made some beautiful butterflies out of fallen leaves from a tree. The children added their own bits of creativity by decorating the butterfly wings (leaves) with all sorts of beautiful colours. I always love including something from nature in the artwork. I find it works well with young children. They have a wonderful ability to use their imaginations to create masterpieces out of something so simple such as a dry leaf.

So, a beautiful week all round with great classes and some wonderful rain. I would like to leave you with this quote:

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness, yet still become something beautiful.” ~Unknown

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