Mindful Minis had a great start to 2018! It was wonderful to see the children again after the holidays and it was great to welcome some new faces who were giving mindfulness a try for the first time.
The theme for this term is Breathe and Be. I am drawing inspiration from the beautiful book with the same title by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Anna Emilia Laitinen. It is a wonderful book of mindfulness poems for children that really capture the essence of mindfulness.
This week we focused on finding the quiet place within.
There is a quiet place
in my head
like an egg hidden in a nest.
A place I go when the world is loud.
A moss-green forest with birds.
We started off by speaking about how the world can sometimes feel very loud. With the start of a new year, children may be starting at a new school, or possibly moving to a new class with a new teacher, or simply moving up a grade. We spoke about how overwhelming these changes can be. One little guy took it very literally and explained how it is very loud at his school at playtime since there are 100 boys all playing outside at the same time. I can imagine the noise! We discussed other ways in which the world can feel “loud”. So not necessarily a physical noise but more when we are in a situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
We then spoke about special places where the world doesn’t feel loud. Places where we feel calm and safe. Many children said that their bedroom was a quiet, safe space where they felt secure. Others mentioned their garden at home or a nearby park. I personally find that being in nature (my go to is Newlands Forest!) helps me to connect with the calm and quiet within. One boy mentioned a special bench on a path overlooking the sea at Pringle Bay where he found calm and contentment by just sitting and watching the sea.
Every child needs a place where they feel safe and secure. A place where they can “hide” when life starts feeling overwhelming or too noisy. For young children, even setting up a small tent in a child’s bedroom and filling it with soft cushions, can be a wonderful hide-away place for a child to spend some quiet time with themselves.
We then spoke about how we can also find a quiet space within our hearts that we can go to when we feel overwhelmed. By closing our eyes and taking some deep breaths in and out, we can allow our minds and bodies to relax which helps us to find the quiet space within. We spoke about how sometimes it is difficult to find that quiet place within. It can sometimes feel out of reach when life is too loud and overwhelming.
I explained to the children that their breath can help them to find that quiet place. The breath is a bridge to the quiet within. By slowing down and focusing on our breath, we are able to find the calm within. We practised a variety of breath awareness exercises including smelling the flower (breathing in through the nose) and blowing out the candle (breathing out through the mouth). The older kids were very excited to light the candle themselves 😊 We used the Hoberman sphere to slow down the out-breath. By focusing on closing the sphere slowly and gently, it encourages the children to lengthen the out-breath which helps to slow down their heart rate leaving them feeling calm and grounded. In the younger classes we are also used the Breathing Glitter Wand which is always a firm favourite. Mesmerising!
Thich Nhat Hanh has written a lovely book called “Planting Seeds” which is about practising mindfulness with children. We listened to a track on the accompanying CD called “I follow my breath”. After the song, I asked the children to continue focusing on their breathing. I rang the chimes and ask them to breath out for as long as they could hear the sound of the chimes. Again, another nice exercise to lengthen the out-breath. I also introduced a mantra to use while focusing on the breath as this sometimes helps to keep focused awareness of the breath:
Breathing in, I am calm
Breathing out, I feel happy
With the older children, we continued with a sound awareness meditation. First focusing on any sounds outside the room in the distance. Then focusing on sounds a bit closer but still outside the room. Then focusing on sounds inside the room. And finally focusing on sounds internally, including our own breathing.
After the meditation, it was time for some artwork. The younger children made bridges out of ice-lolly sticks and matches. There were many different bridge designs which was lovely to see. They will be able to take the bridges home next week (once the glue has dried) as a reminder that our breath is a bridge to the quiet place within.
The older children were presented with their very special journals. They were given an opportunity to draw or write about the meditation and the quiet pace within. The journals are personal – for them only. I explained that they can bring them to the classes if they would like to write in them during the class when things come up that they want to remember. But it is not mandatory to bring them to class. The last thing I want is anxiety around forgetting the journal!
So, all in all, a lovely start to 2018! I think as adults it is also important for us to remember that our breath is a bridge to the quiet within. As I said to the children, you always have your breath with you wherever you go. There is no chance of you forgetting it at home! So, I leave you with the lovely words we used in class:
I breathe slowly in,
I breathe slowly out.
My breath is a pathway of peace
Moving softly through me.
Each day I can breathe and be.