from The Ananda Marga River School Australia
by Kamala Alister
Recently I had a term going into each class at the Ananda Marga River School once a week to meditate with the children. With younger children, I used finger puppets or cute stuffed animals to tell stories, mostly from the lovely book, “Who am I? Spiritual Philosophy for Young Children” from Ananda Marga Publications. With the older children (Grades 3 to 7), I presented some of my Spiritual Heroes. After meditation, I shared a few minutes about the hero of the week, often with some photos on my laptop or from a book. Here are a few, and there are many more possible. Information about them all is on the internet.
Peace Pilgrim: She was an American woman who traveled across the US on foot for 25 years carrying nothing with her but her clothes. I showed a photo of her and read some of her quotes relating to “Simple Living.” (her very inspiring book is available for free. You can find it online.)
Jaques Lusseyran: As a young man he formed a group to fight against the Nazi’s occupation of France. The amazing thing is that he was completely blind. But he saw light auras so he could manage as a sighted person. But he couldn’t see anything at all if his mind became imbalanced with anger or hatred! (His autobiography is “And then there was light.”)
Make A Stand Lemonade: Vivienne Harr, a 9 year old Californian girl has raised $50,000 to fight child slavery at her home lemonade stand. You can watch her youtube video and there is a film coming out about her, and she is still doing it.
President of Uraguay: He is called the “world’s poorest President” because he lives very simply and donates 90% of his salary to charity. I showed photos of him to begin with and asked, “What do you think this man does for a living?”
King of Thailand: He became king unexpectedly when his uncle abdicated and his older brother mysteriously died. At that time he was studying at the university in Europe. He became an active king, instead of staying confined to the Palace as previous generations. He traveled around learning about the problems of the country, creating many new irrigation projects and other progressive farming initiatives that changed the lives of the poor. There is an organic garden at the palace and organic shops around Bangkok that he founded. I read an article from a Buddhist teacher who talked about his use of self-restraint and compassion in dealing with rebel soldiers.
Paul Narada Alister: I read some pages from his book “Bombs, Bliss and Baba” about how when wrongly imprisoned for seven years when he was in his twenties, he decided to dedicate himself to meditation and ended up becoming very blissful and being able to do some service for other prisoners as well. (They all know him as he teaches them meditation.)
Demonstrations of the Benefits of Meditation for Children
A Clear Mind (This one is from our school Acharya, Didi Ananda Devanishta)
Pass around a jar of water and let children put pinches of different colors of glitter and sparkles into the water. These are their “thoughts and feelings” and the jar is their mind! Shake up the jar and see how busy the water has become. Then leave the jar still and let everything settle to the bottom. This is our mind when we meditate! Our mind becomes clear and clean!
Lay out a pretty cloth with a large bowl and small glass. After meditation one child gets to drop a pretty stone, first into the large bowl, then into the small glass. Talk about how much the water is disrupted in the glass, versus the bowl, versus, say a small stone dropping into a huge, calm lake. When our minds expand in meditation, they are not disrupted so much by small disturbances and we can remain calm even in the face of upsets and challenges.
Moral Base in Life
Put out a small cushion or pillow and a firm base (a board, a book…) I chose two sets of two children and challenged them to build a tower of blocks on each surface. We laughed, saying, “This isn’t a fair competition, is it?” Of course, you can’t build a very tall tower on the cushion! We talked about how important it is to have a strong base of morality in your life. I demonstrated on the hard surface with each block: You finish primary school (one block), you start high school (another one on top), you get your first job (another one), first relationship (another one) and so on. If the base isn’t firm and you are perhaps telling lies to your parents or teachers, or stealing, or losing touch with simple living or contentment… the whole pile might fall down!
Stories and Games
The Children’s Garden – by Didi Anandarama
This is a story on the value of ‘initiative’ from the 100 stories of the project ‘Children for a Better World’ by AMURTEL Indonesia and Malaysia in cooperation with NHE/Gurukula. The 100 stories of this project will be illustrated and printed as books for children to be taken home and to be read to them by their parents.
This is a fictional story but based only on a real life news report from Egypt of a girl who actually made a desk from garbage. (http://egyptianstreets.com/2014/05/21/only-an-egyptian-girl-will-struggle-for-an-education-like-this)
Amira was a young girl who lived with her parents, her two brothers and two sisters. Although their home was small and they had no furniture except for a small table, they lived happily together. Amira loved going to school. She loved her teacher and her school mates. But at home Amira had a problem. She could not do her homework peacefully without her younger brother and sister disturbing her. Sometimes Amira would get upset and go outside.
There was a big space between Amira’s house and the neighbour’s house. In it was a pile of rubbish. One day Amira walked around the rubbish thinking deeply. Suddenly she had an idea. She pulled some boards out of the rubble.
Amira made herself a desk to use in her yard. She also found a broken chair and managed to fix it. Happily she went to get her school bag from the house and enjoyed doing her homework at her new desk. Soon other children also made desks for doing their homework.
One day, after finishing her homework, Amira gathered the children. ”Let’s clean up this place together!” They all agreed. Together they worked for days and weeks. They swept, burned garbage and filled up big garbage containers. They made signs asking people not to litter and planted trees and made flower beds.
One day the mayor passed by and saw the children busy working. He was very impressed. He said, “Who had the idea for this project?” They all pointed to Amira. The mayor shook hands with her, “Thank you, Amira for doing such great work!” He asked the children if they needed anything else. They asked for a playground, drinking water, a shady roof and a small shed for their gardening tools. The mayor happily granted all their needs.
The mayor arranged a big party for the opening of the Children’s Garden and gave Amira a special prize of appreciation.
For more information on the 100 stories project please contact Didi Anandarama at firstname.lastname@example.org
Namaskar Game – by Dada Maheshvarananda
This next game involves no movement, but is a very powerful non-judgmental reflection about who we are. I have recently done this with children in public schools, but have also done this with prisoners in jail, and they are sometimes moved to tears. Here are the instructions:
“Sit in pairs facing someone you don’t know very well. One person of each pair has to close his or her eyes for three minutes. The second person has to watch. Afterwards we will switch. So decide now who will be the first one to close your eyes.” [Start quiet Kiirtan or other soft music on a CD player if you have it.]
“I will now give directions to the one with eyes open. Look at the person in front of you. [pause] Imagine that this person is rather like you. [pause] Imagine that he or she has experienced some disappointments in life like you have. [pause] Imagine that he or she has made some mistakes in life like you have. [pause] Imagine that he or she has been hurt in life, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, just as you have. [pause] Imagine that because of these hurts, he or she has some worries and fears like you do. [pause] Imagine that he or she, like you, has also tried to be kind and to help people when possible. [pause] Imagine that he or she has some hopes and dreams like you have. [pause] Imagine that he or she would like to be a better person, just as you would like to be. [pause] Imagine that he or she has physical, mental and spiritual potential like you. [pause] Imagine that the Supreme Consciousness, God, is also inside this person. [pause] Now put your hands together and touch your forehead and then touch your heart and say, “Namaskar”, which means, “I greet the divinity within you with all my mind and all my heart.” [Ring a bell]
“Now close your eyes and do meditation, and those who were meditating open your eyes.” [repeat instructions]