Highlights from a past class

whats that smell?

mindfulness for children in Cape Town, South Africa

This week we looked at one of the Big Five, the African Elephant. Huge and powerful creatures, yet they have the ability to engage with each other in a soft and playful manner. Maybe an idea for a future lesson in compassionate communication (watch this space!). But instead, I chose the focus for this week to be the elephant’s trunk.

According to The Telegraph (2014), elephants have the best smell in the animal kingdom. Now, I don’t mean that they cover themselves with an attractive smelling foliage (some of the kids thought this was what I meant!). I mean that African elephants have the largest number of genes dedicated to smell of any mammal.

This trait of the African elephant demanded a smell test in the classes this week. With children, the use of the five senses can be helpful to bring awareness to the present moment and instil a feeling of connection to their environment. This can help a child to feel orientated and grounded. So, this week we focused on the sense of smell.

In each of the classes, I had a number of glass bottles with various smells. I tried to choose smells that didn’t have a visual appearance so that the children couldn’t guess what the smell was by look at the bottle’s contents. I used essential oils and other liquids with strong smells.

The point of the exercise was not to guess the correct smell, but instead to describe and “feel” the smell. I wanted the children to notice whether the smells triggered any memories for them. Memories of people, places or experiences. It was wonderful to see the associations. For one little girl, an aftershave lotion smell (compliments of my husband!) triggered a memory for her of a holiday she had previously had with her family in the sea-side village of Arniston. For one eight-year-old girl a memory was triggered of her first dog when he was a puppy. This came from the smell of my perfume that I had put into a bottle. She said her dog smelt really nice like baby powder when he was young but then got a bit smellier as he got older. I am glad she associated my perfume with the younger version of her dog and not the smellier, older version! Another child, on smelling some lavender essential oil, said that it reminded her of her dad putting on the diffuser at home in the evenings.

In the creative time this week, the children got a chance to draw one of the smells. Some of the children had a specific memory that was triggered by a particular smell, which they then drew. Other children found that a certain smell reminded them of something such as flowers or sweets so they drew that. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun drawing a smell and the results were great!

This week I combined the breath awareness and meditation. We did a sequence of breathing in coloured light, in the order of the rainbow. We felt the presence of each colour in the body as it moved gently and slowly within us. Finally, we spent a few moments in meditation, imagining all the coloured light gently moving inside our bodies in harmony. I suggested to the children that they might like to open a door into their hearts for the coloured light to stay within them always. I suggested that at any time in the coming weeks, they can open that door to their hearts and let out the coloured light to once again fill their being, leaving them feeling brave, safe, calm and loved.

It has been a happy week of classes. Anything involving rainbows tends to do that! But the elephant is also my favourite wild animal so I am slightly biased.

Wishing you all a pleasant week ahead.

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