The circle starts with kiirtan (singing a universal mantra). First and foremost, it important for the leader to ideate. While playing kiirtan, remind yourself that the center of the universe shifts into the hearts of those who sing kiirtan. Remember that the Divine is here in all of the children. There are several different styles that can be used for singing kiirtan: circle sitting, circle standing, rows standing, 6 direction kiirtan, or walking kiirtan. Children are asked who would like to be leaders, and children are chosen. Children are invited to use selected instruments which may include: drums, tambourines, clap sticks, maracas, tone blocks and bells.
For new children or whenever you feel like reminding children, explain that the dance they do for kiirtan was created over 7500 years ago by a great yogi and spiritualist, Parvati. Show the steps. Explain that when the big toe touches the ground, it should be very gentle, like a feather to the earth. This point on the big toe stimulates or activates a centre in the middle of your brain to prepare it for meditation. Then show the steps and get everyone to follow. Next explain where the hands can be; at the heart cakra or centre of the chest or raised up high when someone feels joy in their heart or clapping in rhythm.
Sitting with the younger and middle primary children begin with singing out loud, then singing softer, then no voice and eyes close, then the guitar strums the tune for a few rounds, then the guitar stops strumming. Then meditation begins. For younger children there is a visualisation which has been used, taking the child’s imagination from being tiny to being part of vastness.
Visualisation: Imagine you are a cloud, sitting way up high in the sky. You can see so many things, as far as the eye can see. (pause) Look all around you, what do you see? (pause) You notice a beautiful blue colour below you. I wonder what it is? You have the desire to know what it is. You have a desire to be more than what you are, so with this thought you use your courage and you take a big leap out of the cloud. (pause) You feel so free, flying through the air. Look around you. Can you see the trees in the forest, can you see the mountains? Feel the breeze move around you. Can you see the beautiful blue colour? It is the ocean. You wonder what it is like to be the ocean. As you gently come closer to the ocean you see your reflection for a second and then…Splash.. you plunge into the ocean. You are no longer a tiny little rain drop. You are now as vast and wide as the ocean. See how it feels to be as vast and wide and free as the ocean. Let’s explore what it is like to be the ocean for 3 – 5 minutes (depending on how they are that day, you choose the length of time). After 3 minutes quietly say Namaskar and end the visualisation.
Suggestion: You could gently begin playing kiirtan to end the session or to encourage the mantra during the journey.
Children generally like to share what it was like to fly, be free or be the ocean. You may wish to offer paper and pencils, pastels so children can draw their experience.
For middle and upper grades, our meditation tends to be sitting in silence, relaxing the body, keeping the spine straight, singing the mantra quietly in their mind or hearing their inner voice say Baba Nam Kevalam, Love is all there is.
We talk about our biological clock and how everything is systematic. We can train our mind to sit for meditation for as long as we wish to. We begin to experiment with 2 minutes. Ask the children to open their eyes and sit quietly when they feel that 2 minutes are up. Eventually we practice for 5 minutes and longer.
Kiirtan and Meditation with older grades can be gradually built up from 5 minutes to 10 minutes to 15 minutes and on Baba’s birthday it is 30 minutes.
How to help children who find sitting quietly with themselves a challenge:
When the children have danced kiirtan and sit quietly for meditation, we ask the child to take their mind to the sound in the distance. Then after a pause, we ask them to go beyond that sound to the next and further until they can hear the farthest sound. After another long pause, we use the same process to bring their mind to the nearest sound, then to the sound of their breathing, then to the sound of their heart beating. Then finally listening to their mind saying Baba Nam Kevalam, Love is all there is. Let the child practice the mantra with their breath.
Children are introduced to the Kaoshiki dance and it is explained that Baba, PR Sarkar, created Kaoshiki. We talk about its benefits, as well as the strength it provides the body and mind. Children are taught what areas of the feet should touch the floor and what they are called e.g. Din or Ta. The dance begins with the call “Dancers ready”. Children begin and end with Namaskar.
Kaoshiki is taught throughout the year. We start off with one minute per day for one week, then two minutes for a week and so on until children are doing Kaoshiki for 10 minutes per day per week. We hold a Kaoshiki competition at the end of the year and children are invited to participate. There are medals for every participant, certificates for the ones who chose not to compete but have been practicing throughout the year and trophies for the best in each classroom. Sometimes the standard is very high, so we have to award 2 trophies per classroom.
Asanas (yoga postures)
For the young children we sometimes tell stories, and through the journey of the story, animals are introduced. For example, we are walking through the forest and along the way you hear a lion (child assume the lion pose). Make the story up as you like introducing various animals.
To prepare the children to do the ‘difficult tortoise’ pose, we tell a story to stretch the body and muscles. E.g. you are in a room and you hear a baby cry. Pick up the baby, be gentle with it and rock it back and forth. (Hands on knee and leg below the knee is caressed as if holding a baby rocking back and forth)
The baby has settled and gently place them back into their cot. Suddenly there is another cry from a baby. A second baby is crying, you must pick this baby up and gently rock them back and forth, comforting the baby. While you are holding the baby, the phone rings. Oh, no, place the baby down and pick up the phone. (Children take foot to their ear and talk into their foot)
My goodness, the other phone starts ringing, (here sometimes children like to talk to both feet, other children place one foot down and answer the other) Oh no, the phones are very busy today. You must not hang up (both feet are place on the shoulders and rested.) With time the children’s muscles stretch and they can cross both legs behind the head and hold their posture doing namaskar. The children love this routine. There are a lot of laughs.