Fall, with its short days, invites us in a very natural way to more calm, tranquility and meditation. We can accept this invitation.
Instead of planning trips or turning on the TV, we can allow ourselves to light a candle on a dark evening and to do nothing , just nothing.
Resting and slowing down are very important components of natural growth processes. We can sit down and breathe deeply. To our children we can say: “I am resting, just like the plants in winter.” Or “I am listening to silence.”
Basically we can say that we have two different ways of perceiving the world that depend on whether we are relaxed or stressed. In a laid-back mood, it is much easier to be friendly, patient and considerate. However, when we are stressed and in a hurry, it is much harder to demonstrate patience, and it often happens that we are rude – especially with children. We easily lose patience and have little understanding for the nature of a child.
These two opposite ways of looking at the world can even be distinguished on the biological level. For example, when we are in a hurry, stress hormones are released into our bodies and change our way of thinking and acting. Relaxation is almost a prerequisite to understand the child’s world. A stressed adult has little patience with himself and even less with children.
To honor silence, we can concentrate on our breathing, or on the breath of our child and vice versa. The slower and deeper the breath, the more relaxed we are. Then we can think or say: “I breathe in joy. I breathe out sadness. I breathe in kindness. I breathe out stress. ”
Then we can focus on our body and consciously feel and release tension. These types of meditation are very effective for adults, but not for all children.
Children have a natural gift for meditation, if we understand meditation as “allowing ourselves to dwell in the present”. They can focus deeply on a drawing or a game, and all the forces in the body and mind are focused on their activity. Thus, their activity naturally becomes a meditation.
Dr. Maria Montessori recognized this natural affinity to meditation in children. She respected and nurtured this phenomenon and named it “normalization”. An anecdote says that once Dr. Montessori placed a child together with his chair on a table while the child kept working quietly on a learning material. That child was in a deep state of focus called flow.
At home we can create space and time for this type of focused activity. Many crafting works are suitable to bring about calmness and concentration. It is not just about finding wonderful crafting projects for the season, but also about how we present these and lead the child to focused work.
We can ask ourselves: “Is the child ready for concentrated work? Or do we need time for movement first?” If willingness can be felt, we turn off the TV, computer and telephone. On the table we should only place relevant materials – no distractions.
Then we can start, and describe our activity with a few clear words. Step by step we can help the child to do it by him/herself, and once the work is in progress we can work on our own project or watch the child work.
To summarize, whether resting, doing quiet meditation, or tinkering – the most important aspects are the relaxation and well-being that are being evoked. Then, everything can become an important part of a natural learning process.
Wishing all my readers a peaceful and happy holiday season!
P.S.: New Learning Culture will be again at the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Family Day (Woodacre Ca. 94973) on Sunday January 30! Come by and explore our wonderful learning toys! RSVP here: www.spiritrock.org