How can mindfulness create ease and repose within the family unit? In our upcoming winter series for children ages 5-10, we’ll discover how mindfulness is a gate to joyful ease within ourselves and in our homes.
In a nourishing environment, children learn mindfulness with developmentally appropriate methods including curriculum from Mindful Schools, a leader in mindfulness education.
Children cultivate empathy and impulse control and come into a healthy relationship with emotions. This program aims to honor the inner-life of the child by entering mindfulness practice through the door of the imagination. Content includes storytelling, handwork with natural materials, active work on the biodynamic farm, cooperative games, and play. In each class, we share a period of mindful eating — fostering awareness for the long journey our food makes to reach our plates and the many hands whose exertion provides our nourishment.
Parents and families are invited to celebrate seasonal festivals with us throughout year. Parents and caregivers are also welcome to enjoy our outdoor kitchen to make a warm cup of tea while children enjoy class.
As many schools in our community have early-release day on Thursdays, this class will be offered on Thursdays at 2pm for the Winter 2016 session. If this time slot does not work for your child, please inquire about other available times or about bringing a mindfulness program to your school.
Where: Sophia’s Garden
4038 Green Valley School Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472 When: Thursdays 2pm-4pm Ages: 5-10 Cost: Please see our enrollment packet. Some scholarships may be available.
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.
We are excited to partner with Stone Creek Zen Center in offering a spring Family Mindfulness Day. We’ll share walking meditation in the gardens, mindful eating, and more… then close with a special family practice.
Families are welcome to relax and enjoy the grounds throughout the day and are encouraged to set up “camp” so each child will have a restful place they can return to between events.
Date: Saturday, March 28, 2015 Time:10:00 am – 3:00 pm Registration Fee: $10-$40 per family (sliding scale). Donation to teachers is appreciated.
Space is limited so please register in advance by contacting Chelsea here. Thank you!
“Look for a little light anywhere in the field of darkness and ask that it may increase.” –Joan Halifax Roshi
When I look to nature, deep winter feels like a sacred time. Grandfather Sun is completing his journey across the sky. He is old now and his light is fading. Nights are long and the time of rest is upon us.
In October, the children in our weekly mindfulness classes honored their departed ones with an ancestor’s ritual. We noticed that giving attention to impermanence gave rise to a deep sense of appreciation for our own short lives. In November, we turned towards gratitude with the coming of Thanksgiving. Now, with the winter solstice approaching, we’re turning inwards. One student, an eight year old girl, has given us a new phrase for this deep place: direct darkness.
Earth-based traditions tell us that it is from this darkest place that the light is born. On winter solstice, the longest night of the year, Grandfather Sun completes his journey. The Baby Sun is born at dawn. These mythologies speak to a wisdom in each of us.
In the Zen tradition, the awakening of the Buddha is celebrated in December. It is said that after sitting through the night, upon seeing the morning star, the Buddha realized awakening and exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s it! That’s me that’s shining so brightly. How wondrous, how wondrous! All beings share this indwelling light. What an astonishing thing has been realized!”
This winter, we’ll celebrate this indwelling light with a candlelight spiral walk. We’ll meet inside for quiet songs and storytelling before walking the spiral together. In quiet walking meditation, each child first walks the spiral turning inward, gathering light at the center, and then walks the spiral turning outward, bringing her light back into the world.
We are excited to join together with Stone Creek Zen Center to offer this celebration for all ages to the general community. We ask that families please register in advance or contact Chelsea for more information.
Please bring your own candle in a wind-proof jar or apple votive. Suggested donation: sliding scale $3-$10/per person. Your generosity helps ensure that programs like these will continue to be available in our community for a long time.
All month, the kids at Om School have been discovering that impermanence makes everything possible.
We’ve noticed that our emotions come and go like clouds in the sky, felt the energy in our bodies moving with Qigong, and observed changes on the farm as apples fall from trees and plants are harvested. We’ve discovered that our bodies are changing, that sounds come and go from our experience, and even built a new compost pile — a very living lesson in how the passing of one thing is the birth of another. It seems that nothing at all is permanent. Everything is constantly becoming.
This week we’ll conclude our look at impermanence with an ancestor’s ritual…
We’ll use elements from a traditional Japanese Zen Buddhist ceremony for the spirits of departed ones — called sejiki. All Om School families are invited to attend this deepening of Halloween and return to its ancient roots.
Dear Om School families: Please remember to bring photos and items that belonged to a loved one who has passed away — friend, family, or animal. We’ll even honor the the bugs and spiders who have departed this world by drawing pictures of them to add to our memory table. Whimsical and non-scary costumes are welcome. If you believe this will be a sensitive subject for your child, please let me know in advance.
We’re exploring what it means to be GENEROUS this month…
August 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.
We had the great pleasure of offering a workshop at the Festival of Conscious Parenting last Sunday. This conference was a wonderful convergence of many teachers, community leaders, and families committed to creating mindful and non-violent environments for children.
Because the summer solstice was also last weekend, Om School’s offering centered on the life-giving energy of the sun — and how the sun is really our second heart, the great heart outside of our body.
What follows is the prepared text of the talk I shared.
Hello friends and families,
How is everyone today? I hope you are well and remembering to smile at the blue sky. My name is Chelsea True and I am the founding instructor at Om School Learning. Om School offers contemplative community programs and services to families and children in Sebastopol. All of our programs are held at Sophia’s Garden — a biodynamic farm and medicinal herb garden. It’s a lovely space and I hope you’ll come out and join us this fall.
So what do we do there? Well, we come together each week to learn mindfulness — to practice holding the world in kindness by paying attention in a special way. We do this with storytelling, songs, games, and handwork with natural materials. And we’re going to share a contemplative handwork project here today. This is a special way to train our attention to hold the world in kindness… and to shine the light of our awareness on the whole world for the whole world.
But before we get started with that, I want to talk more about this, “shining the light of our awareness…”
Does anyone know what we’re celebrating this weekend? Yes, many fun things here at the festival — and I hope you’ll enjoy all of the joyful offerings.
The thing I’d like to celebrate with you all today is the summer solstice. Yesterday and today are the longest days of the year with the sun right here giving us its gifts. One of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, has this to say about the sun:
“The sun is our second heart, our heart outside of our body. It gives all life on Earth the warmth necessary for existence. Plants live thanks to the sun. Their leaves absorb the sun’s energy, along with carbon dioxide from the air, to produce food for the tree, the flower, the plankton. And thanks to plants, we and other animals can live. All of us—people, animals, plants, and minerals—”consume” the sun, directly and indirectly. We cannot begin to describe all the effects of the sun, that great heart outside of our body.
When we look at green vegetables, we can see that it is the sun that is green and not just the vegetables. The green color in the leaves of the vegetables is due to the presence of the sun.”
The same is true for these flowers and oranges. These oranges are the sun. These flowers are your heart. Seeing this way, we’re able to understand that the earth is our body and the trees are our breath — our lungs. The water in the oceans and little rivers is not separate from the blood in our veins. And when we feel that warm sun our cheeks — well how does it feel? I think it feels like a mother’s love. Soft and warm, radiating towards us, falling on everything equally, inclusive and undiscriminating. In an ancient language, this kind of warm, radiating love is called, “metta,” or loving-kindness.
We can generate this kind of tender love, the warm love a mother has for her child, on purpose — with special phrases, wishes that we send out to the world. We begin with sending this warm, sunlight to ourselves. Let’s do that now.
Imagine someone you love — someone you see regularly. Maybe your mom or dad, your dog or cat or horse. Someone who loves you and takes good care of you. Now close your eyes and imagine them very close to you. See the warmth of their heart shine into yours. Feel the sunbeams of their love shining to you. Now let’s say the phrases. Amelie, who is an Om School student, will help us. Let’s repeat after Amelie:
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be peaceful
Now we can radiate that warm, soft sunlight of loving-kindness right back to the person we’re imagining. Picture the love shining from your heart, warming them with gentle loving-kindness. Now let’s say the phrases for them. Emma, who is also an Om School student, is going to help us. Let’s repeat after Emma:
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be peaceful
And we don’t have to stop there. The sun shines on the whole world. Let’s send that loving-kindness to all beings, even to the sun — to thank the sun for all of the gifts it gives us. Liam and Tonia, who also practice mindfulness with Om School, will help us. Let’s repeat after Liam and Tonia:
May all beings be happy
May all beings be healthy
May all beings be peaceful
Can you feel it? I think we’re warming up the world. And if you don’t feel it, that’s okay too. We’re planting seeds and we can trust that they will grow.
I trust that the sun is your heart — and mine too. Without the sun, no living being could survive. Without sun, there would be no you, no me. So everything we know, even these oranges are the coming-together of many conditions near and far. Here in one orange is the sun, the rain, the earth, the farmer who cared for the soil, the tools used to work the farm, the sky from which the rain fell, the parents who gave birth to the farmer. In fact, this sun-ripe orange is the body of the entire cosmos… made up completely of non-orange elements —sunshine, rivers, and consciousness — and without any of these, the orange cannot be.
We can learn a lot from an orange.
Walt Whitman said, “I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars….” He also said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” The sun is our heart, yes? John Muir said, “When one tugs a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
These are meditations on our interbeing — on how all things are intricately interwoven. So, with that, let’s weave together a solstice sun. Let’s honor the sun, that great heart outside our body, with an enormous weaving project — and create a big, yellow sun with up-cycled fabrics, wool roving, and other natural materials.
And for the parents– what makes this a contemplative project? Many things. We’ve just heard how the sun is our heart, so now we have a chance to deepen and embody this understanding through the experience of using our hands. But that’s not all. Some of you may have done a project like this in the past. Today we’re going to do it differently. Instead of just weaving the fabric around the branches, we’re going to repeat the loving-kindness verses as we weave. With each verse, our hands will make a coordinating movement. So, it’s, “May I be happy…” as we wrap the fabric around the frame.
In doing so, we are weaving our loving-kindness right into this sun — so it can shine on everyone. We’re also training our attention to be right here in the present moment, where our lives take place… and not caught in worry or planning. And this present moment, under the warm, solstice sun, is a pretty nice place to be.
Thank you, everybody.
Now let’s turn to some of the Om School kids to get us started. And if you’re not an Om School kid, but you’d like to help, please come on up. It’s going to take a lot of little hands to weave the entire sun.
This talk was inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, The Sun My Heart and references an article of the same title by Thich Nhat Hanh, published in the Engaged Buddhist Reader, ed. Arnold Kotler (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1966)