Pebble Meditation

The first of 6 Guided Meditation Cards (a variation of Pebble Meditation)

The first of 6 Guided Meditation Cards (a variation of Pebble Meditation)

Resources for Pebble Meditation

Click on the items below for the booklet of Thich Nhat Hanh teaching the complete practice of pebble meditation, the pebble meditation practice sheet, and colorful Pebble Meditation Cards that guide children through pebble meditation step by step ( you can cut them out and laminate them and then punch a hold in them and string them together).

pebble meditation booklet

pebble-meditation-cards-all-in-one2

pebble-meditation-practice-sheet

A summary of Pebble Meditation

We invite each child to sit up straight and relaxed and place four pebbles on the ground next to him or her. We invite three sounds of the bell. Then we invite each child to pick up the first pebble and say:

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Flower, fresh (3 breaths)

The keywords we continue to practice silently are “flower, fresh” and we breathe together quietly for three in and out breaths, really being a flower and becoming fresh. The next three pebbles are:

Breathing in I see myself as a mountain, breathing out, I feel solid. Mountain, solid. (3 breaths)

Breathing in I see myself as still, clear water, breathing out, I reflect things as they really are. Clear water, reflecting. (3 breaths)

Breathing in I see myself as space, breathing out, I feel free. Space, free. (3 breaths)

End with three sounds of the bell. (Children are very capable of guiding this meditation for other children. They really enjoy inviting the bell for each other).

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh.

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh.

You can also invite the children to find more pebbles that can represent their mom and dad, friends, etc. and when they hold that pebble they breathe in and out and feel love and connection to that person. You can also lead a pebble meditation based on the six paramitas[1], the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) or on the Four Immeasurables (loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity). The pebbles can be used to reflect on many different practices, it is up to you. So, for instance, with the Four Immeasurables, the children would take a first stone and write loving kindness on it. They would breathe mindfully and  take a few minutes to reflect on what loving kindness is and how they can practice it in their daily life. They would then put it to one side, take a second pebble and reflect on the qualities of compassion, and so on.


[1] The six paramitas, or six perfected realizations, elements that help us cross from the shore of suffering and ignorance to the shore of liberation are: generosity, diligence, mindfulness trainings, inclusiveness, meditation and understanding.

Pebble Bag Treasure Hunt

You can make or buy pebble meditation bags for this activity. They can be small, perhaps 3 by 3 inches. You can buy special pebbles or collect them in nature. Put four in each bag. (You can also have the children make their own pebble bags and collect their own pebbles. You need to have circles of soft, thin cloth already cut, the size of an adult plate. Have yarn and enough embroidery needles ready– the eye of these needles should be big enough for your yarn. The children can draw on or paint their cloth bags. Let them dry and then show the children to sew big stitches an inch away from the edge of the cloth and pull the yarn closed to make a pouch. They can choose pebbles carefully, looking for one that reminds them of a flower, another that looks like a mountain, then one for clear water, and another for space.)

Take the pebble meditation bags to a nice spot in the open air (where there are trees or bushes) and hide the bags all around.  You can hang them on tree branches or on bushes, hide them beneath fallen leaves…etc.  Then when everything is set, take the children to this spot and let them hunt for their pebble bag.  One bag is allowed for each child, or they could help each other find them for one another.

Before the Hunt

To help the children see the beauty of the practice of pebble meditation we can emphasize its value by seeing the pebbles in the bag as being jewels and a treasure to discover, hence the idea of the treasure hunt.  We can orientate them before the hunt and tell them that they are about to seek an object so vital for their happiness.  The children are most likely to see how special their pebble bag is when they have made the effort to seek it out.

After the Hunt

The children return indoors, or to a space more enclosed than the open air, this can help the concentration of the children. Small tags can be handed out so that each child can write his or her name on and attach onto their pebble bag.  The bags will be collected at the end of the session and placed onto the altar of the children’s room, or a special corner that has a sacred meaning.  This helps the children and everyone see that the pebble bags and the practice of pebble meditation is special and sacred.

Sharing the Practice of Pebble Meditation

The children can sit in a circle with the pebbles taken from the bag and placed to either their left or right side.  Click here for the pebble meditation booklet transcribed from Thay’s teachings on Pebble meditation to help you guide them in the practice.

If we have our own experience on the practice of pebble meditation, or even our own experience of guided meditation that we can interpret into children’s language, it will enrich the sharing with the children.

After the sharing and practice we gather all the pebble bags (already with the children’s name attached to their personal bag) and place them on the altar.  They can be left on the altar until the practice can be done again, each time the bags taken down from the altar and given out to the children.  It is nice if the practice can be done for five or ten minutes at the end of each day, or at least during the course of the evening activity time, (perhaps contemplation of one pebble at a time, and the completion of all four pebbles by the end of the week).

At the end of their stay, or the end of the retreat, the children get to take their pebble bag home with them, along with the small booklet, to help them continue to practice at home.

 

Touching the Earth by Thich Nhat Hanh

In Plum Village we do a practice called “Touching the Earth” every day. It helps us in many ways. You too could be helped by doing this practice. When you feel restless or lack confidence in yourself, or when you feel angry or unhappy, you can kneel down and touch the Earth deeply with your hand. Touch the Earth as if it were your favorite thing or your best friend.

The Earth has been there for a long time. She is mother to all of us. She knows everything. The Buddha asked the Earth to be his witness by touching her with his hand when he had some doubt and fear before his awakening. The Earth appeared to him as a beautiful mother. In her arms she carried flowers and fruit, birds and butterflies, and many different animals, and offered them to the Buddha. The Buddha’s doubts and fears instantly disappeared.

Whenever you feel unhappy, come to the Earth and ask for her help. Touch her deeply, the way the Buddha did. Suddenly, you too, will see the Earth with all her flowers and fruit, trees and birds, animals, and all the living beings that she has produced. All these things she offers to you.

You have more opportunities to be happy than you ever thought. The Earth shows her love to you and her patience. The Earth is very patient. She sees you suffer, she helps you, she protects you. When we die, she takes us back into her arms.

With the Earth you are very safe. She is always there, in all her wonderful expressions like trees, flowers, butterflies, and sunshine. Whenever you are tired or unhappy, Touching the Earth is a very good practice to heal you and restore your joy.

 ~ from “A Pebble for Your Pocket”, page 44.

Bell of Mindfulness

From Mindfulness Bell issue #48

Note:  What you might say is in boldface.  The answers to questions in parenthesis are the answers our children gave us.

Materials Needed:

Bowl bell and its cushion

Inviter

Did you know the Buddha calls us?  Today we will listen to see if we can hear the Buddha calling us.

Listen, I think he is calling us now!

Bow to the bell and if it is a small bell, mindfully pick it up.  Bow to the inviter and pick it up.

Smile to the bell and the inviter and breathe in and out.

Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness.  We send our hearts along with the sound of the bell.

Awaken the bell by placing the inviter on the rim of the bell and holding it there.

After breathing in and out, invite the bell to sound and allow it to sing.

Breathe in.  I listen.  I listen. Breathe out. This wonderful sound brings me back to my True Self.

Set the inviter down.  Return the bell down on its cushion.  Bow to them.

Did you hear the Buddha call to us?  When we hear a bell, we are hearing the Buddha calling us!  That is why we stop whatever we are doing and show respect to the Buddha in the bell.  We stop our moving.  We stop our thinking.  We stop our talking and we listen to the beautiful sound of the Buddha.  It is not the Buddha from a long time ago who is calling us; it is the Buddha inside ourselves; it is our Buddha nature.   We smile when we hear the call.  We breathe in and we say to the Buddha inside ourselves-to our Buddha nature, “I listen.  I listen.”  Then we breathe out and say to our Buddha nature,  “That wonderful sound brings me back to my true, kind, loving self.”

Would you like to learn to invite the bell?

Guide a child through the procedure described above (in italics).

Guide other children as they learn to invite the bell, following the same procedure above.  All of the children might say the “I listen” gatha together each time the bell is sounded.

Sometimes the Buddha is a bell.  Sometimes the Buddha is a bird singing.  Sometimes the Buddha is a baby crying or a telephone.

Can you think of other sounds that the Buddha inside you might use to call you back to your Buddha Nature? (my dad calling me, an alarm clock, thunder, wind in the trees, a rooster crowing, the sound of a river, an airplane flying over my house, a horn honking, my cat meowing)

Can you think of ways other than sounds that the Buddha inside you might use to call to you?  Things you might see or smell or touch that will remind you to come back to your Buddha Nature? (sunset, finding a lost toy, butterfly, storm, dinner cooking, my cat crawling up in my lap, iris, my dog wagging his tail, my favorite stuffed animal)

Why do you think the Buddha inside you-your Buddha Nature-wants to get your attention? (to remind me to be happy; to remind me to love the person I’m with; to remind me to be kind)

Wherever you are, it is wonderful to listen for the Buddha.  Or to look for the Buddha.  Or to see if you can smell or feel the Buddha calling you.  When we get back together again, we will share with each other the different ways the Buddha has called us!

Submitted by Terry Cortes-Vega

Peanut butter Balls: Interbeing

Time

This activity can take 1 or 2 days, depending on the ages and interests of the children and how much time you have. Note:  What you might say is in boldface.  The answers to questions in parenthesis are the answers our children gave us.

Materials

Peanut butter

Dried Oatmeal

Honey

Sunflower seeds

…And any or all of these:

  • Cinnamon
  • Raisins
  • Dried cherries
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chocolate chips
  • Coconut flakes
  • Dried date pieces
  • Chopped almonds

Big bowl

Cookie sheets and/or trays

Napkin for each person being served

Refrigerator (optional)

Wash your hands.

Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, has taught us two little poems to say when we wash our hands.

If children can read, one might read the gatha, as the other turns on the water and washes her hands.  If children cannot read, the guide can read the gatha while the children wash their hands.

Turning on the Water

Water flows from high in the mountains.

Water runs deep in the Earth.

Miraculously, water comes to us,

And sustains all life.

Washing your Hands

Water flows over these hands.

May I use them skillfully

to preserve our precious planet.

Prepare the peanut butter balls

Combine all ingredients –the amounts are determined by the number of balls you want to make, how much of the various ingredients you have and how much you like each of the ingredients.  Add the dry oatmeal to thicken, the honey to make it thinner.

Taste to see if they’re delicious.  Add more ingredients if you like.

When the dough is just right, pinch off a piece and roll it between your hands until it forms a ball about the size of a jack’s ball.  Children might like to invent a gatha for doing this!  (Wet hands keep the dough from sticking.)

Place each ball on a cookie sheet.

When all of the dough has been formed into balls, put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to chill until it is time to serve the Grown-Up Sangha. The snacks can sit for a week in the refrigerator if covered.

Discussion

Can you see a cloud in our peanut butter balls?  Can you see a big truck?  Can you see a lot of different people in our peanut butter balls?

If you look deeply, you can see all of these things…. and everything else as well!  Let me help you look.  What is peanut butter made of?

(peanuts)

Where do peanuts come from?

(plants)

What do peanut plants need to grow?

(air, water, soil, light.)

Where does the peanut plant get the water it needs to grow?

(rain)

Where does rain come from?

(clouds)

Aha!  So that means there are clouds in our peanut butter balls, right?  We could not have peanut butter balls if we did not have clouds, could we?

I said that I can also see a big truck in our peanut butter balls.  Do you see it, now, too?

Can you explain how it got there?

(Accept all responses that show interbeing, e.g., “Trucks have to bring the nuts from the farm to the grocery store”.)

What else do you see in our peanut butter balls?

(This should be a very lively discussion!  There is, of course, nothing that is not in the peanut butter balls, so all answers are “right”!  Our children said, “I see Brazil because the cocoa that our chocolate chips are made from comes from there.” “I see the sunshine because sunflowers need sun.” “I see the people who picked the peanuts.”  Continue the discussion until someone realizes that every one and every thing is in every one and every thing; that the all is in the one.)

We saw a cloud and a big truck and people and a lot of other things in our peanut butter balls. Can we see ourselves in our peanut butter balls?

(Invite children to explain. “I’m in the peanut butter balls because I made them.”  “I’m in the peanut butter balls because I’m in the sun and the sun is in them!”)

Can we also see the cloud and big truck and other people in ourselves?  Why? (“Yes, because they are in the peanut butter balls, and I am in the peanut butter balls; we are all in each other!”  “I looked up at a cloud, so it is in me.”  “I saw a truck once!”)

Why is it important to know that every one and every thing is a part of everything else?  Why do we need to be able to see the cloud and big truck and all people and all those other things, including ourselves, in our peanut butter balls and in each other?

(“So that we will remember to take care of all things.”  “So we don’t feel lonely.”  “So we will love all people.”)

NOTE:  You may want to complete this activity the next time you meet with the children.  If so, cover and store the peanut butter balls in the refrigerator until you meet again. (They’ll be less sticky when they’re chilled.)  You might want to review the previous discussion– using different examples– as a way of introducing the second day’s activity.

After the discussion, the children might like to practice serving each other before offering the snacks to the adult sangha. They will need to know how and why to bow [see Bowing activity]. A suggested way of serving follows.

Serve the peanut butter balls.

To serve the snacks, either place the peanut butter balls on pretty trays, or use the cookie sheets.  Here is how we served our Adult Sangha.  You might have other ways:

“Our Grown-Up Sangha is sitting in a big circle.  There are places for us to sit, too.  We enter the circle with our trays of peanut butter balls and napkins.  We each go to a grown-up and kneel, placing our tray on the floor before him.  We smile, put our hands together in the form of a flower and bow to the grown-up.  The grown-up returns our bow then gets a napkin, chooses a snack and puts it on her napkin.  We smile and bow to each other again.  Then we stand and go to another grown-up until all the grown-ups have been served.  We put a snack on a napkin in front of the places where we kids will sit, too.  Then we join the grown-ups sitting in the circle.  The Bell Master invites the bell and we all enjoy our snacks together.”

Submitted by Terry Cortes-Vega

The Two Promises

I vow to develop understanding in order to live peacefully with people, animals, plants, and minerals.

I vow to develop my compassion, in order to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals.

During every family retreat, children learn about the Two Promises, mindfulness trainings for children. We learn a song about them and talk about how they can help us in our lives. The children have the opportunity to receive the Two Promises, in a formal ceremony just before the adults receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings transmission. The children receive a Dharma name and a certificate to remind them of their promises.

Before the children receive the Two Promises, they are asked to write about their aspirations and why they want to receive them. Here are some responses (taken from I have arrived, I am home: Celebrating 20 Years of Plum Village Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh):

I want to take the two promises because it will make me more mindful, and the people around me will be happier. I also think they will make me be less nervous when I am meeting new people.

—Joanna S., Loving Home of the Heart, age 12

I would like to take the promises so I learn how to love others deeply.

—Mary Ann N., Precious Stream of the Heart, age 11

1. I hope the two promises will help me to understand my family’s needs better.

2. I also hope I can teach myself and other people to feel compassion for other people and myself.

3. I would like to take the Two Promises and learn the song better so that I can teach it to kids that are interested in Buddhism, but aren’t Buddhist.

—Siena D., Healing Joy of the Heart, age 11

Because I care about nature, animals, and people. I want to live peacefully and to be happy.

—Laetitia C., Joyful Garden of the Heart, age 11

I would like to be more compassion[ate]. I would like to understand myself and other people better.

—Djuna W., Radiant Smile of the Heart, age 10

Because Understanding and Compassion is me.

—Jenna B., age 9

I want to be mindful.

—Angelique C., age 11

Because they will help me be with people more easily, make my life happier.

—Nguyen An L., Peaceful Joy of the Heart, age 7

To help me remember to be nice to all living things.

—Julia L., Gentle Flower of the Heart, age 6

Because I feel I will have a better life if I do it.

—Erin A., Amazing Grace of the Heart, age 6

I want to have a memory of Thich Nhat Hanh because he is nice. He is fun with children, and I like singing and praying.

—Max M., Peaceful Strength of the Heart, age 7

I really want to understand and help other things. I want to be a veterinarian to help animals. I want to make sure that there are no more poachers in the world, plant a lot more trees and seeds, and help people that are suffering.

—Maeve K., Great Offering of the Heart, age 7

I want to receive the Two Promises because if I have understanding then I can be respectful, nice, and helpful, and giving. If I have compassion, then I can love my relatives more, and I can also listen to people better.

—Ryah B., Generous Listening of the Heart, age 11

I want to climb the path of mindfulness like a monkey. I am flexible; I am deep…swimming like a fish.

—Hayden C., Playful Support of the Heart

I want to receive the Two Promises because it will help me to understand my brother and sister when I water their seeds of anger and seeds of joy and compassion–to live peacefully with them.

—Hylan K., Skillful Gardener of the Heart, age 12

The Mindful School Bell, by Ed Glauser

I am an elementary school counselor in a conservative town in Georgia that is part of the “Bible belt.” This year, I have been bringing my bell of mindfulness into classrooms and inviting the bell to sound as we mindfully breathed in and out. I saw signs throughout the year that the students and teachers were enjoying the sound of the bell, that it was improving the lives of the school children and teachers, and enriching the community.

I knew I was on the right track when a second grade student told me that she had taught her two-year-old brother to breathe mindfully and think of the bell during conflicts at his day care center. She proudly told me that her brother practiced breathing mindfully when another child bit him on the nose, and her brother chose to think of the bell instead of retaliating. On another occasion, a fourth grader told me that he was upset and just wanted to invite the bell to sound in my office, breathe in and out, and go back to class to resume learning. It worked beautifully for him-he invited the bell three times, said, “Thank you, I feel much better,” and went back to class.

In the last weeks before the end of the school year, there were several instances when the bell changed the emotional climate of the school. First, teachers began asking me to download the bell sound from the webpage of the Mindfulness Practice Center in Washington, D.C. (http://mindfulnessdc.org/) in order to sound it throughout the school day so students could pause, breathe in and out, and be refreshed to help their learning.

Next, the bell sound from the computer saved a very heated parent-teacher conference in my office, as each person paused to breathe and to be more mindful of expressing their displeasure in a more respectful way. Last, the school principal, who is also a southern Baptist preacher, asked me to download the bell on his computer. He brought the bell to a faculty meeting so all the teachers could breathe together. He also reminded me to remember the bell and breathe when I was in a stressful situation.

It was beautiful to see how the bell of mindfulness and conscious breathing could transform the atmosphere of a public school into a more mindful and respectful environment for everyone, even in a small southern “Bible belt” town in Georgia. I say, “Amen!”

Ed Glauser, True Virtuous Loyalty, practices with the Breathing Heart Sangha in Atlanta and with the Unitarian Universalist Meditation Group in Athens, Georgia. Married with four children, Ed is a primary school teacher and private counselor and offers Mindfulness and Counseling workshops with his wife for the American Counseling Association.

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