Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hope is an Open Heart

What is hope? What does it mean to have hope? What does it mean to be hopeful? What do you hope for? These were some of the questions that were discussed with the Alluem Kids this weekend. Children are full of hope - hope for the future and hope for the little things in life. I presented the kids with a Hope Box that would be left in the Meditation Room at the studio. The children are welcome to write down their hopes, dreams, wishes, or worries on a small piece of paper and drop it in the box. Giving the kids a place to put down what overflows their hearts, fill their heads, or just needs a place to go is a great outlet to let go of whatever they are holding onto.
Before our 3 and a half minute meditation (the kids wanted to do 4 minutes, but let's take it slow here), we read Lauren Thompson's "Hope is an Open Heart". Thompson wrote this book to help her then 4 yr old son deal with the aftermath of 9-11. In this book, we are presented with images of children who have overcome a great deal in their lives along with simple messages of what hope is. Hope means something different to everyone, but to the children in this book from Haiti, Sri Lanka, New Orleans, and other places affected by disaster, hope is an open heart. Keeping an open heart through whatever life may bring, good or bad, is a much healthier option to shutting down or acting out when challenges presented. Keeping an open heart means being open to what life has to bring, staying in the present moment.
We practiced heart opening asanas like Cobra Pose, Superman, and Flipped our Dogs. Keeping the chest open and the shoulders back increases lung capacity, allows us to breathe deeper. Breathing deeper reduces anxiety and slows the heart and mind - allowing us to think clearly in times of need, and be in a more restful state of mind and body. When we have embraced that state, we are helping ourselves and can in turn may help others.
Scholastic, the publishers of "Hope is an Open Heart", have come up with a way to help children in need through the sales of this book. Scholastic My Time is a program that was set up to help children affected by disaster or crisis. They've developed a kit that includes a copy of this book, as well as a "make your own book" and colored pencils so that children in need can express what they are experiencing through drawing and writing. Giving children an outlet, like art, is something I am a strong supporter of. Thanks to the Volunteers of America, these kits have been distributed to over 25,000 children. In addition, Scholastic will donate $1 from each sale of this book to the Volunteers of America. Visit the site to learn more about this program as well as learning some tips on how to help and comfort a child in need: http://www.scholastic.com/mytime