So I am two weeks into mindfulness lessons at My Montessori in the beautiful Hout Bay valley of Cape Town and it is with sheer pleasure that I look forward to the next lesson. The kids are sitting easily in circle and have already adopted the chin mudra and “a long deep breath in ….and ooouuutt.” with great enthusiasm. 🙂
Chin means consciousness in Sanskrit, and the purpose of this mudra is to remind the practitioner of the goal of yoga, the union of the individual soul with the supreme soul.
Mudra means seal, and it is essentially an energetic and spiritual gesture that controls the flow of energy within the body.
We start the lesson with alternate nostril breathing, but using just one “peter pointer finger” at a time to block the one nostril and then the other nostril. We do this for a good 3 minutes and you can just feel and see the calm being created.
Then we do affirmation and body holding:
“I love my heart” with your hands on your heart. “ I love my eyes” with your hands on your
eyes. “I love my ears” with your hands on your ears, “I love my mind” with your hands on your head, “I love me” with your hands on your heart again and finally “I love everybody” with your arms outstretched and hands open.
The children love it and happily repeat it with me. There are smiles and giggles and they lean into each other in enjoyment and sharing.
We then move on to body awareness and focusing on a specific area. So like we do in adult orientated mindfulness, we place our awareness on the top of our heads, then our face, then our throats and so on, but I get the children to place their hands on these places of focus too, so that they can feel the place and focus on it more easily.
We move through the whole body all the way to the feet, with special attention paid to the belly. At the point where we reach the belly, I bring their attention to their belly moving up and down with every inhale and exhale. We notice and feel the belly expand and contract as we breathe in and out, and comment that it is like a balloon, big and round when we have taken a breath in and flat like a pancake when we have breathed out all our air.
At this point we place our hands in chin mudra again on our knees and sit in silent meditation for just a few minutes. It is said that the age of the child will tell you how long they can meditate for so I aim for between 3 and 5 minutes. What has helped with this has been the Silence Game that is well known by Montessori children. We are creating silence together!!!!! And I can call them back to creating silence when they get restless by whispering their name.
The rest of the lesson goes like this:
“Now, we are going to do affirmations. Do you know what affirmations are? They are words you say to yourself that make you feel good. So we are going to say “I am peaceful” with our hands on our hearts and “I am calm” with our hands on our knees in chin mudra. Can you do that? And we sing the affirmation together…..”I am peaceful”…..”I am calm”
So do you feel peaceful when you say the word? Expected answer “Yes!”
And do you feel calm when you say the word? Expected answer “Yes!”
Some agree and some disagree and have different perspectives on different days :).
“Now, who gets angry (put up your hand)? And who gets sad?”
“So you can use your affirmation when you get angry or sad and change yourself from angry to peaceful and calm.” This is where I introduce the concept of being able to consciously change state/personal experience. Choosing your reality vs being a victim of your thoughts or feelings. This is something that is a strong theme throughout the Mindful Me lessons in any age group. I introduce it to teens by inviting them to identify or see their thinking and feeling through mindfulness exercises such as “watching the breath”, “watching thoughts” or the “body scan”. For me, this is one of the most important benefits of mindfulness. Being able to be in control of what is in your awareness is a very special kind of freedom. You don’t have to believe that you are not good enough or not pretty enough or not clever enough. When you notice that you are telling yourself these things (which you begin to do with thought watching meditation), you can choose to believe that you are enough instead, and this puts self esteem and mental health in the your hands.
We will finish every lesson with a song we sing together. In this lesson we sing “May the longtime sun shine upon you…” and close the class with Namaste. Hands together at the heart centre. We do each lesson plan three times before changing it, so that the repetition helps the children learn the techniques. And all lessons will have the fundamentals in it, such as the body awareness and belly breathing and meditation time.
I actually had one Mom stop me in the queue at Woolies the other day and ask me for advice around meltdowns. I recommended that they practice the “I am peaceful, I am calm” affirmation at the point of meltdown or when they can see it brewing and the child actually sat next to me in class this week and told me that she had practiced it with her Mom. That made me very happy!
It really is beautiful to see the calm being generated in these little beings and the hope is that they will take these practices into their lives and their parents lives and the lives of others they come into contact with.