I started off all the classes this week using the Breathing Glitter Wand. The children each had a turn to breath in deeply and then out fully while focusing on the bubble moving up in the glitter wand as they turned it over. It worked well as another way to teach children about breathing in deeply and then extending the exhale. And a little bit of magic, fairies and glitter from time to time is good for the soul! So, it was fun to use the glitter wand to end the year on a magical note.
We discussed what mindfulness means to each child. I asked them to describe in one word what they had learnt at Mindful Minis this year. “Calm” was a popular answer. “Breathing” was also common. One little person said “courage” which warmed my heart! No-one mentioned the word “noticing” so we discussed a bit about how mindfulness is also about noticing – our environment, sensations in our bodies, how we feel and of course, our breath!
We recapped the story of the guard puppy, the elephant and the wise owl. It was wonderful to see how much the children remembered and how well they identified with the characters. The guard puppy being our amygdala. He barks when there is danger (adrenaline released into body). The elephant being the hippocampus. He helps us to remember things such as how to brush our teeth, the name of our pet, where we live and many more things. The elephant gets really scared when the puppy barks. He flaps his big ears in front of his face and hides. When he is scared, he also forgets everything! The wise owl is our pre-frontal cortex, and this can help us to calm down the puppy and the elephant. But the owl sleeps a lot and there is a trick to waking him up. If you have forgotten the trick, you can refresh your memory by reading the story here (the blog of the week where I first introduced the story to the children).
This week we looked at the last colour of the rainbow, Red! In yoga, red refers to the base or root chakra. It is associated with the feeling of safety, support and grounding. We discussed how mindfulness can be a support for us to manage our feelings, especially difficult and uncomfortable ones.
I used the analogy of mud in a fish tank. I had a big jar representing the fish tank and a starfish inside the jar. I stirred up all the mud in the jar and asked the children to imagine that the mud was a strong negative emotion like anger. We discussed how, when the mud is swirling around, you cannot see the starfish. We needed the mud to sink to the bottom of the tank, so that we could have a clear view of the starfish.
I stuck my hand into the jar and tried to push the mud to the bottom. I asked the kids if it looked like it was working. No! The harder I tried to push the mud down, the more it churned up. I explained to the children that similarly, in an attempt to control a negative emotion, you may try to push it down. Unfortunately, the harder you try, the more it resurfaces.
So, we discussed that, instead of diving into the muddy water of your emotion, as a way to conquer it, practise mindfulness. This means you should observe it from the outside and let it settle down and transform on its own. We put the glass jar to one side and on coming back to it at the end of the lesson, the mud had settled, the water was clear and we could see the beautiful starfish. We had done nothing but simply observe. A transformation had taken place on its own from muddy water to clear.
We then got creative and made our very own family of emotions. Using a balloon, playdough, coloured raffia and black permanent marker we made the most gorgeous squeezy emotion balloons. There were happy, angry, surprised, funny, calm, excited and many more faces. The kids were delighted when they learnt they could take their emotion balloon home. One little girl commented that now she had her own stress ball buddy!
After the fun artwork, it was time to end off the year with the final guided visualisation. This week I played them a demo track from the new Mindful Moments for Minis CD called Beautiful Breathing. The CD is unfortunately not going to be ready this year. There have been some unforeseen delays but it is scheduled for release early next year. If you are interested in purchasing a copy in the new year, let me know and I will add you to the list for the initial batch.
It has truly been a wonderful year at Mindful Minis. Some children have grown in spirit and courage in a remarkable way while others have softened, settled and found more focus. Each child has been touched by the journey. I hope that you, their parents, too have benefited and been inspired to the calm within.
I leave you with this thought from Rumi: “The moon stays bright when it doesn’t avoid the night.”
Happy Holidays to all and I look forward to reconnecting in 2018.