As the Alluem Kids arrived to class, I wanted them to start warming up their mindfulness skills. I had them write down all the sounds they heard around them (even helped them out by fake sneezing, whistling, etc.). When I ask the kids to be mindful, I'm asking them to tune in to what is going on right here, right now. How do you feel right now? What do you hear right now? Moving into our meditation (we're right at 3 and a half minutes now), I told the kids I would be creating noise to distract them. Realizing a sound can trigger a thought, that becomes another thought and another thought, I asked the kids how we could stop that snowball effect of thoughts from interrupting our meditation time? One of my 9 yr olds said, "By focusing on one thing." I asked what that one thing could be? And a 10 yr old proudly answered, "Your breath!" Awesome.
In Linda Lantieri's book Building Emotional Intelligence, we are told to think of our breath as an anchor. I had the kids describe the function of an anchor to me. "Someone on a boat drops an anchor unto the water when they want the boat to stop. When the anchor hits the ground, the boat can't move." I told the kids that today our breath would be the anchor. Our thoughts drift around in our head, like a boat drifts around on the water, but we always have the ability to drop the anchor, coming into our breath.That is being mindful.
In Lantieri's "Pay Attention" exercise, the kids are reminded to focus on their breath throughout the meditation. As distractions are added to the mix (ringing a bell, knocking on the floor, clapping, whistling, etc.), the kids are to acknowledge the sound by simply saying the name of the sound (or even just saying "Sound") and then bringing the focus back to the breath. They can even encourage the breath by silently saying "Inhale...Exhale...".
To further the mindfulness focus, we talked a bit about how we can be mindful in our every day tasks. There are a lot of things we do everyday without thinking because they tend to be mindless tasks...brushing our teeth, eating, walking a familiar path to school. Maybe we are distracted by our thoughts or by external influences. Practicing mindfulness in the simple things in life by bringing our full attention to whatever the task is, can help prepare us when we need to be fully aware of a challenging circumstance - like doing homework, taking a test, learning to drive, public speaking, performing surgery (things your child may eventually do!). So, starting small we began with the good ol' "Pat Your Head and Rub Your Stomach" in Mountain Pose. While this may come easy to some, this often takes focus and concentration for children. To make it harder, we tried it in Tree Pose adding balance to the mix. Next we broke out the blocks and put all of our attention on balancing the block in Mountain Pose...then Tree Pose, Chair Pose, Warrior I, Warrior II, and finally walking around. With all the focus on balancing the block in the poses, the kids barely noticed they were also working on good posture! Double whammy!
The proudest moment of the class came when it was time for our Sun Salutations. I did the first round with them, as I always do. For the second round, I decided that it was time for them to put on their mindful ears and listen to my vocal instructions instead of watching me as they normally do. They flowed through the whole round beautifully and I almost cried as they lowered their hands to their hearts at the end. So proud of my mindful little yogis!!!