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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
I 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!
Last week at Om School, children began working with the Mindful Schools workbooks. Lesson One of this research-based curriculum introduces kids to mindful bodies and mindful listening.
We began by sitting upright and tall like a solid mountain. Children sat like this for a moment with eyes open and then tried sitting like a mountain with eyes closed. We noticed that it became very quiet while we sat with eyes closed.
This led us to the second part of the lesson, Mindful Listening. To help us listen mindfully, I gave the kids the image of putting on Fox Ears. Fox listens very deeply. He can hear the sound of mice deep beneath the snow… and in summer, he can even hear the sound of grapes growing. We have to be very still to listen like fox. We also have to listen not just with our ears, but also with our heart and way down into our belly.
Next we listened with the bell. We listened with eyes open and then with eyes closed. When we couldn’t hear the sound any more, we raised our hands. With eyes closed, the bell seemed to sound for a very long time.
Finally, we closed our eyes and listened to the sounds outside of our classroom and inside our own bodies. We heard the sound of the rain, an airplane going by, and some children even heard their own heart beating.
At today’s class we’ll explore mindful breathing. We’ll also continue to expand on the themes of mindful listening and mindful speech with folk tales, and discover what’s happening on the farm.
I’m posting more photos of the children’s work on our Facebook page. Be sure to stop by and enjoy these little treasures.