Tips & Variations
In my classes, I sometimes use bells, drums, shakers, etc. to create sounds during a mindful hearing meditation. I didn’t include additional sounds in this recording because the element of surprise would be lost after only one use. But the fun of guessing the source of a wide range of sounds can also help children concentrate. You can ask them to count how many different sounds they hear, to try to guess the source of the sounds, or to pay attention to how their breathing changes (if it does) in response to different sounds. And it’s always fun for kids to take a turn making sounds for you!
Before sitting down to listen to this meditation, you will need to find a small stone for children to use as their “focus rock.” You might make a fun outing of going on a walk to find a special rock.
Just like adults, children benefit from having a designated place to meditate, but this can be more difficult to create for a child. An object can work just as well (sometimes even better), and I love using focus rocks for this purpose. Having something that feels special, that is brought out only for meditation practice, and that reminds children of a state of mindfulness they can return to is extremely helpful. Encourage children to take care of their focus rocks and to keep them in special boxes or bags that they can decorate if they wish. Like a mantra, a focus rock often becomes a “home base” for children—one that’s portable!
See, Feel, Move, Breathe
If you’re doing this meditation as a group, you can try a fun variation: sit in a circle, and for bell #3, instead of placing the focus rocks back down in the same location, have everyone put their rock down in front of the person to their left. This way, each person has a new rock to look at for the next cycle. You can also try using other objects besides rocks—shells, flowers, and leaves are all nice-sized objects that are easy to find and work well for this activity. And when they’re ready to try this meditation without the recording, children can take turns leading the activity by ringing a bell or a chime.
Soothing Uncomfortable Feelings
This meditation focuses on the connection between emotions and sensations in the body and aims to relax areas of tension as a way of providing comfort for oneself. However, paying closer attention to difficult emotions or painful sensations in the body might intensify these feelings. When this is the case, many people find it helpful to instead pay attention to elements outside the body using a mindful seeing or hearing meditation. (Occasionally, a difficult life situation might even require a break from meditation practice altogether.) As always, it’s important to notice when practices are feeling counterproductive, without judging one’s reaction. The same meditation might help one person and not another, and similarly, it might have one effect at one time and another at a different time in the same person. We need to be especially nonjudgmental, open, and flexible with children (and ourselves) when experiencing uncomfortable feelings.
Note: The “clothing visualization” is my adaptation of an ideokinetic technique developed by Lulu E. Sweigard, “The Empty Suit.” (Lulu E. Sweigard, Human Movement Potential, Allegro Editions, 1974, P. 232.)
This meditation is designed to help children settle their bodies and minds at the end of the day. Parents can sit on the side of the bed as they listen with their child, or the whole family can gather in a room and spread out on the floor to meditate together. Nighttime Meditation with Friendly Wishes, is a slightly longer version and is designed for children who are having an especially hard time falling asleep. However, children may have a preference for one version or the other, regardless of how they’re feeling, so it’s a good idea to listen to both and let them decide which one they prefer.