This month at Om School, our mindfulness practice is GRATITUDE…
Each night at bedtime, children are bringing to mind someone or something for which they are grateful. Their practice is to see this someone or something as a jewel — to hold that jewel for 20 seconds… and then place it into the treasure chest of the heart. Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of, The Buddha’s Brain, writes about this process of hard-wiring happiness in our children here.
A great body of research on gratitude has emerged in recent years and tells us that cultivating gratitude can strengthen immune systems, lower blood pressure, increase positive emotions, increase generosity and compassion, and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
For more on the role that parents can play in fostering the development of children’s gratitude, check out this this video with Dr. Andrea Hussong. And in, Making Grateful Kids, Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono explain how to foster gratitude in children, drawing on new research and compelling real-life stories.
Have a favorite book about gratitude? Please share it here! We’d love to hear about it!
Would 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!
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.
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.
The first part of the teacher’s talk featured the Soto monk Ryōkan who lived much of his life as a hermit. He’s remembered for his calligraphy, poetry, love of children, and eccentric ways… playing games and filling his rice bowl with violets and dandelions.
After the talk, we walked through the light rain noticing cherry blossoms and daffodils in bloom.
Children were then guided through a short meditation… listening to the rain and the sound of the bell… noticing in-breath, out-breath, and the gap in between.
Older children were then invited to try calligraphy and brushstroke with ink. Younger children used crayons to draw what they noticed on the walk and their experience of listening to the rain.
We read the book, “No Ordinary Apple” — a story about mindful eating… then enjoyed apple juice and apple muffins prepared earlier that morning by some of the children in the Green Gulch kitchen.
Our next program meets Sunday, March 2nd. We meet outside the zendo at 10am. Advanced registration is not required. Participating families are invited to stay for lunch in the dining hall.
I have this book out from the library right now — and it is so clever! I can’t wait to share it with the Om School kids next week.
The kids have been enjoying eating meditation with apples each day before class this semester. We’ve been smelling, touching, tasting and even listening to our apples before eating them oh-so-slowly. Take a peek inside this book… you may never see an apple the same way again.