Bell and Breath Meditation for Kids

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People often ask me if younger kids can really meditate. My first answer is, sometimes they can and sometimes they can’t. BUT, they can start to understand and appreciate the value of sitting in meditation and following the breath.
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If a family sets aside the time - even just a few daily minutes - and the space - just a quiet corner of any room - to talk about things like good silence, calming down the mind, following the breathe...young kids find their own way to the cushion. 

It’s a journey and a practice that is ever-evolving. 

Starting with this simple singing bowl meditation, from Sitting Together: A Family-Centered Curriculum on Mindfulness, Meditation, and Buddhist Teachings by Sumi Loundon Kim, is a great way to get them engaged. (Link to buy the book below).


 

Meditation Bell and Breath

To begin this meditation practice, settle into your spot and close your eyes. Now bring your awareness to your ears. I'm going to ring the bell in a just a moment, and listen carefully. Listen to the whole sound of the bell, until you cannot hear it anymore. [Ring bell and pause.] After the bell is finished ringing, listen for how many sounds you can hear outside the room. [Pause.] I am going to ring the bell one more time. when you cannot hear the sound of the bell anymore, please raise your hand. [Ring bell and Pause.]

What sounds did you hear? Its OK if you didn't know what the sound was - just describe what you heard. If there was a loud sound, how did you feel when you heard it?

Our second meditation will be to count how many breaths you take while the bell is still ringing. One breath consists of an in-breath and an out-breath together: so in, out, that one breath. Please just breath naturally, there's no need to make the breath be any different than it is. You can count on your fingers if you wish. And the you can't hear the sound of the bell anymore, please raise your hand. Let's close our eyes again. i'm going to ring the bell now, and begin counting your breaths until you can no longer hear the bell's ringing. [Ring bell and Pause.]

Show me by holding up your fingers how many breaths you took while the bell was riding. 

Now our third meditation is this: In a minute I will ring the bell. When the bell rings, notice whether you are breathing in, breathing out, or in between breaths. OK, now close your eyes. [Ring bell.]

Rise your hand when I ask these questions: When the bell rang, who was breathing in? Breathing out? In between?

This is our fourth and last listening meditation. After a minute or so of silence, I'll ring the bell. During the silence, count how many breaths you take up until the moment that I ring the bell. And then of course, you can continue to meditate by listening to the sound of the bell until it fades. You can count on your fingers if you wish. Please start counting your breath now. 

[Wait, ring bell.]

How many breaths did you take up until the bell rang?

 

This meditation can be found in Sitting Together: A Family-Centered Curriculum on Mindfulness, Meditation, and Buddhist Teachings by Sumi Loudon Kim. 

I love the wisdom and practices shared in these books and refer to them all of the time! You can purchase them on Amazon by clicking the image of the book. 


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Welcome 2017

Looking back at the adventures and challenges of 2016, I remain grateful....not only for the safety and health we all enjoyed, but of how much I have grown. I can not help but feel a certain buzzing inside of me in this moment of January-ness. Fresh and new and hopeful and open...excited to see what emerges.

What I’m thinking of most as I start organizing and planning the New Year is – Intention.
How can I bring intention not only to each day, but also to my children?


The calendar lies out before me and I can already imagine all of the seasonal traditions and milestones that we’ll share. But I can’t help but wonder, how many are done with an honest intention and not just on autopilot? Where can I see see myself get caught up in consumerism and speed – and not a genuine presence in the moment? Of course, I am not perfect and I have no intention of striving for that, but rather a cultivation of intention throughout the seasons.

I will forgive myself when I fall short, which I’m sure will often be the case.
I’ve had so many excuses the past couple of years based on having twins and feeling overwhelmed with multiple moves and graduate school at the same time. But now I’m sitting more still and the little boys are four. It’s time.


Intentions.    We invite each other to share what ideas they have for the New Year: new adventures they'd like to take, hobbies to spend more time on, or just activities that they are interested in pursuing.

Sacred Passing.    Although we spend time in fun and dancing as a family, we also find a few moments to pray together, share a blessing, or do a meditation together. This year, we sat together with my new Tibetan singing bowl, and did a Metta meditation together. Metta means loving kindness and it is a practice of sending universal love to ourselves, others, and the entire planet. I was amazed at how all of my kids were very engaged in the practice, finding their own involvement.


Snow Silence in Summer Places

This weekend held so many different sorts of silence for me - it was almost overwhelming. I find myself sort of frenzied and confused when I find myself with big chunks of time to myself - what should I do first? Should I catch up on some magazine reading? exercise, meditation, nap, great movie, solitary walk....? All appealing options, and I'm happy to report I indulged in most of them for the two days my husband and I dashed away to Newport RI before the blizzard. I was nervous to leave, but fortunately, my husband did not lose sight of the feasibility of the trip, and the little inn was equipped with a fireplace.

When the kids are well looked after by loving family, and I'm in a familiar place of my past (Newport) the silence I'm afforded is immense. This time, we were joined by great old friends to celebrate a big birthday and tromp around in the snow together. What I learned again, is that the silence of being in a familiar place, but in unique and unfamiliar circumstances, has an amazing effect on the entire experience. Newport is usually a place we visit in the summer, and most of the time with kids. To view the seaside wharfs wrapped in wind and snow added so much to my love of the place. There is always a remarkable and lasting silence when snow has settled in inches on the ground, but the ocean adds an entirely different, almost timeless mystique. The change asks me to be more aware, and to pay more attention to my surroundings. I think this must be why I crave travel and new adventure. It's not the new place or experience that is providing me something, but the fact that I am paying attention is providing me an awareness - a foothold in the present moment. And this is what brings me a simple peace. Being in the moment.

And then of course, there is a certain silence that is so welcome for parents, when they step away from the energy of their children - briefly. Our conversations were uninterrupted, our rhythms our own. The "mom" and "dad" peel away and the selves that met so long ago, get some much needed time to catch up. When I return home, I will remember to visit some favorite places with the kids, off-season. There is an arboretum that we frequent often, during all seasons, but only once in the winter. I'll include pictures in the next post....

“Well, I know now. I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person”
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath