“Thank you, Granna. I love you.” These words from my 11-year-old grandson were accompanied by a warm hug before he went up to bed.
Earlier that evening I had taken my five grandchildren to our tipi and taught them a lovingkindness meditation. I’d been thinking for months about what I wanted to do with them during this summer’s visit to our cabin in the Smokey Mountains. One thought was to introduce them to meditation, so in a blog post last March I asked readers for suggestions. The response was far beyond my expectations. My sincere thanks to all who shared your wonderful ideas.
With help from them and Coming to Your Senses, a new book about meditation written by my friend, Beth Johnson, I came up with a plan for four sessions. All the children, ranging from five to eleven, are excellent students with good attention spans, but anticipating their excitement about being together combined with the novelty of learning how to meditate in a tipi, I decided to keep the sessions no more than 15 minutes long. My plan was to focus on their physical senses and guide them through fun activities that would harness their creative imagination. I also devised follow-up activities, most for outdoors (listening for sounds, looking for landmarks on our property, and finding and identifying wildflowers), and, in case it rained, one (making a mind jar) for indoors.
My backpack full of props included a hand-woven wool Navajo placemat; a thick, pure soy candle; incense and an incense container; a lighter; a tape player and 2 tapes of Cherokee legends to play at the beginning of each session; a few bottles of water; 6 towels on which to sit or lie; bug repellant; and because it was such a rainy summer, a camo tarp to cover the wet tipi floor.
I approached the first session, which was about quieting our monkey mind by noticing our physical body and senses, with a bit of trepidation. The kids are still at the stage where the mere mention of the word “body” brings up giggly references to body parts normally not mentioned in polite company. I got what I expected. At dinner a few nights later our friend Bud, the grandfather of a 3-year old boy, asked, “So how did the meditations with the grandchildren go?” “Exactly how you’d expect with five children under 11.” I said.
The next day I skipped the Day Two session “Feeling and Relaxing Your Body” (guess why) and went directly to Day Three: “Finding Your Star,” a creative visualization suggested by a reader named Amy. We lay on our towels, closed our eyes, and imagined flying above our bodies. We flew over the cabin, mountains, and seas into outer space toward our own special star. When we arrived we sat down for a while to enjoy the view. I told them this is a very special quiet and safe place inside them where they can return whenever they feel sad, lonely, or a need to be alone. After a moment we flew back into our bodies and stood up and did a silly star dance.
Amy also suggested the lovingkindness meditation we did the last day. They were getting used to this by now, so although there was still some silliness, everyone participated fully and enjoyed talking about it later. After listening to another Cherokee legend we focused on the candle flame, then on our heartbeats, and then on the light of love inside our hearts which grew bigger and brighter as we imagined being with someone we love. Finally we imagined giving away some of this light/love to someone who might need it from us. These children are naturally sweet and loving, and judging by my grandson’s bedtime response, I’m pretty sure this one was their favorite.
I feel very good about my first try at teaching my grandchildren how to meditate. I don’t expect any immediate or dramatic changes, but I’m pretty sure I gave them some memorable experiences that planted a few seeds of awareness. I’m going to love watching them grow.
“The knowledge of the heart is in no book and is not to be found in the mouth of any teacher, but grows out of you like the green seed from the dark earth. Scholarliness belongs to the spirit of this time, but this spirit in no way grasps the dream, since the soul is everywhere that scholarly knowledge is not.” Carl Jung The Red Book, A Reader’s Edition, p. 133
Note: For those who are wondering, I’m taking a little sabbatical from blog-writing this summer so you won’t be getting many e-mails like this for a while, but I’m posting links to some of my archived posts on Twitter and my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy them.