Song Story: Pebble Meditation Song

May 17, 2016

Today’s Song Story is for “Pebble Meditation”, track #9 on our album, “EARTH”.

We all need a break. We all need to pause more. We all need to slow down. We all need help returning to the here and now, to the moment, to reality. We all help being more present for what is arising.

One of the most beautiful tools I’ve found for helping children practice slowing down, remembering to breathe, pausing, and staying present, is the practice of “Pebble Meditation”, created by Vietnamese Buddhist monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community.

This wonderful practice is a reminder to return to the breath, with helpful phrases you say in your mind on the in-breath and out-breath to help keep the attention focused there. It’s also a visualization exercise, during which you imagine yourself as different aspects of nature which evoke certain qualities.

Here are the words to the original practice, excerpted with permission from the fabulous book, “Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children.” (Parallax Press)

Breathing in, I see myself as a flower.
Breathing out, I feel fresh.
Breathing in, I see myself as a mountain.
Breathing out, I feel solid.
Breathing in, I see myself as still water.
Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.
Breathing in, I see myself as space.
Breathing out, I feel free.

To practice with children, give each child four pebbles. Pick up and hold the first pebble, saying the words, “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh.” And then, take three conscious breaths, saying the word “flower” on the in-breath, and the word “fresh” on the out-breath. (You as teacher/guide say the words out loud; they say the words in their minds.)

Put the first pebble down and pick up the second pebble. And repeat the practice with the “mountain, solid” phrase. And then the same with “still water, reflecting”. And then, “space, free”.

Children love the practice, and they love the pebbles to — a little piece of Earth for them to hold on to while they breathe in and out, imagining themselves as flowers, mountains, still pools of water, and space. Beautiful. Be prepared for lots of dropping of pebbles. This is a normal part of it all, and gives us, as adults, the opportunity to practice patience, understanding and equanimity 😉 And of course you can also choose to practice without using pebbles at all.

After trying out Pebble Meditation for the first time with the children in one of my JAMcamps, a song immediately popped into my head to accompany the practice. As with my Lovingkingness song, I felt strongly about having a melody to offer children and families and teachers that could underscore these important phrases and concepts. We simply learn better when music is involved! And if you’re going to get a song stuck in your head, it might as well be a song about presence, or kindness, or beauty, or love.

My “Pebble Meditation Song” takes the listener through the guided meditation with the phrases and images, and then ends with a verse enumerating some of the qualities that can and do arise when we come from a foundation of open-mindedness, strength, clarity, and spaciousness:

Fresh, solid, reflecting and free
Patient, understanding, full of generosity
Peaceful and grateful, kind, awake and true
Full of love for me, and full of love for you
Joyful and mindful, remembering how to be
Fresh, solid, reflecting and free

I am so grateful to Thich Nhat Hanh and his community for this beautiful practice. I hope you enjoy both the practice and the song!

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

  • Make It Your Own: Have children come up with their own phrase combinations. Here are some the children in my camps have created: “Breathing in, I see myself as a tree. Breathing out, I feel Wise.” And, “Breathing in, I see myself as Love. Breathing out, I feel Peace.”
  • Dance: A wonderful add-on for older kids is to have them make up a meditative dance to the song and share it with their peers or families.
  • Make a Pebble Meditation Book: Have the children create a page for each “element” (flower, mountain, still water, space), drawing pictures to communicate the images and qualities for each. They can write in the phrases, too, and then put it all together (with staples or string) as their very own special Pebble Meditation Book.
  • Be the Teacher: Ask kids to teach the practice to someone else!

Here’s how to find the song:

Here’s how to find the books containing the practice:

To listen to or download our entire “EARTH” album, see the player below or go here.

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Little One

May 5, 2016

Today’s song story is for “Little One”, the closing track on our album, “EARTH”.

This one is a lullaby-love-song to my children. It is an attempt to express in words and music and emotion the immense mind-opening and heart-breaking experience of walking through the portal into parenthood.

It’s a song honoring how I feel about my children and the unfathomably huge responsibility+gift handed to me as their mom. And my realization that, in the end, all we really have to hold on to is love.

Ah, parenthood. There’s the awe and “not knowing” I experienced when holding these wee people in my arms. There’s the gratitude for the moment-to-moment lessons they teach us about patience, compassion, selflessness, balance, and the true abundance of love.

And then there’s the horrifying truth I finally confronted at some point along the road that no matter how hard I tried, no matter what Grand and Fierce superpowers and forces I called upon, no matter how deep and authentic my intentions…I could not ultimately protect these little people from harm. Life involves suffering and fear and sadness and loss, and my children will experience that too, for they are human beings, on this Earth, in this time. It’s a world of hope, and a world of harming, for sure.

So I realized, here’s all I can really do, in the face of this uncontrollable life, in the face of the truth of impermanence, in the face of this boundless love I have found within this parent-child relationship:

Stay as open and receptive and mindful as possible. So as not to miss out on their childhood and all the lessons they have to teach me about love and life. And so they will feel heard, seen, witnessed. So they will feel Loved.

And commit to having the intention to teach, model, communicate, and act in ways that tell my own story of what I know love to be and how to live a life as grounded in the values of compassion, kindness, truth, presence and joy as possible.

My boys are both teenagers now (they’ll be 14 and 17 this summer!) and long gone are the days when I could cradle their little bodies in my arms, hug their little sleepy forms to my chest, hold their little hands across streets, and listen to their little voices echo through the house, the yard, the big world outside. Long gone are the days when they looked up at me with those eyes, trusting and wide, curious and deep. Now, they’re both taller than me, and they look down with eyes ever more beautiful, full of wisdom, light, and their own ancient and growing personalities.

I am floored by their very existence. I am humbled by their presence and the task of guiding them through this often difficult life. I am so deeply grateful to be traveling this road with them.

Jasper and Silas, I love you! Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for making me a mother. And thanks for being here, now.

VERSE 1
oh little one
oh where did you come from
oh you’re my stars and my sun
carry me away
on the love

oh precious one
oh it has all begun
oh and it will never be done
tender and amazed
is the love

CHORUS
I see you
I hear you
I love you
I am here for you
forever

VERSE 2
oh little babe
we wander through this life afraid
but here you are with your wise old face
can you tell me all you know
of love

oh little darlin’
it’s a world of hope and a world of harmin’
I cannot keep it all at bay
but I’ll tell you all I know
of love

CHORUS

VERSE 3
oh little one
oh precious one
oh little darlin’
here we are in love
oh here we are in love

To check out and download (“pay what you want”) our EARTH album, see the player below or visit it here. And here’s wishing a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Peaceful Mother’s Day to all of you out there who mother others in one way or another.

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Sing a Summer Song

May 3, 2016

Today’s Song Story is for “Sing a Summer Song“, track #7 on our album, “EARTH“.

We frequently bring our music and dance program to the Mountain View Public Library. Their summer concert series for families — called “Sing a Summer Song” — is a really beautiful event. The shows happen outside on the back lawn, underneath an oak tree who must be over 100 years old. The tree alone is worth the visit! Don’t forget to hug the tree! I wrote this song originally as a theme for their concert series, and it expanded into a singalong about summer, about Earth, about love!

In its simplest interpretation, it’s an ode to the summers of my childhood, and the way our magical Earth spoke to me through her smells, sounds, textures, tastes, and beauty. I reference things like june bugs, fireflies, wiggly worms and other hallmarks of a Midwestern (south-central Wisconsin, to be specific) Summer. And the long days, the “tiny nights”, the warming air, the summer smells, the fresh sounds, bare feet running (my favorite!) and, most of all, my Mom’s garden and all the hot, sweaty, dirty memories of digging, picking, looking, wondering, eating.

The chorus is a sing-along — belt it out!

Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song for you and me
Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song
The way we love the world is everything

The line “the way we love the world is everything” expresses one of the themes on the EARTH album — that our job is to work on accessing our innate love, compassion, kindness and generosity so we can bring it out into the world and be THAT person, as often as possible.

It is also the reminder that when we connect with Mother Earth deeply, when we immerse ourselves “in” nature, we have no choice but to remember our interbeing, to love her, and to care for her. The more time we spend outside in nature, appreciating the offerings and the ways in which we are symbiotic with Earth and the ways in which we depend on each other, the more we will come from a place of gratitude and appreciation, and also humility. This is a solid, grounded, authentic place that gives us the capacity and strength and focus to act on her behalf with compassion, wisdom and the fierce love a mother has for her child. Yes…it’s time for us to Mother the Mother!

There are also some secret lyrics hiding in the last go-around of the chorus. Listen closely and see if you can hear them:

Sing…for Earth
Sing…for Love
Sing…for Peace
Sing…for All

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

  • Sing along! Consider the song a call and response, and mimic the lines in the verse with your response. Join in for the chorus!
  • Discuss ways in which the Earth changes during the transition from Spring to Summer.
  • Make a “seasons” poster. Divide a piece of paper into four sections, label them “Summer”, “Spring”, “Winter” and “Fall”, and paint or draw things in each section that go along with each season.
  • Help your kids make a list of things they love and appreciate. Then use this list to sing your own version of the song. For example, “Sing it for the polar bears, Sing it for the horses, Sing it for the skateboards, Sing it for the ocean, Sing it for my sister, Sing it for my best friend, Sing it for mangos, Sing it for my bicycle…” No need to worry about rhyming!

I hope you enjoy “Sing a Summer Song“, this summer and all year ’round. Because the way we love the world is everything!

To listen to the whole EARTH album, scroll down or visit it here.

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Shine

May 2, 2016

Welcome to today’s Song Story, “Shine“, track #6 on our album, “EARTH“.

As with many of the songs on the album, this one is a reminder of our place, as Earthlings, in this interdependent world, and the opportunity (responsibility?) we’ve been given to cultivate peace, joy, and love in ways that then afford us the possibility of contributing something positive to the world and other beings.

The song started out in my mind as a rhythmic, almost primal chant centering on the words:

Dance your love into the Earth
Dance your love into the Earth
Sing your love into the sky
Sing your love into the sky
Spread your love around the world
Spread your love around the world
Put your love into your life
Put your love into your life

The suggestion to “dance your love into the Eearth” is a somewhat mystical concept. But, in my experience, a child will have absolutely no problem believing it is possible or enacting it with her/his body. The direction to “dance your love into the Earth” speaks to long-forgotten rituals, Earth-based spirituality, and the practice of lovingkindness.

And the echo-response repeated after each line of the verse, “together, with each other”, is the reminder to do all of this together, with each other, in community — the time is now for us to break through isolation, separateness, and otherness and participate in healing work and practices, not only in our individual lives but also within our communities. It’s time to cultivate and strengthen our bonds of interbeing — together, with each other.

The verses go on to encourage the same actions (“dance, sing, spread, put”), first with our joy and then with our sense of peace, balance and equanimity. I practice lots of mindfulness with the kids and parents in my programs, and one of the most requested and favorite exercises is “sending love”. That’s really all we’re doing with this song!

And when it comes to children embodying these ideas, there’s a ready-made movement experience inherent here. All of our music has accompanying choreography, and this particular song appeared in my mind as a complete dance. I pictured the kids at our concerts and in my classes stomping, jumping, swaying and shining as they translated the words of the song into the visual dimension, literally dancing their love into the Earth.

The chorus gets to the heart of things — let’s shine our love, joy and peace EVERYWHERE, even (especially!) on the suffering in the world. For when we bring our suffering, or the suffering of another, into the light of our compassion, into the gentle yet fierce glow of our love, and begin to nurture, cradle, listen to and be present for it, true healing can begin:

Shine it on the mountains
Shine it on the sea
Shine it on the cities
And the trees and the green country, come on
Shine it on all beings
Those who walk and crawl and swim and fly
Shine it on the suffering
Bring it right into the light

And no one is left out or excluded from this shining love, this shining presence: Earth, cities, plants, people, animals, fish, birds, and any suffering that these beings might be experiencing — we send, share, and offer our love and presence to ALL, without exception. (Extra credit for catching the “Free to Be, You and Me” reference in the chorus ;-))

In the middle of the song there’s a mysterious, quiet bridge where we send the love in all directions (“to the East, West, North, South, Above, Below, Within, Without”), reminiscent of ancient rituals that honor and invite in the full dimensionality of the world. Shine it EVERYWHERE, in ALL directions, on ALL beings! The bridge builds into the “dance your peace into the Earth” verse, and finally arrives at the final chorus. We have undertaken a journey, through our love, joy and peace, through the earth, sky, world and very own hearts, arriving home to shine our best selves, our ever-present, enduring love and light, all around.

“Shine” is ultimately about what we have to offer to our world. Part of our job in this life is to cultivate positive qualities in ourselves — like peace, joy, and love — and then to reflect these outward, sharing our best selves with others and our planet. And, perhaps most importantly, to remember that suffering is also part of life, and that all beings suffer. When we remember this truth — that we all suffer, and we all wish to be free from suffering — we are then capable of true compassion.

For this truth blurs the lines between us, reminds us we’re connected, jolts us awake out of delusion and into awareness, shows us our sense of separation and “otherness” is false, snaps us out of judging, criticizing, comparative mind. And when we shine our love, our presence, on our own suffering or that of others, and hold and honor and witness this suffering, we are providing a healing service. Simply being present for another’s suffering (think “active listening”) is perhaps the greatest gift we can give another being. And the more we do this for each other, and for ourselves, the lighter we will all be.

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

    • Make up a family dance to the song!
    • Teach your dance to a friend or family member.
    • Practice listening meditation with the song. Lie down in a comfortable place and just listen to the words, to the music. Visualize yourself full of love, full of joy, full of peace. Pay attention to any feelings that come up. Sense yourself as part of the Earth. Believe in your ability to send love all around.
    • Can you remember a time when you felt sad or mad? Imagine sending some love and care to the sad or mad feelings or parts inside of you.
    • Do you know someone else who is sad or mad about something? Imagine sending some love and care to the person who is suffering
  • When someone in your life is having trouble, make them a Compassion Card. Simply draw a picture that shows you love them and are there for them, and/or write (or get help writing) a few words like, “I hear you. I see you. I love you.” And offer this to the person who is having trouble.
  • Enjoy our “Peace Breath” meditation to practice cultivating the energy of peace in your mind, body and heart.

I hope you enjoy the song, “Shine“. And scroll down if you’d like to listen to our entire EARTH album!

Namaste (the light in me bows to the light in you, for it is the same light!)

Love,
Charity