Category Archives: Blog

Family Mindfulness Program

It’s not too late to join our monthly, family mindfulness program! 

Each class begins and ends with formal practice

The first class of 2016 meets Saturday, January 9th, from 1-3pm at a retreat center in Sebastopol.  The class will remain open enrollment thought 2016.

The theme for our first class is, “Mindfulness as the Gate to Joyful Ease and Repose.”  It’s special class aimed at giving you, the parents, a chance to begin your new year with comfort and care… the first step in creating a mindful home.  

You can read about the 2015 program below…

Affectionately known as C3, Children Creating Change brings instruction in secular mindfulness together with social engagement.  In each class, we learn a new aspect of mindfulness and then experience that practice through a special project.  In the spaciousness of an open heart, a new awareness blooms.  

Wishes for the children at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “May you be courageous and peaceful…”

In 2015, children learned, “heartfulness” while delivering Valentines to seniors at Golden Living Center in Santa Rosa.   On another fun day, we cultivated generosity with a free lemonade stand in Sebastopol Town Square.  For Mother’s Day, we practiced compassion by preparing meal-boxes for children and families in need through the Catholic Worker.

In June, we learned  a practice called, “sending and receiving,” a method of cultivating compassion through embracing  difficulties rather than turning away from them.  The C3 kids then wrote wishes for the children at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital on painted yellow and orange clothespins… then clipped them, one by one, to a big, yellow sun.  The wishes formed the sunbeams.

Handmade ornaments for families of the Valley Fire

Later that summer, we discovered our inter-relatedness with nature and community by harvesting tomatoes at Worker Bee Farm for Ceres Community Project.  Ceres provides free, home-delivered, organic and locally produced meals to low-income people with severe health challenges.  On another fun day, we learned from our four-legged friends with a special Animal Wisdom & Compassion Day where we made blankets for the Sonoma Humane Society.

In September, we practiced with the truth of impermanence by pressing 100 pounds of apples into juice for Meals on Wheels.  We looked with eyes of wonder at apples seeds, realizing that each tiny seed contains a whole tree and many future apples.  Children then imagined themselves as they will someday be, grandparents and elders.

Pressing apples into juice for Meals on Wheels
Pressing apples into juice for Meals on Wheels

In October, we continued our study of impermanence with a special ceremony to honor our departed ones… leaving flowers in the Sebastopol Cemetery.  And in November, we cultivated gratitude for the small blessings in our lives by hand-making holiday ornaments for families of the Valley Fire.  Of course, our youngest students only heard that we were making ornaments to give away.

Program content is always delivered in a way that is empowering, uplifting, and developmentally appropriate.

Returning to a place of stillness
Returning to a place of stillness

Each class begins with formal mindfulness practice — sitting silently together for just a few minutes.  Children have a chance to report on their practice, how they are using mindfulness at school or at home.  Then, a teaching is shared that will inform the work we’re about to do.  Through our acts of service and social-awareness, our hearts begin to open.   A new awareness begins to emerge.  As we sew blankets or harvest vegetables, we work in mindfulness.  The bell is invited many times while we work, calling us back to our felt experience of the present moment.  Each class ends with children reporting on what the project evoked in them, listening to the bell, and returning to a place of stillness.

 
By enrolling in this year-long program, you become a Joyful Mind Project sponsor.  Your generosity makes this program possible and helps keep these valuable teachings active in the world.  You are also welcome to attend just the months that work with your schedule; however, advanced registration is required as much planning goes in to each program.  Please see our enrollment packet or contact Chelsea for more information.

Mindfulness-Based Social Engagement

ENROLL NOW FOR 2016!  Next session: January 9, 2016 – November 12, 2016

Where: Sophia’s Garden + many exciting locations!
4038 Green Valley School Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
When: 2nd Saturday of the month.  1:00-3:00 pm.  No program in April, June, or December.
Ages: Children of all ages, teens, and parents welcome.
Suggested Donation: Please see our Enrollment Packet.

Mindful Thursdays | Winter 2016

Cultivating Ease and Repose
Cultivating ease and repose

How can mindfulness create ease and repose within the family unit?  In our upcoming winter series for children ages 5-10, we’ll discover how mindfulness is a gate to joyful ease within ourselves and in our homes.

In a nourishing environment, children learn mindfulness with developmentally appropriate methods including curriculum from Mindful Schools, a leader in mindfulness education.

Children cultivate empathy and impulse control and come into a healthy relationship with emotions.  This program aims to honor the inner-life of the child by entering mindfulness practice through the door of the imagination.  Content includes storytelling, handwork with natural materials, active work on the biodynamic farm, cooperative games, and play.  In each class, we share a period of mindful eating — fostering awareness for the long journey our food makes to reach our plates and the many hands whose exertion provides our nourishment.

Returning to a place of stillness

Parents and families are invited to celebrate seasonal festivals with us throughout year.  Parents and caregivers are also welcome to enjoy our outdoor kitchen to make a warm cup of tea while children  enjoy class.

As many schools in our community have early-release day on Thursdays, this class will be offered on Thursdays at 2pm for the Winter 2016 session.  If this time slot does not work for your child, please inquire about other available times or about bringing a mindfulness program to your school.

Where: Sophia’s Garden
4038 Green Valley School Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
When: Thursdays 2pm-4pm
Ages: 5-10
Cost:  Please see our enrollment packet.  Some scholarships may be available.

Stillness Stones, Mountain Bodies

The Joyful Mind Kids have spent the last two weeks practicing with Mindful Bodies.  This is the first lesson in the Mindful Schools curriculum and an essential aspect of practice.  A mindful body is a body that is aware — it’s the safe place we can come home to in each moment.

Wet-felted stones.  A reminder to practice mindful bodies.
Wet-felted Stillness Stones.  A reminder to practice mindful bodies.

I like using stones to introduce mindful bodies.  With my kids age ten and under, I tell a story about a mountain and call mindful bodies, Mountain Bodies.  Homework for this first class is to find a round, smooth stone that fits in the palm of your hand and bring it to class the following week.

We call these Stillness Stones and they represent the solidity and refuge of own body.  Sitting with the weight of the stone in our hands, using that touch point as an anchor, is very grounding.  Last week, kids reported feeling calm, happy, and still.

This week, kids enjoyed wet-felting their stones.  This is a great sensory play activity — warm soapy water, soft wool, bubbles — much to be mindful of.

For more on mindfulness with stones, check out Thich Nhat Hanh’s pebble meditation.

A practice verse to use with this lesson is:

Body like the mountain.
Heart like the ocean.
Mind like the sky.

We use this verse by Dogen as a call and response to close the each Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm.  The pictorial images resonate with the children and remind us that the capacity for being as solid as a mountain or spacious as they sky is always with us.

Tornado of Thoughts, Thundering Silence

mind jar M
Awareness of Thoughts with Mind Jars

Last week, the kids at Om School learned about mindfulness of thoughts.  Our elementary age kids enjoyed a visit from Mindful Schools graduate, Emily Weiner.  Emily shared some great games illustrating how thoughts run from past, to present, to future, and pop up like popcorn.

Our little ones, ages 3-7, discovered the thundering quality of silence through play-based learning, enacting the noisiness of our busy lives, then dropping into silence and noting the difference.  Both classes had fun making Mind Jars.

If you haven’t seen these before, they’re a great teaching tool.  The sparkles represent our thoughts.  As thoughts are a little abstract for children under four,  with our littlest ones, we let the sparkles represent the busy feeling we get inside when rushing through our day.  Our mindful breathing  helps the swirling, whirling, tornado of busyness settle down.

Two excellent short films illustrate this practice.   Both films were created by participants in the Mindful Schools year-long certification training I’m now working to complete.  I hope you’ll enjoy watching and feel inspired to share.  With stress impacting children as young as six years old, perhaps it is time we all discovered the thundering quality of silence.

 

Spring Family Mindfulness Day

We are excited to partner with Stone Creek Zen Center in offering a spring Family Mindfulness Day.   We’ll share walking meditation in the gardens, mindful eating, and more… then close with a special family practice.

Families are welcome to relax and enjoy the grounds throughout the day and are encouraged to set up “camp” so each child will have a restful place they can return to between events.

Date:  Saturday, March 28, 2015  Time:10:00 am – 3:00 pm  Registration Fee: $10-$40 per family (sliding scale).  Donation to teachers is appreciated.

Space is limited so please register in advance by contacting Chelsea here.  Thank you!

Family Mindfulness Day Spring 2015

 

One or Two New Year’s Resolutions

peaceHappy New Year, friends and families!  I hope your 2015 is off to a beautiful start…

I’ve been thinking about a certain story in Florence Caplow and Sue Moon’s book, The Hidden Lamp, in which a monastic woman has undertaken to keep the 311 precepts required for her ordination.  When a young visitor asks how she could possibly keep all of these vows, she responds, “I keep only one.  I just watch my mind.”

If you are resolved to make or keep New Year’s resolutions in 2015, consider keeping just one: watch your mind.  If you’re new to meditation or mindfulness, check out this quick article, Getting Started —  from Zen teacher Norman Fischer.

If you are inspired or daring enough to take up yet another resolution, then consider this one:  commit to serve.

These are the two foundations of Om School’s newest program: Children Creating Change — more affectionately known as C3.  This family program combines training in secular mindfulness with social engagement.  We’ll meet monthly to discover a new aspect of mindfulness while serving our community.  Slated projects include: gardening with elders at the Senior Center, taking needy dogs to the park, renegade compost-ball-poppy-seed-bombing hillsides and empty lots, and making Valentine’s Day cards for hospice patients.

In this awesome interview, Thich Nhat Hnah tells how he became involved in compassion-based social change.  He says,  “When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time.  Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on – not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.”

In this newest offering from Om School, we will endeavor to take our practice into the world — for and with all beings.   As Thay says: “You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.”

Om School kids taking an after-yoga walk at Sophia’s Garden

Our first meeting will be at Sophia’s Garden — the biodynamic farm that’s home to our weekly classes.  Monique Camp, the owner and operator of this botanical sanctuary, has helped make Om School possible by welcoming us onto her land.  Her farm sustained much storm-damage this winter, so we will begin our service-work there by pulling weeds, turning compost, laying mulch, and giving back to the place that has so generously supported us.

We’ll also move our bodies learning our new class song, hear a story about Avalokitesvara (our class mascot, bodhisattva, and one-who-hears-the-cries-of-the-world), share a formal practice, and enjoy eating mindfully together.

There’s still time to sign-up for this monthly, family-friendly, compassion-based social change class!  Download an application here or contact Chelsea for more information.