What do you think of when someone says mindfulness? Me, I think of sitting somewhere in silence, having a quiet, peaceful moment to focus on my breath and the sounds around me. Is this what mindfulness looks like for kids? I can tell you it's not! Sometimes its loud, it's usually always wiggly and it can be totally fun, if you have the right attitude...
I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started teaching mindfulness to kids, I thought it would be a mini version of what adult meditation looks like. In my training at mindfulness schools I had learned the most important thing about teaching was to hold the space for your students. they called this the container.
Preparing for my first class I had us set up in a circle ( containing them would create a great container right) I asked the children to be quiet and listen for the sound of the bell. seated upright in our circle, I invited them to shut their eyes so they could hear better. Then I shut my eyes and started to instruct. Breathe in, breathe out, as I was breathing
using my perfectly audible yoga breath with my eyes shut. It was quiet, I had the thought, this is working well. I really wanted to keep my eyes shut as a good model for the children but I couldn't resist, I told my self their eyes are shut you can peek and they wont see so, I opened one eye briefly and what I saw was 6 sets of eyeballs looking at me like I was some kind of alien, 3 sets of eyeballs preparing for monkey business and one child rolling up in his yoga mat for nap time. I couldn't help it, I started laughing. How could you not, it was like watching a bunch of playful puppies about to create mischief in a very innocent way. What happened next was a surprise. My laughter had gained all 10 students attention. Maybe I was scaring them, maybe they were confused? I really didn't know, but I liked that their attention was together, everyone was in that moment and I realized we were practicing mindfulness.
Yep that is exactly what we were doing and it didn't look anything like what I thought it should and that was ok. After this experience, I started to adjust the way I practice mindfulness with kids. Sometimes we play games, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we talk, we always breathe, we always play and we always have fun. They are my teachers I am not theirs. I just hold the space and they do the teaching. I am so blessed to have this as my job and I love every day I get to learn from them. Everything I do in class is inspired by them.
One our favorite games is the water game. We sit in our circle, I ring the bell to signal silence, we take a big breath together and I pass a cup of water clockwise around the room, the cup passes from one to another, we move very slow and thoughtful for the first round as it passes by me for the second time I add a little more water and we speed up the movement, still in silence. Faster and faster with a drop more of water added each time it makes its way around the full circle. I challenge them not to spill a drop. The rule is if even one drop spills or if anyone talks the game is over. They are so focused, so present, we breathe together, we work as a community supporting one another, we are present, we are mindful and we have fun!