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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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.

 

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