November 23, 2014

The Awareness Game (Ideas for parents of young children)

Recently I took my boys outside for a walk. I told them that we'd be talking only about the things we saw, heard, felt, or experienced RIGHT THEN. We wouldn't be talking about other things, only about what was happening right in that moment. At first it was kind of awkward and I had to prod the kids - "what do you see right now?" "What did you hear?" Finally, they started to warm up.

Andrew saw a big rock on the ground. I said, "Let's have a closer look at that rock." The boys looked at it for another minute and really didn't see anything else remarkable... until I turned it over. They all gasped! "WOW! Look at all those bugs underneath!"

It was a great lesson in "things aren't always what they seem."

From that point on, they really examined everything. Not just by sight, but by touching, smelling, hearing, and tasting. A quiet forest isn't really that quiet, after all. Green hackberry twigs taste like peanut butter. Sassafras leaves smell kind of like candy. The veins in a beech leaf are perfectly straight, just like they'd been cut by a razor.

That evening, everyone was sitting in the living room. I said, "Let's see how aware you are right now." I had everyone close their eyes and then I asked them questions about the things in the room.

What color is the cushion on the floor? How many pictures are on the wall? Who is wearing socks? It was all done in fun - there were no winners or losers.

It all culminated in a meditation exercise on Sunday. Sunday I asked the boys to sit with me for a meditation. I asked them to sit and just breathe. Count 10 breaths. Don't think about anything. If any thoughts come to mind, just let them pass out of your mind. (I told them to "blow" the thoughts away with their exhale breath.) While they were sitting, I asked them to keep their eyes closed and to be aware of the things around them. Notice what they hear and feel - but only notice. Don't start thinking about what was heard or felt.

Stick to "I hear a bird chirping," and then notice something else.

Afterwards, I asked them each how they felt. They all said, "calm," "happy," "peaceful," and things like that.

They also played very well together those two days!