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.

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Teasing

Brother Chan Huy sits on the little stand Steven built for him for our weekend retreat.  There are more than sixty adults in the meditation hall and six children, ages 2 years old to 14 years old.

“Please come here,” Chan Huy motions to the children with a smile.  “Please come sit with me.”  They gather around him on the stand, wiggling and giggling.

“How are you today?” he asks.

“It snowed!”  Julia Kate, who is 6 years old, informs him enthusiastically.

“Do you call that snow?” Chan Huy grins.  “It was so little!”

“But it was snow!” she insists.  “I made a snow ball and threw it at Alex!”

“She did!” Alex, the 9 year old, says.  “And it hit me!”

“Well, what did you do?”

“I threw one back!” Alex says, grinning at Julia Kate.

“Well,” Chan Huy smiles at the children.  “Do you have any questions for me today?”

“I do,” Eliana, a 7 year old, says softly.

“What is your question, Eliana?”

“I want to know,” she hesitates, then continues,  “What do you do when people tease you about your culture?”  Chan Huy looks at the child.  There is a long moment of silence.

“I’m trying to think of the last time I was teased,” he says, finally. The children sit quietly, looking into his eyes, patiently waiting for him to remember.

After a while Chan Huy says, “I do not remember the last time I was teased. How do the children tease you?” he asks Eliana. She pulls the skin of her Chinese-American eyes back. “Like that,” she whispers.  The grown-ups in the audience feel our stomachs tighten.

“What do you do when the children tease you like that?” Chan Huy asks her.

“I try to ignore them,” she says, “But it’s not easy.”

“Hmmm.”  Chan Huy pauses.  Then he asks, “Now that you’ve been at our retreat, what do you think you might do when the children tease you about your culture?”

Eliana thinks for a moment.  We grown-ups are thinking, too. What would I do to help this beautiful child?  What would I tell her to do? The room is filled with the silence of hearts searching.

Then Eliana says softly, “I think I would sing ‘Breathing In, Breathing Out.'”  The grown-ups take a deep breath. Some of us blink back our tears.

“Would you like to sing it now?” Chan Huy asks gently. Eliana nods her head.  He takes the lapel mike from his jacket and holds it to her lips.  She begins to sing.  The grown-ups sing quietly, under the child’s voice, in accompaniment.

Breathing In

Breathing Out

I am blooming like a flower

I am fresh as the dew

I am solid as a mountain

I am firm as the earth

I am free.


Breathing In

Breathing out

I am water reflecting

What is real, what is true

And I feel there is space

Deep inside of me

I am free, I am free I am free.

Submitted by Terry Cortes-Vega

Listening to and Inviting the Bell

Listen, listen: This wonderful sound brings be back to my true homeOn our first session with the children in any retreat, we introduce to them the practice of listening to the bell and teach them to invite the bell. Sitting in a circle you can hold up the mini bell and ask if they know what it is. Ask if any of them have one at home. And what is the sound of the bell for? What do we do when we hear the bell? You can share that the sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha, the voice of someone who loves them very much and only wants them to be happy and peaceful. So when we hear the bell, we stop what we are doing and just breathe. We have a chance to rest, to take a break, to enjoy ourselves. We are aware of our in and out breath.

There may be other sounds that make them feel peaceful and happy, can they think of some? Maybe a bird singing, or the sound of laughter, or a baby cooing, or a bubbling brook, or the gentle sound of rain on the roof. These too are also the voice of the Buddha, the sound of awakening, and many sounds can help us come back to the place of calm and peace within us.

(You can read through the activities proposed and choose the ones you feel are appropriate for the group of children you will share with. You don’t need to do all the activities. Especially for younger children, you can shorten the following section.)

Awareness of Breathing

To help the children identify their breathing, ask the children to put their pointer finger horizontally under their nose to feel their breathing. What does their out-breath feel like? (Warm, moist?) Can you feel it? What does the in-breath feel like? You can share that we breathe all the time, but we are usually not aware of it and we take it for granted. But breathing is so important! What would happen to us if we couldn’t breathe?

You can also ask them to put their hands on their belly and notice what happens to their belly when they breathe in and what happens when they breathe out? (Tummy rises when I breathe in and falls when I breathe out). Feel this rhythm for a few moments in silence. Ask them how they feel when they just pay attention to their breathing. Often children share that they feel more peaceful and calm. (Sometimes it also helps to invite the children to lie down with their hands on their belly so they can feel its rise and fall more distinctly. You could also do this in partners and one child sits and gently rests her hands on her partners belly, who is lying down, and they can identify the in- and out- breath together, perhaps counting to a certain number, and then switch.)

You can share how learning to notice your breathing has helped you in difficult moments and how breathing with awareness like this can help them to calm down when they get upset or nervous and also can help them focus better at school, like when they take a test. Any time we are aware of our breathing, whatever we experience in the moment improves-if we are happy, we become happier and if we are suffering, breathing helps us suffer less, to calm down and see things more clearly.

Invite them to notice how many seconds their in-breath lasts and how many seconds their out-breath lasts. Our out breath may be a few seconds longer than our in breath. Ask different children to share how long their in and out-breaths are. They can let the in-breath be normal, but when they breathe out, they can breathe out all the air from their lungs, pulling in their abdomen and let the out-breath be a little bit longer. Then continuing in this style, of slightly lengthening the out-breath, invite them to take one in breath and one out breath and count it as ‘one’, then another in and out breath and count ‘two’ and go all the way up to 10. Ask them if it was easy or hard to pay attention to each breath for ten breaths, or if some lost count. And how it felt to breathe longer on the out-breath.

Breathing with the bell

Now invite the children to count how many breaths they take during one sound of the bell. Tell them you will invite the bell and that when they can no longer hear its resonance, they should raise their hand. Then they can share how many in and out breaths they took during the sound of the bell.

You can share them the poem for listening to the bell:

Breathing in: listen, listen

Breathing out: this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.

We have a beautiful, safe place inside of us, where we can always go to, that is full of peace. The bridge that takes us to this island within us is our breathing. That’s why the bell is so important, because it helps us go back to this true home, this island of peace and clarity inside of us.

You can play a game where the children walk or run or dance around the room and when they hear the bell, they stop and breathe at least three times. Then continue moving.

Learning to invite the bell

(If there are children in the group who already know how to invite the bell, encourage them to teach the others). Ask the children to sit beautfully  like a Buddha. We can only invite the bell when we are calm and peaceful, because the sound of the bell refelcts our mind. We can only help others be peaceful when we are also peaceful. So we recite this poem before we invite the bell:

Breathing in:             Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness

Breathing out:           I send my heart along with the sound of the bell

Breathing in:             May those who hear it awaken from forgetfulness

Breathing out:           And overcome all anxiety and sorrow

A more child-like version of the above poem is:

I am really here, with my mind and body united. I am calm and happy and I want this sound of the bell to help others feel calm and happy.

A fun exercise for later is to ask the children to write their own poems for listening to and inviting the bell and then to really practice using them whenever they hear or invite the bell.

Tell the children that we say “inviting the bell to sound” not “striking or hitting the bell” because it is a sound that can help many people and we always treat the bell with respect. Then we join our palms and bow to express our respect to the bell and also to show the unity of our mind and body. We pick up the bell and place it in the palm of one hand that remains flat, outstretched. With the other hand we pick up the inviter and wake up the bell. We wake up the bell to let others know a full sound is coming, so that they can come to a stop and enjoy it without being surprised. We breathe in and out once after the wake up sound and before making a full sound of the bell. The full sound should be strong and clear. If we mistakenly invite the bell too softly, we can invite a stronger sound straight away. Then we enjoy three in- and out-breaths. We place the bell down and bow. Invite all the children to try inviting the bell once.

The children really enjoy this and they are always incredibly quiet as they breathe three times in respect for each child’s sound of the bell. They often forget to wake up the bell, so you need to remind them. Sometime they are nervous and don’t invite it properly, just gently encourage them to try again. You can also ask them to share how they feel when they invite the bell.

Once they know how to invite the bell, you can ask the children to invite the bell whenever you begin and end sessions together. Remind them that they need to be calm and breathe in and out three times before they invite the bell. It helps to ask them to bring their hands from their lap up to their chest to indicate that they are breathing in and back down from chest to lap when they breathe out.

You can also encourage them to have a bell at home so that whenever the atmosphere in the family is tense, angry or carried away by forgetfulness, they can invite the bell and remind their parents and siblings to breathe. Many children do use the bell in this way at home.

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