The River School includes Inner Me time in each classroom, each day. As some of our teachers are less familiar with teaching this, we have one, focussed class each week. I have found it an enjoyable challenge to teach meditation, yoga and spiritual concepts to children from 5 to 12 years old each week over the last several months.
I like to teach almost exclusively through songs, stories, dances and games. Here are a few ideas I’ve found are helpful.
I make sure that when children enter the room it is clean and comfortable, there is quiet music playing and usually a candle, essential oils and fresh flowers. I am always meditating when the children walk in. Most of the time the children sit down and join me in silence until class starts.
The Magic Sparkle Wand
The sparkle wand is a children’s toy: a clear tube filled with small multi-coloured pebble and many bits of glitter suspended within clear liquid. This has been the best tool for teaching meditation. I shake the tube and show the colours and sparkles moving all around. This is how the children are when they walk into class, especially after morning break and they have been running all around! Then I hold the sparkle wand still on one end. We all notice how first the coloured pebbles settle to the bottom. This is the physical body slowly settling down when we sit to meditate. Then we notice how the bits of glitter take longer to settle and a few stray bits of glitter continue to float around. This is how our thoughts slowly start to settle down in meditation, but sometimes the mind keeps “sparkling” around for a while. For the older children I can explain that we can feel like the clear liquid that holds the body and the mind, the pebbles and the sparkles, and we can experience that clarity and stillness.
I let the children take turns holding the wand and shaking it and making it still. When we meditate, we feel our physical body relax and our breathing become more quiet. Then we notice our thoughts become quiet as we focus on our mantra (Baba Nam Kevalam.)
Flowers and Feathers and Stars
Positive reinforcement is so powerful in meditation. We always start our meditation with Baba Nam Kevalam kiirtan. A popular tune this term is based on twinkle twinkle little star. Afterwards I lead the children into meditation with a story or some guidance, I look around to find at least one child sitting nicely with eyes closed. I put a little flower into that child’s hands. Immediately another child closes their eyes, and they get a flower. I keep gently guiding the meditation as I walk around the circle placing a flower in each child’s hand that is quiet, and sure enough, they almost all are. Then we end the meditation with another quiet kiirtan. Some weeks I use flowers (“meditation is so sweet”), then I found a peacock feather to brush against their face (“feel that gentle softness”) and we can also use small star stickers or little bindi jewels on their forehead.
With the oldest children I have enjoyed sharing true stories of awakened people or people who have used meditation to overcome tough situations. Some spiritual autobiographies I have shared include Peace Pilgrim (an amazing American woman with a book by the same name), Jaques Lusseyran (“And There was Light”), and Yongey Mingyur Rimpoche (“In Love with the World”).
Most of our yoga is using yoga circuits (the children move around the room in small groups and perform the pose on the card at each station), yoga dance (moving through connected poses with uplifting music) or yoga stories (acting out a simple story: “The mountain loved being rooted and strong, but then it thought: what would it be like to be a butterfly?”)