Archives for June 2015

Thought Clouds

Today’s mindfulness activity is called thought clouds. Has anyone ever spent time watching the clouds go by? If you haven’t, watching clouds pass by is usually a relaxing thing to do. Often people sit down or lie on the grass and look up at the sky as the clouds slowly drift by. A lot of times clouds have shapes that look like animals or things we know, and it can be fun to play games naming the clouds. You might want to try it out!

This activity is very similar to that, except we are watching our thoughts go by instead of clouds. This activity is meant to give us a different perspective on our thoughts. It allows sky-sunny-clouds-cloudyus to see our thoughts as something that we have the choice to keep and name, or the choice to let them keep drifting by.

We will start by finding a comfortable seat, just as we do with every mindfulness activity. If your teacher says it is okay, you can lie down on the ground so you can be completely relaxed while watching thought clouds go by in your mind. If you are seated, make your spine tall, reaching the top of your head up to the sky. If you are lying down, roll your shoulders onto your back a little more, let your feel fall open to the sides, and turn your hands up to face the sky. Close your eyes if it is comfortable, and begin to notice what is going on inside of your body.

We will gently inhale to fill up the belly, and exhale to pull the belly back in. Repeat this breath on your own, letting your body become relaxed and full of breath. After ten long breaths in and out, slowly begin to move your attention out of your belly and up into your head. We just spend a few moments noticing the breath, now we are going to spend some time noticing our thoughts. Noticing means you see that something is there, but you don’t have to do anything at all with it. You have the choice of what you do after you notice something, but noticing it is the first step before choosing.

Take some time here to let thoughts come into your mind. Is there anything that you’re excited about? Worried about? Happy about? Unsure about? Let a thought float around in your head like a cloud, just letting it be there. Now you can decide what to do with that thought. Is it something that is important to you, or do you want to let it go?

Now try this with another thought. Let it float into your head, and decide what you would like to do with it. You have the power to choose what happens to your thoughts. They are just like clouds that you can let float by or you can give a name to. Sometimes a thought might come up that we don’t like, and we can also choose to change that while it is floating in our mind. For example, you might have a thought that makes you worried. You can change the way you see this thought so that you can feel good about it, or you can also just let it go.

A cloud might look like a scary animal to us at first, but if we tilt our head a little it can easily turn into something harmless like a bunny! Even if we can’t see the bunny, the cloud will pass eventually.

How did that feel?

Teacher’s Note: You might want to spend some time allowing students to reflect after this activity. Thought clouds are a great way to re-evaluate bothersome thought patterns. If a student is really fixated on a negative thought, it could be a good practice to help that student let that thought go, or change his or her perspective on it.

Student’s Note: This activity can be helpful when you are feeling angry, worried or sad. Anytime you have a thought that isn’t making you feel good, you can practice the thought cloud activity to decide what to do with it. You might be able to see the thought from a different perspective, or you might decide to just let the thought float away.

Tree Pose

Today we are going to learn a balancing posture called tree pose. It is called tree pose because you will be standing on one tall leg like a tree trunk, and you can make beautiful branches grow out from your trunk with your arms. To balance in this pose, it is important to breathe and keep your attention on the present moment.

We will start by finding our mountain pose- do you remember this from another activity? To find mountain pose we will bring our big toes to touch with our feet pointingOak_tree_with_moon_and_wildflowers-1 forward. See if you can notice all ten toes lifting up and spreading out wide before setting them back down again. Make your spine long and tall by reaching the top of your head up to the ceiling and rolling your shoulders down your back. Turn the palms of your hands to face forward and spread your fingers really wide just like you did with your toes. You are now in mountain pose. Take three deep breaths here: filling up your belly on the in-breath, and emptying your belly on the out-breath.

From your mountain pose, begin to pay extra attention to your right leg and foot. See if you can press a little more into your right foot to make your right leg really strong like a tree trunk. Once your right foot and leg feel strong, begin lifting your left foot just a tiny bit off of the ground. Notice your balance here. If you are wobbly, try reaching your arms out to the sides. When you do this, also press your right foot into the ground even more to make your right leg even stronger.

Once you have found your balance, lift your left leg up a little higher and bring the left foot to the inside of the calf or thigh of your standing leg. Your left knee will be turned out to the side. Your balance and flexibility can help you choose how high your foot goes- just make sure that it is not directly on your knee. Both versions are tree pose, and neither is better than the other. When you have found your balance, bring your hands to your hips. If you still feel balanced here, slowly bring your hands up into the air. You can imagine that your arms are growing up and out like branches from your tree trunk. You can also decide what you have on your branches. Maybe there are flowers or leaves, or even some birds or ladybugs.

Once you have found the version of tree pose that feels best in your body, let your eyes find something in front of you to focus on. The thing you choose to focus on should not move (so not a person). Let your eyes gently focus on this object, and begin to find your breath. Let your inhale make you taller and your exhale root your right foot into the ground, making your right leg even stronger.

Continue with this pattern of breathing for 10 more rounds.

At the end of your 10th exhale, you can slowly take your left foot off of your right leg, turn your left knee forward, and bring the foot down to the ground. Shake out your legs if they are tired and then come back to meet everyone in mountain pose.

Repeat instructions for opposite foot and leg (substitute left leg for right leg and right foot for left foot).

Teacher’s note: tree pose is a great way to generate focus and balance. The challenging nature of the pose forces kids to be present and pay attention to what is going on in that moment. This is a good pose to use when trying to reign in concentration

Students: tree pose is good practice to help you pay more attention to the present moment. If you notice your mind traveling in many directions, or want to concentrate on something for school, you can try tree pose to help create that concentration.

Body Awareness Activity

Today we are going to practice body awareness. This means that we will be moving our attention from noticing things around us to noticing things going on inside of us. Body awareness can include paying attention to emotions and parts of the body. You might notice that some places feel different than normal. If you do, you can bring your attention to that place and imagine that all of your breath is flowing into it.8494914338_eb64e84cfd_o

We will start the practice by finding a comfortable seat. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or sit up straight in a chair depending on what is allowed in your classroom. Lift the top of your head straight up to the ceiling to make your spine long and tall. Your hands can rest either face down or face up on your legs.

If it is comfortable, gently close your eyes. We will begin to take our focus inside of the body, leaving the outside world out of our thoughts until we return to the room later. Begin to make your inhales and exhales longer. Fill up your belly on your in breath, and bring the belly in toward your spine on your out breath.

Start by bringing your attention all the way down into your toes. See if you can feel into each toe without moving them. If you’d like, you can imagine your breath traveling down your legs, into your feet, and into each toe. Eventually, the breath and focus will move into the feet too. As you breathe into your feet, pay attention to how they are feeling. Our feet carry us around almost everywhere we go, and we often don’t realize how tired they get! You can imagine that your breath in helping the feet wake up.

We will concentrate on our legs next. How do the lower parts of your legs feel? Let your in breath bring air all the way down into your lower legs. Then let your breath move up past your knees, to the upper part of your legs. Continue letting your breath travel up your body, moving to your belly. Pay attention to how your belly is feeling. Did you eat a lot of food before this practice? If so, you might want to take smaller breaths so you don’t get a tummy ache. Keep filling up the belly as you breathe in, and bringing your belly button back in as you breathe out.

From the belly, we move up to the chest. This is also the place where your heart is. Take a moment to check in with your heart. How is it feeling today? You can think about the heart as the place for your emotions too. See if you can bring all of your breath into the space around your heart, taking a few in breaths and out breaths here. From your heart, you can let your breath travel down your arms and into your fingertips, letting go of anything that isn’t making you happy.

Slowly bring the breath and focus back up through your arms and into your shoulders. The shoulders are at the top of the arms and also behind the heart at the top of your back. How are your shoulders feeling? See if you can make them feel more relaxed and open with your breath.

When you are ready, let the breath move up the neck and into the head. Notice if any thoughts come up when you get to your head. If they do, just breathe into them and let them float away. Take a few more deep in breaths and out breaths here.

Slowly let your breath return to your belly. Feeling your belly get really big like a balloon as you breathe in, and then feel it pull back toward you as you let all of the air out.

Turn your palms face down if they aren’t already, and take a few more breaths to slowly open your eyes and come back into the room.

Teachers: Can have students reflect on how the activity made them feel both emotionally and physically. Have they ever spent time focusing on their body and breath like this? This is a great way to bring down energy levels, as it is a completely internal practice.

Students: this body awareness activity is a great way to check in with your self to see how you’re doing. You can practice this every day, or maybe just when you’d like to feel a little more connected to your body.

Flower Meditation

Today we are going to practice an outdoor concentration meditation. The object we will focus on is a flower. With your teacher’s permission, find a plant with flowers to sit down in front of. Make sure that you are sitting comfortably. You might consider folding up a sweater to sit on, or finding something to sit on off of the ground if the groudaisy-757192_640nd is not comfortable. Cross-legged seating is usually a good way to sit, but adjust as necessary.

We will begin by sitting up tall, with the crown of our heads reaching up toward the sky. Imagine that you are growing so tall that you can touch the clouds. Place your hands face down on your knees and close your eyes for a moment. Let your next in breath fill up your belly, and roll your shoulders up to your ears. Let your next out breath empty your belly and drop your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat this three more times. If you’d like, you can open your mouth on the out breath.

Now that we are comfortable and tuned into our breath, we can begin our concentration activity. Gently open your eyes and find a flower to look at that is easy to see, and that you don’t have to turn your head to see. Once you’ve found your flower, close your eyes halfway and see how long you can focus on the flower without blinking or closing your eyes all the way. Try to take in every part of the flower, including its color and shape.

When you need to blink, close your eyes and imagine the flower that you were just concentrating on. Can you remember the color and the shape of the flower? See if you can keep it at the front of your mind as if it were a picture. Focus on the picture you just created until it fades away. Once this happens, you can slowly open your eyes. See how well you remembered the flower that is in front of you.

Teachers and Students: You can practice this concentration activity with other objects too. If you practice with the same object (like a flower), see if you can keep your eyes open a little longer each time. Then when you close your eyes, see if you can make the picture in your mind clearer than the last time you practiced this activity. Notice if the practice becomes easier or harder to do.

Teachers: can have students reflect on this process. Can also have students do drawing activities based on the meditation.