Highlights from a past class


Guiding children in mindfulness

With it being the last lesson of the term this week, we did things a bit differently. In each lesson I displayed a beautiful pile of pebbles that I had collected at the Wild Coast on my last trip there in April. When I was collecting the pebbles, I was specifically thinking of the wonderful Pebble Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh detailed in his book “Planting Seeds”. I love this particular meditation for children. The pebbles I had collected were different sizes, different shapes, different colours, weighed different amounts. Each pebble was unique.

My version of the Pebble Mediation goes like this:
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid.
Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I feel calm.
Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free.
Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel alive.

I asked each child to pick up a pebble. I asked the children to close their eyes and feel the pebble in their hands. To feel the smooth or rough surface and notice. To feel the shape. To feel any small nicks or dents. I asked them to keep their eyes closed and fully immerse themselves in the sense of touch.

I then explained how each pebble had once been part of a tall and solid mountain. I asked the children to stand in mountain pose and connect with the mountain inside the pebble by holding the pebble in their hands with awareness. So too, we can connect with the tall and solid mountain within each of us. We said together the line “Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain. Breathing out, I feel solid” while holding our pebbles.

With the older children, we went a bit deeper and brought awareness to that point where the pebble meets the hand. Many of the pebbles were naturally cold which added to the sensations in the hand when focusing on the point of contact. It is interesting to bring awareness to points of contact with the body, especially things from nature. I find this can be a very powerful meditation. The children did really well and were wonderfully attentive and focused.

It was then time to put the chosen pebble back into the pile and choose another one. It was interesting how some children knew exactly which pebble they wanted next. I then explained that the place where I had collected the pebbles was where a river meets the sea. So, the pebbles had been exposed to a lot of water. I asked the children to smell the pebbles and see whether they could smell the river or sea. Many of the pebbles had a very strong sea smell so it was great to do this exercise. Together we then said the line: “Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I feel calm”.

Again, it was time to put the pebbles back into the pile and choose another one. Then I explained that the place where I had collected the pebbles has few inhabitants but plenty of wide, open spaces. A place where the land extends out to sea and then the beauty simply carries on. So, we said the next live from the mantra: “Breathing in, I see myself as space. Breathing out, I feel free”.

Then, for the last time, I asked the children to put their pebbles back and choose a new one. And together we said the final part of the mantra: “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel alive”. It was great! The children responded really well to this beautiful meditation.

After the meditation it was time for some fun and games. With the younger children I played the clever social-emotional game called “A Day in the Jungle” from Chalk and Chuckles. It is a type of animal bingo but the children get an understanding of what caring looks like, what helping looks like, what being courteous looks like, etc. They need to decide if their board has a picture of an elephant helping for example, or a picture of a rabbit caring as another example. I have used this game with the kids before and they love it!

With the older children we played the game “Picture This” by Purple Donkey Games. In this game, there is a pack of cards with very close up photographs of many different items ranging from spaghetti to pencil tops to pegs. One needs to guess what the item is based on the close-up photograph. Some of the pictures are at a microscopic level so it is not easy! But it is a wonderful way to teach children how we don’t always get to see the full picture. We are often only presented with a small view (from our perspective) and we need to try remember there is often a “bigger picture”. But besides the learning, the game is really fun!

I also included a mini mindful eating experience. I had made some peanut butter balls and the children got to eat them and guess what the ingredients were. I always try to do this on the last lesson of the term since the kids love it! Unfortunately, with it being Ramadan, the fasting children could not take part but they took theirs home to enjoy with the evening meal.

I then read the children the story of Mark Shuttleworth’s dream to be the first African in space: Dreamwalking by Adam Carnegie and Bettina Schouw. A lovely story about following the light within to achieve your dreams.

And finally, we ended with a sound meditation. I encouraged the children to notice sounds in the distance and then close by. To notice sounds from man-made things versus sounds from nature. To notice the difference between sounds from man-made things versus sounds from nature. It was interesting how afterwards some of the children commented that the sounds from cars and the like felt very overwhelming and “aggressive” whereas the sound of the wind felt gentler and calmer. I then asked the children to notice the sounds that their own bodies were making – their breath, possibly rumbling stomachs or sniffly noses. And then to notice any feelings that were waiting to be heard. We spent a little time noticing the feelings, inviting them in and then letting them go. In mindfulness, it is important not too hold on to feelings. To notice them and acknowledge them but then to let them go.

The classes really were wonderful this week and once again I was reminded how grateful I am to meet with these beautiful souls each week. I feel very blessed!

So as the school holidays approach, I challenge you to spend some time connecting with nature. Even if it is just sitting on a bench in your local park. Just sit and listen to the wonderful, calming sounds around you. It will be good for you and good for your kids!

Don’t forget the holiday workshops on the 28-29th June and 2 – 3rd July. Weekly classes begin again on Wed 25th July.