Mindful Steps Activity

Mindful Steps Activity

164647732_8c9b3183d7_oToday’s activity is a practice in taking mindful steps. This is a practice that can be done any time you are walking somewhere. It is an activity that lets us pay extra attention to the journey we make from one place to another.

We will begin by standing up tall and finding our mountain pose. If you are comfortable closing your eyes, you can close them for the next few moments. Grow your roots into the ground and become strong and tall like a mountain, reaching your head up to the sky like the tippy top of a mountain’s peak. Turn your palms to face forward and inhale as you roll your shoulders up by your ears, then exhale to let them role down your back. Do this three more times on your own, moving with your breath.

Now that we are strong and grounded, we can be even more mindful in the way that we walk. Being present means that we are paying extra attention to what we are doing so we can get the most out of every moment. Mindful walking is walking while paying extra attention to the way we are moving, the place we are walking in, and how we feel while walking. It takes our minds off of where we are going to end up, and lets us have fun getting there. Have you ever driven somewhere with your parents and kept wondering when you’d get there? Mindful walking is like you are driving, but you are noticing everything around you so much that you don’t even think about how much time you have left to drive.

We can practice this activity by walking through the garden. Begin walking on the garden path. Notice how fast you are walking and see if you can slow down your pace. Pretend like you are walking in slow motion, and then imagine that this is the way that you walk all the time.

Begin to notice your feet lifting off of the ground and landing back down with each step you take. Notice the way that your arms move when you walk. How is your posture? Are you standing up straight or hunched over? If you are hunched, reach up through the crown of your head to make your spine long and tall again.

Now move your attention to the way you are breathing as you walk. See if you can begin to make your breath deeper. Maybe you time your inhale as you lift a foot to step, and exhale as you place it down. Continue to try this breath and movement combination and choose to stick with it if you enjoy it, or let it go if you do not.

Continue slowly walking down the path until you arrive where you started. Find your mountain pose here once more. Standing up tall with your feet planting down into the ground and your head reaching high to the sky. Turn your palms to face forward and roll your shoulders down your back. Find your breath filling up the belly as you breathe in and emptying the belly as you breathe out.

Slowly open your eyes when you are ready. How did that feel?

Teacher Tips: This is a great activity for a pleasant day when you have time to get the kids out into the garden. It is a wonderful way to tame high levels of physical energy, since the activity involves both physical movement and mental concentration. Engage the students in reflection at the end of the activity.

Student Tips: This is a great activity to practice absolutely anytime you are walking somewhere. You can make any trip relaxing, whether it is walking to the park to meet up with friends or walking to your classroom. See if you can use mindful steps to make going somewhere you might not like a mindfulness activity.

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.

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.

Walking Nature Meditation

Today we’re going to practice a mindfulness activity that allows us to walk around and take in our surroundings with more awareness than usual. This is an activity to practice outside, preferably in a garden or park. Walking meditations are a wonderful way to notice your surroundings with m
ore intensity- like we’re tuning our perception up to high definition. This practice can allow us to see the world around us from a different point of view.

5950321085_f2a85ab7da_o-1Our walking mediation today will be like a scavenger hunt. We will spend a few
minutes walking around, noticing the things we are asked to focus on. At the end of each search, we will write down or draw the things we saw or heard before bringing our attention to another scavenger item.

First, we will bring our attention to the colors in the park or garden. Close your eyes and imagine all of the colors you might see here. After you do this, slowly open your eyes and begin to walk around, noticing as many colors around you as you can. They don’t have to be the types of colors that you imagined with your eyes closed, or even the type of things that you imagined would be those colors. You might be surprised to notice all of the different colors that are around you.

Pause after 2 minutes and engage students in a reflection activity. As mentioned before, this can involve drawing, writing, or anything else you think would ground the activity.

Next, we will bring our attention to the animals and insects in the park or garden. Close your eyes and imagine all of the different kinds of animals and insects you might find. After you do this, slowly open your eyes and begin to walk around, noticing as many animals and insects as you can. They don’t have to be the kinds that you imagined with your eyes closed, just notice what you can see now. You might be surprised to notice all of the different animals and insects there are around you.

Pause after 2 minutes and engage students in a reflection activity. As mentioned before, this can involve drawing, writing, or anything else you think would ground the activity.

Lastly, we will bring to our attention to all of the sounds in the park or garden. Close your eyes and imagine all of the sounds that you might hear. After you do this, slowly open your eyes and begin to walk around, noticing all of the sounds that you can hear. They don’t have to be the type of sounds that you imagined with your eyes closed, or even the type of things that you imagined would make those sounds. You might be surprised to notice all of the different sounds that there are around you.

Pause after 2 minutes and engage students in a reflection activity. As mentioned before, this can involve drawing, writing, or anything else you think would ground the activity.

Teachers: Once the sound activity is complete, you can check in with the students to see how they felt about this mindfulness activity. See if they noticed that they saw or heard more or less than they expected, or if they noticed some things that they’d never realized before.

Students: Did you like practicing this mindfulness activity? Walking meditations are a great way to explore and learn a lot about your environment. Perhaps you can practice this on your own with a different theme. If there isn’t a park or garden near you, maybe a parent or sibling will help you practice this while walking around the neighborhood.

Field trip idea: Academy of Sciences- Walking butterfly meditation with learning activity at the end!

Tree Meditation

Today we’re going to imagine that we are trees in a forest. The classroom can be the forest, and all of the students can be the trees. Imagine the type of tree that you want to be, and then begin to find your roots in the floor while standing up tall. Imagine that you are becoming really stable, starting from your feet, just like the roots of a tree connecting you down to the earth.

2821743539_0048f36901_o-1As you close your eyes, imagine that you are growing taller and stronger, up into the sky. Move your attention from your feet, up through your legs and into your arms. Notice how your body is feeling along the way. Once your get up to your arms, imagine your they are like branches spreading wide as you grow taller, connecting you to the other trees in the forest. This part of the trees is called the canopy. It is the part where all the branches connect and animals can make homes in. Beautiful things can grow in the canopy when the trees in the forest are all connected. Imagine the animals that might live in your forest canopy. Maybe you have some butterflies on your branches, or baby birds. Maybe you even have little caterpillars on your leaves. What do you want to live in your canopy?

Begin to leave the canopy by traveling up your trunk, moving your attention up out of your arms and to the top of your head. Travel all the way up to the very top of your tree, beyond any branches. Take a moment here to see whatever you would like to see. What does your forest look like? Is it tropical, or in the mountains? Is it sunny outside? Are you somewhere familiar? You can imagine anything that you want to see.

Teachers and students: You can use this tree meditation to become grounded and change your perspective whenever you would like to alter the way that you are feeling.

Warm Heart Meditation

Find a nice, comfortable seat on the floor or in your chair. Begin by placing your hands face down on your legs and making your spine really tall. Reach up for the ceiling with the crown of your head. When you inhale, lift your shoulders up high by your ears, and when you exhale, let them roll down your back. Do this two more times- taking a really big breath in, and opening the mouth to let the breatheart-642068_640h out.

Now bring one hand onto your heart, and place your other hand on top of it. If you are comfortable closing your eyes, close your eyes. This allows us to turn our attention inside the body, instead of worrying about things going on outside.

Begin to breathe in and out of your nose now. See if you can breathe into your hands, expanding your heart. Imagine that each breath in is filling up your heart with a beautiful, warm light, and each breath out is sending that light to those around you. With each cycle of breath, imagine the light of your heart getting bigger and bigger. Eventually, you can imagine that your whole body is glowing with the light that is coming from your heart. You might even start to feel warm and cozy because of this light. Notice if any other feelings have come up.

Notice how big your light has become, and see if your breath can make it so big that it takes up the whole room. Now you can share with everyone around you.

If you can, think of someone who you’d like to share some warm heart light with. Maybe it is a friend or a parent; maybe it is someone that you would like to be friends with, or someone whose day you’d like to make better.

Imagine your warm light spreading to that person and making their heart warm and light too. This practice is called compassion. When we want to help someone but aren’t sure how, we can practice this warm heart meditation and send some light their way to make their heart warm too. Sometimes we need to give back to our own hearts, so this is also a good practice for your own heart.

Students: If you, or a friend, are having a bad day, you can practice this meditation to feel warm and cozy.

Teachers: This can be a wonderful practice if students are having a hard time with compassion, such as: sharing, connecting with others, and connecting with their emotions.