Highlights from a past class


Guiding children in mindfulness in Cape Town

In the lessons this week, we looked at the theme of compassion as a way to add handfuls of happiness to the world (our theme for the term). I used the beautiful concept of the Two Promises from the book “Planting Seeds” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

  • I vow to develop UNDERSTANDING in order to live peacefully with people, animals, plants and minerals
  • I vow to develop my COMPASSION in order to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals.

We discussed both the promises in detail. Firstly, we considered what “develop my understanding” means as well as looking at what peace means to each of us. The children gave ideas of calm, quiet, sharing and love. We discussed how can we peacefully live with other people – by celebrating our diversity (a follow on from our discussions last week!), by sharing, by not shouting and by not fighting were some of the ideas given.

We discussed how we can live peacefully with animals by stroking them gently (hopefully not the wild kind), by giving them space to live such as the Kruger Park (I loved this answer!), by caring for them and not hurting or killing them.

And then we discussed how we can live peacefully with plants and the Earth. The children are always filled with great ideas on how to protect Mother Earth and I loved all the thoughts from my little eco-warriors such as picking up litter, saving water, not cutting down trees, not picking flowers just to name a few. I also suggested things such as correct farming methods to prevent soil erosion and giving back to the soil by composting and other ways to return nutrients to the soil.

Secondly, we looked at compassion. I started by asking the children what love means to them and how do they show love to someone or something like mom or dad or cats or dogs. Lots of beautiful answers! Especially with Mother’s Day around the corner on Sunday, the children were full of ideas on how to show their moms how much they love them – wonderfully adorable. There are going to be some very lucky mamas come Sunday!

We also spoke about how we can protect those we love including animals, plants and the Earth. The beloved rhino came up in every single class as an animal needing our protection. I think it is fantastic that young children are aware of the plight of some of our wildlife and are fiercely passionate about protecting our animals.

We also looked at our friendships and how we show love and kindness to our friends. I used one of my favourite mindful activities to discuss this with the children. I passed around a bag filled with cotton wool. I asked the children not to peep inside but simply to put their hands in and describe what they could feel – soft, fuzzy, squishy, dry, smooth. I asked if they would be happy to rub whatever was inside the bag on their face – yes!

I then passed around a bag with sandpaper in. Again, the same idea of not looking but describing what they felt – rough, prickly, sore, hard, scratchy. I asked if they would be happy to rub this on their face – a very definite no!

I then asked them to think about their words and actions to others. Were they using cotton wool words and actions or sandpaper words and actions? Mmmm… So, we went around the group and each child got to say a sandpaper sentence “You stink!”, “You are not my friend”, “Your clothes are ugly”. We then went around the circle a second time and each child got the opportunity to say a cotton wool sentence. Wow – some beautiful answers. One little boy came up with a wonderfully insightful cotton wool sentence of “How can I help you?”. Great, great stuff!

We then listened to a beautiful song from the “Planting Seeds” CD by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Walk in the light, beautiful light
Come where the dewdrops of (mercy/freedom) shine bright.
Shine (all around/ on inside) us by day and by night.
We are the light of the world. We are the light of the world.

And finally, it was time for the children to decide whether they wanted to take the vows of the Two Promises. It was a free choice but each child in all the groups said they wanted to try 😊 So, we recited the vows and then they used their creative skills to draw pictures a person, animal, plant and place for each vow. Someone or something they want to live peacefully with and someone or something that they wanted to protect.

I then ended the lessons off with a fun breath awareness exercise – breathing in through the nose and then a long slow breath out to keep the ball above the basket. I have no idea how to explain this – you will need to watch the video and look at the photos. But I can assure you that the kids loved it!

So, I leave you with a thought this week… are your words and actions sandpaper or cotton wool?

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