Children and Meditation: A Follow-Up


A proper meditation tipi
A proper meditation tipi

“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
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.
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.

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12 Responses

  1. What a lovely post, Jeannie, I can’t believe I missed the one in March…I went back and read that too. The gifts you are giving your grandchildren and the gifts your readers offered are all very inspiring. I want to share a post from my Wonder Child Blog…I’ll try to link it here. It’s a visualization (meditation) that I did with my First Graders last year. Forgive me if this seems like self-promoting, I do not mean it that way…I just want to share another meditation idea for you and your readers…one cannot have enough ideas and inspirations where working with children or ourselves is concerned–especially in the realms of the spirit. So I’ll try to link it, if it doesn’t work, perhaps I’ll just copy the text here. Peace and Light, Joseph

    1. Thank you, Joseph. You’re welcome to link or copy your post here. I’m sure that the people interested in my post will be very interested in hearing new ideas from such a gifted educator of young children as yourself! I know I am. By the way, I read your blog often and enjoy it, but it seems like every time I try to write a comment, your monkey-catcher system with the distorted letters rejects my decoding attempts until I give up! I appreciate your stopping by! Blessings, Jeanie

      1. You’re welcome…and thank you for the kind words. Sorry about the monkey catching thingies…how annoying…to miss more of your wisdom is a drag…I will try making you an official commenter…I think there’s something in the settings I can do to automatically approve a comment (can’t believe I didn’t do that or you earlier)….Thanks for reading, and please try writing again sometime. I’m on summer reruns on my blog too. 🙂 Peace, Joseph

  2. Thanks Joseph. Your star visualization is lovely. It would work great with my 5 and 7 yr. old grandchildren. I’ll give it a try when I can. J

  3. This is lovely, Jeanie. I can imagine finding my own star and love the simple way you’ve taught your grandchildren loving kindness. According to the Dalai Lama, kindness is the essential practice, and when Vic was sick, he and I knew that was true. How fortunate that you can share love and wisdom with your grandchildren in this way. How lucky you are to have each other. I will add a meditation my teacher Anthony Damiani taught a group of children under 5. In a large glass bowl filled with water, he added one drop by holding a spoon high above the bowl. The drop sent ripples through the calm surface of the water. He had the children watch the ripples as they hit the sides of the bowl and made a series of wave patterns. He and they watched intently until the water grew still. He told them the still surface was their mind and the water drops their thoughts before letting another drop fall into the bowl and letting them watch again. All the squirmy little bodies became focused intense meditators for 10 minutes or so, huddled in close to each other and the teacher, watching. It was wonderful to behold. I’ll look at Joseph’s meditation idea, too, so thanks, Joseph, for posting the link.

    1. Oh my. Thank you for sharing this exquisite example from your teacher, Elaine. I wish I’d known about it in time to use it this year. I’ll be saving it in a file of ideas for next summer!

  4. ENjoyed your account of the meditation sessions.
    I’m slowly reading “Quiet” and finding it very enlightening. Not only does my wonderful partner fit within the introversion that I knew was so, but I’m finding that so much of what she describes for children describes my early years. Such an interesting journey we are on! I still believe my tendency is toward extroversion, but I don’t fit the model quite so neatly as C fits “I”. But, of course, we know that is the case with most. We are having a wonderful summer. I’m getting back into the practice of painting. It has been a while since I’ve been able , or chosen to,paint and it comes less easily when one is away from it. The paints that I bought here are not what I’m accustomed to and that in itself is a challenge. But that’s OK – a new learning experience. Hi to Fred and love to you both XXQ

  5. Dear Que,
    Why don’t I know about “Quiet?” Is it a new book? I’ll look it up when I finish this.
    Just a day or so ago I read a blog post from the wonderful psychotherapist Martha Crawford that perfectly describes my introverted/intuitive personality. I felt like she was looking into my head and jotting down everything she saw there! Here’s the link in case you or your wonderful partner or anyone else is interested:
    I’m thrilled to know you’re painting again. Next time you post a comment here would you include your web site so my readers can see your work?
    Much love to you and Cicero, my dear friend, Jeanie

  6. Hello Jean, I just wanted to stop by and let you know how honored and thrilled I am that you were able to use some suggestions from me, and that the children enjoyed them. It truly is such a special gift to be able to share this kind of wisdom with children. I can only imagine what a wonderful world we are creating when we pass on such lovingkindness and the art of Stillness to future generations. It has been amazing to read of all the other exercise your readers suggest as well – I particularly loved the water drops!
    (Just for clarity – I am Amy, but forgot to log in via my wordpress account last time!) 🙂
    You know me from my post on Children’s Dreams. I wish you all the best in you future endeavours

    1. Thanks Amy. And thank you for the wonderful information you’re providing on your excellent site, The Dream Well. Blessings, Jeanie

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