Tag Archives: crafts

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.

 

Mindful Fox Listens Deeply

Last week, Om School’s Pre-K class learned to listen with Fox Ears.  We heard the story of Mindful Fox who listens so deeply to the sounds of the world that she can hear mice beneath the surface of the snow and, in summer,  can even hear the sound of grapes growing.

Despite her name, Mindful Fox is only mindful some of the time.  She’s cunning and clever, yes, but sometimes she forgets her mindfulness.  And on this particular spring morning, a little flower fairy caught her eye and off she ran.  Before Fox knew it, she was lost.  Thank goodness she remembered her mindful listening.

By opening her ears and listening with her whole body, she recognized the sounds of home — her little kit brothers and sisters, the hens of the nearby farm, and the sounds of the farmer’s children at play.  By listening deeply, Mindful Fox found her way home.

405After the story, we took a “listening walk” around the farm discovering sounds — bees, wind, water, and hens.  Then we made glittery fox masks to remind us to practice listening with Fox Ears at home.

To listen like Fox,  it helps to put on our Mountain Bodies — our quiet, mindful bodies.  We can be mountains sitting, standing, walking, or lying down.  Being mountains means being aware of our bodies.  Then we open our Fox Ears.  This means that we listen all the way into our heart and tummy.

Mindful listening is an exercise in training our attention.  It’s also more than that, though.  Through listening deeply we can help relieve suffering in ourselves, in one another, and in the world.  When we listen to someone with the single purpose of allowing them to empty themselves completely, we create a space for compassion to grow.

To learn more about deep listening, check out this short interview with Thich Nhat Hanh.

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!

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!

Raindrops, Cherry Blossoms and Ryōkan

white cherryWe celebrated the mid-way point to spring yesterday with a new season of Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. 

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.

IMG_1526Older 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.

Hope to see you next time!

With metta,
Chelsea

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