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!
- 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:
- Listen, download, and view all lyrics
- Singalong Song Sheet with lyrics and chords
- Watch a live performance
Here’s how to find the books containing the practice:
- “Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children” (2011) by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community
- “A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles” (2012) by Thich Nhat Hanh
To listen to or download our entire “EARTH” album, see the player below or go here.