Category Archives: Songs, Verses, & Poetry

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.

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!

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!

Mindfulness of Breath

Today the Om School kids practiced mindfulness of breathing. We began by sitting upright and tall like a mountain.  Then we placed one hand on our belly.  We noticed that our belly moves while we breathe — in and out… out and in.  Next, something amazing happened!  We began to feel calm and peaceful inside.

Look what happens to Elmo when he remembers his belly breathing…

Breath Awareness with Children: Finding the Gap

waning crescent moonThe Om School kids have been working with moon phases this semester.  We’re keeping journals with observations and verses for practice.  This is a fun way to keep our mindfulness practice consistent  and to become more aware of our interrelatedness with nature.

Because tonight is the new or dark moon, I shared this guided meditation yesterday in class.  I hope you’ll enjoy it too!

“Sit comfortably with your back supported.  You can sit in a chair or on the floor.  You can even try this exercise lying down; however, this might make you sleepy!  It’s best if we stay awake during this exercise! 

Breathe normally.  Notice where you can feel your breath.  Can you feel your breath under your nose?  In your chest?  In your belly?  Place a hand on your belly and see what happens.  Do you notice your belly rising and falling?  See how your belly gets bigger with your in-breath and smaller with your out-breath.  Stay with your breathing like this for a moment.  Notice the rising and falling of breath – in and out… deep and slow… like waves on the sea.  Don’t try to control your breath.  Just notice how it feels.  It may slow down on its own.  We can call this our Ocean Breathing.

With your hands by your sides, continue Ocean Breathing for a minute or maybe even two.

Now, let’s focus our attention on our in-breath.  As we breathe in, we can say quietly to ourselves:

“Breathing in: I am aware of my in-breath.”

And as we breathe out, we say:

“Breathing out: I am aware of my out-breath.”

Simple enough, right?  We can even shorten the phrases to:

“IN.  OUT.”

Let’s try this a few times.

Now let’s try something new.  What happens in between breathing in and breathing out?  Can you keep your attention there?  Notice that point where the in-breath transforms into the out-breath.  Notice what is there — or what is not there.  It’s sort of a gap.  

Continue breathing normally and notice the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath.  It’s like a tiny break – a beautiful rest as one thing continues into another.  It’s like the dark moon pausing in stillness before beginning anew.”

The Pause Between

candlemas verseA remarkable synchronicity is taking place this week.  We’re coming to the mid-way point to spring under a new moon.  Waldorf schools celebrate this mid-way point as Candlemas.  In ancient times, the holiday was honored as Imbolc – which means, “in the belly” and refers to the lambing season and the earth’s quickening.  The Celts honored the goddess Brigid at this time – goddess of hearth and home, of poetry, sacred fire, and water.

We know this holiday by another name: Groundhog Day.  It’s the time for peeking our heads out of our wintery dens and noticing the first, oh-so-subtle signs of spring.  Just beneath the earth surface, life is beginning to stir.

This mid-way point to spring feels like the pause between the in-breath of winter and the out-breath of spring.

The moon is also in the place in-between this week.  The new or dark moon is the quiet moment between waxing and waning… the gap where we can take a rest — and where we might just notice something unnameable.

In the next few posts, I’ll share some stories, verses, poems, and a guided meditation to enrich your experience of this beautiful time of year.  If you were able to attend yesterday’s class, I hope you enjoyed the bonfire, let go of difficulties with the waning moon, and let the light of your awareness shine with the coming of spring.

With metta,
Chelsea

Mindfulness with the Moon

moon_phases_by_izzabell-d3inrqvBy practicing with the moon, we can give continuity to our practice.  We can also become more aware of our interrelatedness with nature.  Through bringing rhythm and intention to our practice, we become more consistent and rooted in our practice.

For centuries, the full moon has been a metaphor for the awakened mind – the inherent nobility that dwells within each of us.  With the full moon, we can practice feeling this inner-nobility.

For me, the waning moon is like the out-breath.  It is a time for letting go.  It is a time for noticing difficult emotions and negative mental formations and shining our light of awareness on them so that they diminish with the vanishing moon.  It’s also a time for slowing down, for noticing when we’re caught in the habit-energy of rushing, and preparing to rest with the dark moon.

I see the dark or new moon is the pause between the in-breath and the out-breath.  It is the quiet space where we can rest before continuing on to the next phase of our own journey… the vastness from which all things emerge.

While the moon is growing, we can explore new ideas, nurture our creativity, and plant intentions to grow like seeds under the energy of the increasing moon.   In this way, the waxing moon is like an in-breath.

Verse for the waning crescent moon: “Sister Moon, your horns point west, breathe in, breathe out then take your rest.”

Verses for the new moon.  January 30, 2014:
Breathing in, my belly grows
Breathing out, my breathing slows
In between I feel the space

Here there is a quiet place

What does the moon mean to you?  Do you feel drawn to a particular moon phase?  I’d love to hear from you.

May All Beings Be Free

It’s the 4th of July and with everyone’s attention turned towards freedom, flags, and independence, I’m thinking about freedom, prayer flags, and interdependence… and sending these wishes out to all beings.

This is the classical mindfulness practice of loving-kindness or metta meditation.  Mindful Schools translates this practice as, “heartfulness.”  Susan Kaiser Greenland calls it, “sending friendly wishes.”  You can see kids practicing in this short video.

We begin by picturing someone who loves us and feeling their love flowing into us.  Stay with this feeling for a moment.  Then repeat short verses such as:

May I be peaceful.
May I be safe.
May I be free.

Now that we are filled up with this warm, safe feeling, we’re ready to share it.  Imagine sending out this feeling — from your heart to someone you love.  Picture the person or animal you’ve selected and repeat the verses for them.  May Prudence be peaceful, safe, and free…

But we can’t stop there!  Because my freedom, safety, and peace is inextricably tied to yours,  next we send loving-kindness to all beings:  May all beings be peaceful, safe, and free…

One way to bring this practice into your home is by making metta prayer flags.  We’re using this fun, kid-friendly tutorial from Future Craft Collective:

We’re writing short words and phrases on the white panels: kindness, peace, love, homes, clean air, fresh water, joy.  Then repeating our wishes/verses as we stitch them to to the colorful panels:

May all beings have clean air.
May all beings have fresh water…

We’ll hang them in the garden and let the wind carry our wishes out into the world.  We’ll also share this project with the Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center this Sunday… and hope to see you and your family there.  In the meantime, may you and all beings enjoy peace, safety, and freedom this 4th of July.

With metta,
Chelsea

Mind Like the Sky

Behind our thoughts, fears, frustrations, and rough places, there is a soft spot.  Pema Chodron writes, “if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time.”

How do we help kids touch the vast sky that is our inner-nature?   One way is to get outside.  By the sea, in a field, on a farm — in these open places we notice the openness inside us.    Another way is by simply watching the clouds as they come and go.

We’ve all done this at some point in our lives.  Laying on the grass, settling into our body, gazing at the sky — we watch cloud shapes emerge and dissolve above us.  Kids are naturally drawn to this — so catching their interest shouldn’t be difficult.  Adding an element of mindfulness to it, we can invite children to notice how thoughts and feelings are like this too — coming and going and always changing shape.

Children’s artist  Betsy Rose writes, “I use this… as a way of teaching and discussing how to name emotions, and how feelings come and go like clouds; the clear blue sky of inner calm and quiet happiness is always available to us.”   She even has a song to go with it.   (If you don’t know her music or her work with children, be sure to investigate.)

Another way we can touch the clear, blue sky within us is with our breath.  Just one breath is often a starting place for clearing our mind and increasing our calm.  Encourage children to sit up tall and solid and let the sky fill them with their breath.  Thich Nhat Hanh offers children this verse for practicing with the sky:

“Breathing in, I see myself as the big blue sky.  Breathing out, I feel free and at ease.”