Category Archives: Programs

Gratitude in Novemeber

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Gratitude at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, November 2014

This month at Om School, our mindfulness practice is cultivating GRATITUDE.

We began the month with the Youth & Family Program at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center.  Children shared a gratitude circle — each naming one thing for which they are grateful.  We chanted The Three Lamps, offered incense, and sang, In Gratitude, a song from Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Center.

In our Wednesday class, older children made a clay model of the brain and began a three-week research project into the science of gratitude.  We’re experimenting to see if cultivating gratitude increases happiness.

All of the Om School kids received a thankful tree  for recording the things for which they are grateful.  Their practice this month is:  each night at bed time, take a moment to bring to mind someone or something for which you are grateful.  This is a jewel.  Hold on to this jewel for 20 seconds… then put your jewel into the treasure chest of your heart.

Dr.  Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, explains this practice here.

Stay tuned for more resources on the science of gratitude!  Enjoy your practice this month, everybody!  In gratitude!

Attuning to Generosity

We’re exploring what it means to be GENEROUS this month…

hands child flowerAugust 1st marks the half-way point to fall.  It’s that time of year when the earth begins to share her treasures.   Where we live, the apples are growing red and fat, green grapes are ripening to purple, pears are making branches heavy… Everything is in an outward gesture.

Looking around this time of year, we see that the earth is a great teacher of this heart-quality, generosity.   But why should we cultivate this quality?  What’s in it for us?!

Here’s what one wise teacher has to say about it:

“Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression.
We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous.
We experience joy in the actual act of giving something.
And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.” – The Buddha

So it seems that by giving, we are also receiving.   When we cultivate the understanding that we already have enough, the stingy, clinging mind releases.  The sensation of scarcity melts into abundance.   We experience happiness.

We’ll be sharing generosity practice with the children at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center tomorrow.  As I imagine speaking to those big-eyed angels, I keep seeing this gesture of hands opening — of offering.   Just moving our hands like this — first holding them close to our chest, then opening them wide from the heart —  brings a sensation of our heart opening.  It feels good.  It’s freeing.  Like sharing our only cookie with a friend.

These open hands are also the gesture of letting go.  Of releasing.  Of non-attachment.  And when we let go of what we’ve hardened around, of what we expect, of our ideas of right and wrong, we do experience a great joy.   Look closely at the word “forGIVE.”  Maybe forgiveness is an act of generosity we give to ourselves.

Vinny Ferraro, one of my teachers in the Mindful Schools year-long certification training, gives a beautiful talk in generosity here.   Vinny says, “The path begins with generosity because of the joy and unhindered delight that flows freely there… We can see generosity all around us if we attune our eyes to it.   It’s in so many of our moments.”

I hope you’ll join us in attuning to generosity this month.  Step outside and see the generous, open sky… breathe in the gift of the trees, feel the life-giving warmth of sun on your face.   Every moment offers itself to us freely and generously.  All we have to do is notice.

The Children's Program at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center meets the first Sunday of the month -- outside the zendo at 10am.  For more information, visit the the website or click here and scroll to the bottom of the page.

 

 

Expedition OM-MEBA: A Mindful Eating Bioneers Adventure

This special guest post comes to us from Judy Fleischman, BCC M.S. M.Phil., Live Change Coach and Om School Learning Guest Teacher.   We’re so blessed to have Judy on board as our in-house mindful eating teacher and intergalactic expedition leader…

1On a sunny day with Spring in full swing, I join a group of adventurous OMsters (students at Om School Mindfulness Cooperative), ages 6-10. We converge from all directions at a small farm in Sebastopol, a town in Sonoma county, CA. OMsters arrive on the scene in the company of fellow travelers, affectionately known as their parents and extended family. This is fertile ground to enter into a bold venture of galactic proportions. Only a few hours north of the lively metropolis of San Francisco, this farm is the perfect launching spot for our Space bioneers. The open field, advanced technology, and can-do spirit of local residents support our lively endeavor.

Silently, making our way to a spaceship in the shape of a yurt, we gather in a circle and sit down. The round, tent-like structure first designed in Mongolia proves perfect for our purposes. The sun shines through and warms up inner space as we prepare to head into outer space.

Expedition guides Chelsea True, founder of Om School Learning, and myself greet everyone. Then, yours truly invites everyone to breathe in and listen to what inner space is saying. In this way, we set an intention for today’s shared journey. Those who want to name their intention and we discover a lot of overlap including: have fun, discover something new, and make a difference. Now, I encourage the bioneers to imagine that with each outbreath, we are powering the spaceship. We breathe together silently for a few minutes.

Next, I tell them that we are traveling through space and soon landing on a new planet. Neighbors say it is called Earth. Our crew of bioneers prepares to head out, accompanied by Chelsea and myself, photographer OMmom Karyl Averill, and a few assistants. We thank the rest of our crew for remaining on board to take care of the ship.

We line up, wash our hands, and set out with supplies to gather whatever might be edible here. We enjoy a big breath in, celebrating being able to breathe freely on this wondrously green planet. We look around to inspect local plant life. Standing beneath a small tree with fresh green leaves, I ask, “anyone know what kind of tree this is?” Five or so voices shout in unison, “apple!” Amazed, I ask, “how can you tell?” Without hesitation, they shout out delightedly, “the leaves!” Being a city girl by nature, I hear myself say with genuine surprise, “no kiddin?” The group of kids laugh and move on to explore for eats.

2Three girls re-discover the fine art of foraging on local bushes. Others notice a tall tree with red fruit… cherries! Soon enough, Chelsea lays a big blanket on the green grass and some baskets. Inside are the makings for a tasty picnic. Bright orange tangerines peek out from one basket. Another contains three bowls. One holds a sticky paste made from chopped dates. One holds chopped pecans. A third holds flaked coconut. Fast forward on how those got there. That’s a story for another time…

3We sit in a circle on the blanket and tell each other what we have discovered. When several youngsters speak at once, one girl pulls out a small stick made from a locally growing tree branch. It is decorated simply and colorfully. She says it is a “talking stick” and suggests that we use at as Natives to this planet (and local region) have been (according to legend and local records). I smile with delight as she offers basic guidelines. We pass the stick around and whoever holds it, speaks while everyone else listens *(for more info, see Zen Peacemaker guidelines for “Council Practice” and Mindful Peacebuilding’s and Order of Interbeing’s “Deep Listening..” sharing circle practice).

I remind each of us that we can listen with our whole body, noticing sounds and feelings and sensations. We can listen as if giving a gift each time the stick is passed from one person to another. We all like the suggestion. We pass it and each bioneer offers impressions of being on this new world. We speak of foraging while exploring with fresh eyes, bringing all our senses to experience in a fresh way this seemingly familiar world.

“Good time for a new song!” I hear myself think and so, suggest this. I say there is this new song about waking up to who we really are, sometimes called “enlightenment.” It is written by a fellow mindful adventurer, Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat. As we learn the words, I invite each bioneer to come up with a hand gesture for each line of the song. Then, we all agree to follow along, call/response style, in repeating this as we sing. Our creativity brings the song to life. By the time we get to the chorus, we’re in the groove, singing, “Everything is enlightened, everything great and small…”

4All this foraging and talking and singing makes us hungry. Chelsea brings over the three bowls of lively ingredients. I invite each kid to assemble a date-nut ball using the ingredients at hand. I tell them that while the shape and ingredients are similar, to feel free to play within the guidelines. Our plan is not too big and not too small. In other words, just enough to munch on in a few bites.

Happy to dig in, our lively crew sets to task. We laugh as hands get sticky and play with shapes and textures. More nuts, less coconut?… The possibilities are endless. Soon enough, we fill a wooden tray with a whole bunch of lovely, round treats to share.
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5We place the tray in the center of the circle. I invite each youngster to choose one treat and hold it in the palm of their hand. Since hands are quite sticky now, this requires attentiveness and care. I say, “now imagine that we are not sure if what we just picked up is edible. We are exploring it with our whole body, all our senses. What might you do next?”

Everyone agrees that our ability to see and smell and taste is crucial for this exploration. I introduce, “Mindful Eating” and discover that they are familiar with different ways to be “mindful” (naturally, being OMsters). We remind each other about paying attention while being kind to ourselves and one another. One way to do this, I explain, is to ask, “who’s hungry in there?” I say a little about the six hungers” (eye, mouth, stomach, mind, heart, and cellular)* (see Dr. Jan Chozen Bays book, Mindful Eating) and how to check in with each one. Then, we take turns rating eye and mouth hunger (on a scale of 0 to 10).

6Just as we begin to rate stomach hunger, a loud stomach growl sounds. That’s our cue to move right along. I encourage, “OK, now put it in your mouth and if you can, just let it sit there without chewing for a moment.” Our eager eaters are challenged by this yet able to try it out. I invite them to notice what’s happening. Slowly, we begin chewing while paying close attention to what the tongue is doing. “Is it moving the food to the front or back of the mouth?” I ask, One bioneer calls it, “The back!”

“Why do you suppose it does that?” I ask. “To get it down the throat…” says one, “and to the stomach,” says another. Then, I remark, “There is no right or wrong answer to this. Just explore. When does this thing you are chewing become what you call you? Part of your body? Or could also say IS your body?” They like that challenge. Silently, we munch for a few seconds as everyone focuses attention on the process of eating. Then, one kid calls out, “now!” I laugh and notice am not alone in laughter.

8I say, “Hey! This could be a great time to sing our new enlightenment song!” Our bioneers are somewhat distracted as they lick their fingers delightedly. Even so, by the time the chorus rolls around, we sculpt the air in a circular gesture of hands reaching towards ourselves and then extending outwards. We sing in unison, “Everything is enlightened, everything great and small…”

9Just then, as our photographer records happy hands and happy faces, we notice our shipmates approaching. We offer them some live treats. They are amazed by these gems from the new world and delighted to savor them by munching mindfully.

Joyfully together, we agree that this planet is a wonderful place we now call home.

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10Judy Seicho Fleischman is a Board-Certified Chaplain (and founder of Open Source Chaplaincy Care) and Live Change Coach. She also is caretaker of the playground of caring community, SensingWonder.com. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics (M.I.T.), Master’s degrees in Physics (U.Mass. Amherst) and Astronomy (Columbia University).

Thanks to:
Om School Mindfulness Cooperative founder Chelsea True and all its members, to Zen teachers Jan Chozen Bays, Enkyo O’Hara, Thich Nhat Hahn, Lyn Fine, Mel Sojun Weitsman, Alan Senauke, Laurie Senauke, Norman Fischer, and Chris Fortin. Singout also to Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat for his new spin of a song celebrating waking up to our interdependence, and to Monique Camp at Sophia’s Garden.

Resources:

Council Practice Guidelines, Zen Peacemaker Family

Dharma Sharing Circle Guidelines, Order of Interbeing

Kidzendo, Berkeley Zen Center

Kindness Filling Station by Musho Rodney Alan Greenblat

Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food by Jan Chozen Bays, M.D.

Mindful Eating with Live Foods by Judy Fleischman

Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up by Norman Fischer

You can learn more about Judy and read her original post at her website, Live Change Coaching.

Mindfulness of Thoughts

butterfly thoughts

Today at Om School, children will practice mindfulness of thoughts.  We’ve had this lesson before and noticed how our thoughts are like butterflies — constantly fluttering about in the garden.  The kids were quite surprised to discover the constant flow of images in their own minds.

This is as far as we got with this lesson last time — just noticing the parade of pictures streaming through our minds.  Then children made these very sweet wool-roving butterflies to represent their thoughts.

Today we will venture a step further into this practice.   I’ve asked all of the kids to bring a puppy photo, picture from a book, or even a stuffed animal puppy.  We’ll explore the nature of puppies and discover that, as delightful as puppies are, without a little training and encouragement,  they tend to run about and get themselves into trouble.

Thoughts have a similar nature.

To begin training our Puppy-Minds, we’ll put on our Mountain Bodies, open our Fox Ears,  bring our attention to our Ocean Breathing — and notice how our minds are like puppies… quickly running off!   We’ll try using a verse like, “Come home, puppy!” to bring our attention back to our breath.  Then we’ll illustrate this exercise in our Mindful Schools workbooks.

For parents wondering about the relevance of this exercise,  Shambala Sun has a great article here.   When we pay attention to our thoughts with a gentle curiosity, we can move away from allowing thoughts to unconsciously direct our lives.

For more about Puppy-Mind practice, check out this article at Mindfulness for Students UK.

The Mindful Art Program at Om School this Saturday!

mindfulness and the artsWould you like to learn more about the Mindful Art Program we’ll be sharing with pre-teens this Saturday at our Family Mindfulness Day? Emily Tara Weiner, MA, MFTI, framed this as a wellness program that focuses on cultivation of mindfulness skills, stress reduction, social and emotional learning, and self-compassion.  While not a therapy program, it’s largely based on Dr. Laury Rappaport’s Focusing-Oriented Art Therapy (FOAT) methods and is featured in her book, Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies — available here.

We still have a few more spaces in Saturday’s PRE-TEEN program.  Be sure to register in advance… our program for children 8 and under is now wait-list only!

Modeling Beginner’s Mind

3-7-14 361We had rain for our March Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center,  so we kept dry inside working with clay and a story.

In, The Two Teacher’s and Tea,  a university professor comes to see the Zen teacher, Nan-in.  While waiting for tea to be served, the professor starts into one of his lectures.  He talks on and on… and on… and on.

When the tea finally arrives, Nan-in pours… and pours… and pours.  The professor’s cup overflows right into his lap.  “Just like this cup, sir, you are also too full… please first empty your own cup, then we can learn something together.”

How easy it is to be like the professor — so full of our own ideas that nothing new gets in… so quick to press forward that we may not actually see what is before us.   As Nan-in tells us, it is better to cultivate a beginner’s mind — an attitude of openness and curiosity.

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Sarah Conover’s book, “Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents” features the story, “The Two Teachers and Tea.”

After the story, we enjoyed modeling, “empty cups” with terra-cotta clay.  As always, we shared apple juice and freshly baked muffins from the Green Gulch kitchen.

For more about beginner’s mind, read Shunryu Suzuki Roshi‘s classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.  Our next program is Sunday, April 6th.  We meet near the zendo at 10:00 am.  Hope to see you there!

Breathing with Anchor Words

felt flowersTomorrow at Om School, we’ll practice mindful breathing with the anchor words,  “breathing in,” and “breathing out.”

We’ll imagine ourselves as flowers with petals open as we breathe in… and petals closed as we breathe out… then illustrate what we imagined in our Mindful Schools workbooks.

We’ll recite Thich Nhat Hanh‘s gatha for mindful breathing:

“Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.”

Then we’ll enjoy a felt-flower sewing project using this tutorial.   We’ll try to connect our breath with each stitch.  Breathing in: the needle goes down.  Breathing out: the needle comes back up.  Each flower petal receives two stitches.

These “anchor words” come to us from the Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing – or Anapanasati Sutra — an ancient text that can be read here.

I’ll post photos of the children’s work here and on our Facebook page.  Be sure to stop back by!

Family Mindfulness Day: Saturday, March 22, 2014

Registration is now open for Family Mindfulness Day taking place at Sophia’s Garden Saturday, March 22, 2014.

We’ll honor spring, practice together, and enjoy the gift of Lakota medicine man, Steve Stonearrow’s storytelling.  Please help make this day a success by spreading the word!

Family Mindfulness Day

Please register in advance for this event.  Thank you!

Ocean Breathing, Mindful Breathing

IMG_1594Last week at Om School, the children practiced mindful breathing and enjoyed drawing what they discovered in their Mindful Schools workbooks.

First we put on our Mountain Bodies.  Then we opened our Fox Ears.  Next we just breathed normally… in and out… calm and at ease.  We call this our Ocean Breathing.

After a moment of breathing like this together, kids put one hand in the air — then placed it on their belly.  We continued to breathe like this for a few moments.  Some children noticed that their hand was moving up and down, in and out, with their belly.

Next, we placed one hand on our chest.  Breathing normally, some children noticed that their chest expands and contracts with each inhale and exhale.  Some children did not feel any movement here… so we tried something else.

mindful breathingI asked children to place a hand under their nose and see if they felt anything.  This one worked for everyone.  We breathed together like this for three breaths.  Then I asked the kids to draw what they experienced.

Why mindful breathing?  As Deborah Schoeberlein, author of, “Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness,” writes in this article:

“Practicing mindfulness enhances cognitive functioning (including memory, concentration and performance), improves emotion regulation and resilience, increases self-awareness (including of one’s own stress level) and promotes relaxation for the body as well as rest for the mind (including sleep).”

To my Om School kids and families — don’t forget that, in honor of President’s Week, we don’t have class this Wednesday, February 19th.  Until then, I hope you’re enjoying your practice!

With metta,
Chelsea