Highlights from My Montessori Eco School this past term

The focus of this term’s Mindful Me lessons at My Montessori was Bee breathing or Brahmiri, mindful eating and a new affirming song: “I am Brave, I am Bold, My own spirit, I can hold” from Shakta Kalsa, a kundalini yoga teacher.

Bhramari Pranayama Stage-2The bee breathing was great fun and so good for the kids. We started out by first making the sound of the bee with our mouths open and with our teeth together and then we made the sound while holding our mouths closed.

The vibration that this practice sets up in your head and throat is very noticeable and the kids commented on it easily. We then blocked our ears and closed our eyes ( or tried to close our eyes) and made the humming sound again with a closed mouth a few times. Breathing in first and then humming on the out breath till our breath was finished and we had to breathe in again. I asked them if they noticed that even though they are making a noise with their outside voices if they noticed that they were quiet on the inside. The blocking of the ears and closing of the eyes and the humming vibration creates a kind of cocoon for the mind and it becomes completely calm and still. And as such so does the spirit.

We did some silent sitting then as we will always do in every Mindful Me session When-eating-eatfollowed by a mindful eating practice. I brought a different food item each week to keep it interesting and had the children use each of their senses with the item before they were allowed to put it into their mouths to first taste by rolling around their mouths, then chew, then swallow. What a wonderful experience. The first thing we did was dried cranberries – WOW – what flavour burst from them when at last we bit into them. I also made sure to ask the children if they noticed anything happening in their mouths when they smelled the item each week, and they noticed the subtle watering of the mouth and tasting of the item on their tongues. A Wonderful Wonderful mindful practice. One of the students actually began to practice mindful eating at home with his Dad I was told and a few of the teacher’s commented on how the practice had also affected their lives.

Then, after some state changers, we moved on to singing our song, I am Brave…. for the term before closing with Namaste. Magic

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Mindful Me video!

It’s taken some time, but here it is! The 20 minute overview of Mindful Me taking place with the 3 – 6 year olds of My Montessori Eco School. Our thanks go to the school for making this beautiful video available to us.

If once watching this you want to find out more about having Mindful Me lessons at your school email mindfulmecapetown@gmail.com

#peace #love #spirit #mindfulness

Two mindfulness lesson plans for My Montessori Eco School

The Mindful Me journey at My Montessori Eco School continues as we move comfortably into the 2nd lesson plan I created for the remaining weeks of the school term. I have changed the breathing technique and some of the exercises for the older classes, but was advised by one of the teachers that it was best to keep it all the same for the younger classes, as they were just getting the hang of the lesson’s activities at week 3 and she didn’t want to change it. So, now we have three classes of children primarily between the ages of 3 and 5 doing one lesson plan and two classes with children between the ages of 4 and 6 doing the other. It’s fine.

Every class still starts with coming to sitting – legs crossed, hands in chin mudra on the knees and three long deep breaths in and out, the “I love my heart” exercise and “shake out your hands and put them on your knees”. Then I have introduced Five Finger Breathing to the older classes and they all love it. One of the kids actually said to me today – “I love this one.”

Take-5-Breathing-Exercise-for-Kids

Easy to do and sensory as well as breathwork, it’s wonderful. My thanks go to childhood101.com for making it available online for us all to use.

We then move through our body awareness exercise, by placing our hands on the top of our heads, our faces, our shoulders and so on, stopping briefly at our bellies to feel them move up and down as we breathe in and out. This then leads into some silent meditation or sitting still silently. It’s hard for some of the kids to do this and simple for others. Some like it and some don’t want to do it and try to make a game of it by clicking their tongues or giggling. In time however, I am sure that this uncertainty will be replaced by a knowing and ultimately with meditation. Even if it is only for some children and even if it is many years from now. The seeds are being sown today.

Close-up of a Rose Quartz rockThen we have a new exercise for the older children – I have introduced a speaking stone. It’s a piece of rose quartz just the right size to fit into the palm of a child’s hand and whoever has the stone, means it’s their turn to share. We have done two sharing exercises, the first a round of what we are thankful for (explained as what we love or are happy to have in our lives), resulting in rounds of all 17 children in the class saying “my Mommy”. Bless. But over time other things have shown up such as Daddy, the dog(s), sisters or brothers, visits to the beach/park, Mommy taking me to a party, all of you and everyone.

The second sharing round exercise is an inquiry as to what kind of weather they are today? Are you stormy weather, or rainy weather or sunny weather or misty weather or flower weather or rainbow weather or snowy weather or cloudy weather? How do you feel? What kind of weather are you? We have had some children that are always the same kind of weather, one little boy is always mountain weather, and some children who are nonsensical weather such as “king” weather.article-2093450-118210E4000005DC-706_964x553

But again, most of them are relating their feelings to the kind of weather they are. And I explain to them that they can see that the weather changes all the time, just like our moods, one minute we can be sunny weather and the next we can be rainy weather or stormy weather. But that we can also change our weather or our feelings if we want to by changing what we doing (changing our state).  We can speak to an adult or colour in or talk to a friends or take a long deep breath in and out until we feel better or we can say our A…F…F…I…R…M…A…T…I…O…N…S!!

“I am happy – to be me” “I am happy – to be me” “I am happy – to be me”

4dbcf54ddf1cfa59006159268248e1bfI realised too while setting this all out in a lesson plan to send to the parents that we are working on developing all the following major areas with all the different exercises:

  • Self love and acceptance
  • Body awareness and settling into feeling
  • Mindful state changing
  • Breathwork
  • Silent Meditation
  • Mood and emotion mindfulness
  • Sharing our selves
  • Gratitude
  • Singing

We then close with a song and namaste. This lesson includes “I am the light, light, light, light of my soul” 

I am.

 

 

 

 

Weekly mindfulness lessons started at My Montessori Eco School

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: child-cpr-landing-page-image-picture-of-a-child-holding-hands-to-chest

“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.a-breathing-exercise-to-help-kids-calm-down1

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 this-breathing-exercise-helps-kids-calm-downexhale. 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?”me-me-me-are-we-living-through-a-narcissism-epidemic-life-and-style-the-guardian-1456958264gn8k4

“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.flat800x800075f-u1

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.

Namaste