Sit Breath Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups

January 3, 2015

SBL_9_600Dear friends,

In conjunction with the birth of the new year, we are very excited to announce the birth of a new JAM project:

Sit Breathe Love:
Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups

Listen + Download Here

Our intention is to share every month or so a new guided meditation you can listen to and practice with the children in your family or classroom. Click the “Follow” button on the download page to be notified when we add new ones.

These meditations will be in the mindfulness vein, and will touch on such areas as awareness of breath, cultivation of lovingkindness and non-harming, mindful listening, body scans, gratitude, joy, difficult feelings, and beyond.

Our January offering is called “Ball of Light Meditation”. You can use this guided meditation with your children when you’d like to cultivate a little peace and love. Try it at bedtime, or perhaps in the morning before leaving the house, to plant seeds of presence, calm and kindness. Listen, relax, and enjoy!

I use these meditations in my JAMcamps with children aged 4-10, but you can try with younger and older children, too, and see what happens.

Perhaps the most important thing is to model for your children your commitment to cultivating your own mindfulness. So do the practices with them as often as you can! You will show them, via embodiment, that it is important to you, too, and that you have faith in its value.

We would love to hear about how, where and when you use these practices, and how your children respond to them. So stay in touch!

May you be happy, healthy, safe and at peace in the new year and always 😉

Take care,
Charity


Imagine What a Whole Day of Ceasefire Would Mean to Humankind

September 20, 2013

jamcamp_peacesign_0611It is the eve of the International Day of Peace — a.k.a. “Peace Day” — originally created in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Their goal was “to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as the whole of humankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” [*

Peace Day is also a day of ceasefire — both political and personal. Given what’s going on in our world — i.e., more and more violence rather than less as time and life pass and we hurtle around the sun — we could absolutely use a day devoted to political and personal ceasefire.

We obviously need more than just a day — we need a lifetime, an entire future, of moment-by-moment and ongoing ceasefires. But since that’s apparently not our reality right now, we have to start somewhere. So let’s start with a day, and let’s start with ourselves.

As the folks from the Culture of Peace Initiative put it, “imagine what a whole day of ceasefire would mean to humankind.”

Yes, imagine that.

From that spaciousness, who knows what healing and transformation might arise.

Here’s an easy and beautiful way to mark the occasion of Peace Day with your family, while joining with a worldwide community of peace-loving people: As part of Peace Day 2013 (Saturday, Sept 21), millions of people around the world will practice a global moment of silence at noon in each time zone. Let’s join this beautiful intention by doing our best to remember to STOP what we’re doing for a few minutes at noon tomorrow, and perhaps take four mindful breaths, calm our bodies, minds and hearts, find a bit of peace inside, and then breathe this sense of peace outward into the world around us.

I can’t seem to shake that old hymn from my head right now…”let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…let this be the moment now.” For it is as true a cliche as any: if we want world peace, we must start here and now with ourselves, and the violence that occurs right in our own hearts and our own minds, in the form of anger, greed, judgement, reactivity, hatred, jealousy, and all the many and varied forms of delusion we humans experience and indulge in.

So if we truly want peace, we must accept that part of our work here on this planet is to practice creating peace inside ourselves, and we must help our children learn how to do the same. The results of our commitment to and experiments with peace in our immediate sphere will certainly emanate outward and go a long way toward creating peace in our relationships and interactions with others, and, by association, in the world at large.

This is a beginning, and a very fine place to start.

Here is a very simple practice you can use to cultivate an energy of peace and calm any time within your self, or within your family. It is also useful as a grounding exercise after experiencing a period of wild emotions (tantrums, sibling fights, parent losing her/his cool, etc).

To set the stage, you might choose to have a little “peace chat” with your child(ren) exploring the meaning of the word, some examples of how it manifests (or doesn’t) in your daily life or in the world, and why it is an important value or quality.

Here are some thoughts on peace and possible inroads to a conversation with your child:

Peace is relaxed, calm, spacious, and the absence of tension or anxiety. Peace is relief — relief from conflict, turmoil, pressure, pushing, pain. Peace is harmony, and agreement.

You can think of peace as if it were a beautiful song in which all the parts resonate and blend together to make a lovely sound. Outer peace occurs when people get along, work together, collaborate, co-operate, work in harmony, behave with compassion, listen to each other, and refrain from judgement. Inner peace occurs when our mind takes a break from the drama it so enjoys creating — when we get the monkey off our backs, even for a moment.

Ask your children to describe some times where they felt a sense of peace, inside or out, and what that experience was like for them.

The opposite of peace is disagreement, disharmony, argument, tension, fighting, conflict, war — whether without or within.

Ask your children to describe some times where they felt a lack of peace, inside or out, and what that experience was like for them.

Now here is the practice.

Peace Meditation

Sit with your child and say:

It’s time to enter our quiet bodies. Our quiet bodies are always there waiting for us, like a cozy bed or comfy chair, to land into and relax. Your only job is to sit and pay attention to your breath. If you feel strong emotions moving around inside your body, that’s ok; just let them be there and remember your friend, the breath.

Now, take a deep breath. On the in breath, say to yourself, “Breathe in the peace”. On the out breath, just relax as completely as you can.

Now place your hands on your head and say, “I have peace in my mind.” Take a deep peace breath in, and out.

Next, place your hands on your heart and say, “I have peace in my heart.” Take a deep peace breath in, and out.

Then, place your hands on your belly and say, “I have peace in my body.” Take a deep peace breath in, and out.

Next, place your hands on your thighs/knees and say, “I have peace in my family.” Take a deep peace breath in, and out.

Finally, fold your hands together, or hold hands with each other, and say, “We have peace in our world.” Take a deep peace breath in, and out.

After this, it is nice to take four mindful breaths together in silence.

Relax and sit for a few moments noticing the sensations in your body. Smile at each other 😉

May you be peaceful!

With love, Charity

 

All words copyright 2013 Charity Kahn.


I Got Some Time to Hear Your Story

August 20, 2013

ihearyouCan you remember the last time you truly listened to your child?

By truly listening, I mean doing NOTHING but listening. I mean stopping whatever you are in the middle of, sitting down with them, making eye contact, and letting them talk, or cry, or whatever. I mean having your sole intention be to hear and honor their words, and witness their pain or process, with no thoughts of fixing, advising, corroborating, controlling, lecturing or judging. I mean having the words “I hear you” as your inner mantra and outward energetic message.

This kind of listening is incredibly difficult to pull off. Therapists spend years learning how to do it well. Entire curricula have been developed to help kids in school and professionals in the workplace practice it. And it was and is not necessarily modeled for us in our families of origin or practiced by our teachers, mentors, bosses, friends, co-workers or partners, so we are sort of in the dark when it comes to implementing it in our own lives.

It rarely comes naturally to “just” listen. It can feel uncomfortable and weird, especially at first, and we might have the added anxiety that we’re appearing ungenerous or detached or disinterested if we’re not responding immediately and conversationally with our thoughts and observations. But the truth is, the minute we start formulating a response, we have ceased to be truly present for the other person. We are no longer “just” listening. It has become about us. And on some level, the other person is aware of that shift in attention.

As parents, we perceive, rightly so, that part of our job is to help our children navigate life, which seems to imply finding ways to relieve their current suffering and giving lots of advice about how to avoid more suffering in the future. But when we take this good intention too far — whether with our children or anyone else — and jump in with our advice or opinion, rather than allowing the other person to express themselves to completion, we potentially smother something extremely precious.

When we attempt to take away the pain with our solution or “fix”, we more often than not derail or freeze a necessary out-pouring of emotion that might have allowed the person to move through to the other side. So if we are instead able to “just” listen mindfully and remain present for what is arising in the other person, we provide a safe foundation from which they can potentially integrate what is happening, on their own terms, not ours. In effect, we are simply allowing enough space for true self-healing to occur.

We are ALL looking for a safe and loving place to share our story, our sorrow, our joy, our confusion, our pain, our wonder, our fear. We search for this on the meditation cushion and with our healers and therapists, and we hope to find it in our family and community as well. We are NOT always looking for a solution, a way out, or even corroboration. We are often just looking for a witness, someone there to observe us navigating our life, our emotions, our thoughts, without attempting to influence or control us. Basically, we want someone to “hold” us while we cry, or laugh, or communicate. And we want to feel anchored, so we might avoid drifting away on the tumultuous seas of our own story.

In meditation, we become our own witness, our own anchor. In the version of meditation I practice (Insight, or Vipassana), our job is to sit and be a container for whatever sensations, emotions and thoughts come up inside of us, and simply acknowledge them, without suppressing or clinging to them, and without judgement. Our job is to listen mindfully, patiently and lovingly — to ourselves.

One of the most compelling reasons to meditate, in my experience, is to practice this non-judgemental awareness in the laboratory of our own bodies and minds, so we can flex and strengthen those muscles for when we’re out in the world, dealing with other people. The idea is to become better at listening, TRULY listening, to ourselves, so we can also be that person for those we encounter “out there”. Because one of the most profoundly beautiful and potentially transformative gifts we can offer anyone is to listen mindfully, with our ears and all of our heart, to what it is they need to tell us.

[For fun, allow yourself for a moment to imagine how society at large might be positively affected if we as individuals felt truly heard on a regular basis.]

An act of mindful, conscious, present listening is one of the deepest forms of respect we have to offer another. But since it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, we need to practice it, in meditation, and in our day-to-day life. To that end, here is a simple ritual you can enjoy with your family. It’s about listening, and respect, and kindness. Which means it’s also about love. 😉

Sharing Stick
A useful way to practice showing and receiving respect in a family or group setting is by using a Sharing Stick to symbolize and ritualize honoring someone else’s words, time and existence when speaking and listening. This is the same principle as the traditional Talking Stick used so successfully in many indigenous tribes in order to ensure democratic council meetings.

Go on a family walk to find a beautiful stick to use for this practice. It is also fun to decorate it with string, beads, feathers — whatever you like!

You can use the stick during a normal conversation (taking turns telling a story from your day, for example), or as a tool to help air out and possibly resolve a conflict (for instance, if your children have gotten into a fight and each thinks the other is at fault and has strong emotions around what happened). It is always nice to sit in a circle when practicing this ritual.

With the Sharing Stick practice, everyone has a turn to talk, and the person whose turn it is holds the stick while they are speaking. The rest of the family or group practices making a conscious effort to truly listen to the other person, without interruption or comment. The person gets to talk until they truly feel done and “heard” before the stick passes to the next person.

If an open-ended time period becomes an issue, you can use a timer. But do your best to stay with the concept of allowing everyone as much time as they need to truly feel heard.

Here is a little affirmation you can say with your children before beginning:

When I hold the Sharing Stick I share my truth.
When you hold the Sharing Stick, I listen with my ears and all of my heart.
When we speak our truth and listen with our hearts, we respect ourselves and each other.

Happy sharing, and happy listening!


The Light That Could Have Saved The World

December 21, 2012

I decided that the day the world is supposed to end is as fine a day as any to start the blog I’ve been meaning to start for several years. Hello, everyone. It’s good to see you here.

There are lots of theories floating around as to the significance of this day, 12/21/2012 — everything from Armageddon to Enlightenment. Clearly we are a species and planet on the brink of some transformation, but in which direction are the winds of change blowing?

Over the last century, acts of hatred and destruction seem to have grown exponentially. These events and their energy stick in our minds and terrify, paralyze and shame us so deeply we begin to believe we stand powerless in their wake. Apathy, cynicism, denial and the many and varied ways we have invented to numb ourselves often follow. We succumb to the dark side, for inaction in the face of violence is unarguably a form of violence itself.

But I believe in my heart that acts of compassion, wisdom and kindness have been increasing just as dramatically. There is a spiritual awakening occurring around the world — certainly in the hearts of individuals, and sometimes in communities and even nations. There is a “return to love”, as Marianne Williamson would say, like we have never seen — proof that something in us knows what to do.

We are very powerful, it turns out, and the planet reached its current state on our watch and as consequence of our choices. Yes, OURS. And because of the very real and imminent threats to our planet and all life due to climate change, cruelty and greed, we need to wake up NOW and use our immense strength and intention to turn the tides. We need to grow compassion and wisdom and kindness faster than all that other stuff. We need to love and work for peace in all its interpretations, just — as Pema Chodron has said — “as if our hair were on fire”. For it might as well be at this point.

So let this be the day, let this be the moment, that we begin the end of a world that values money over life, acquisition over benevolence, tyranny over collaboration, and fear over love. Let us believe that we are in charge, that we are powerful. And let us remember that there is no end to love, and only love is real. We can do this.

On that note, here is a poem for you, from my deepest heart. It is certainly a sad poem, for a sad time. But if you suspend disbelief, and invite in the magical idea that it’s never too late to shift things IN THIS MOMENT, never too late to make living amends, never too late to see what is right here in front of us, never too late to change, never too late for a miracle, and never, never too late to love, you might also hear a message of joy and hope, and maybe even some solutions (no matter how micro) for beginning to create a world worthy and reflective of our children, and of the basic human goodness deep inside everyone’s hearts.

Let me say it one more time: It is NEVER too late to love. I love you.

THE LIGHT THAT COULD HAVE SAVED THE WORLD

how are we to know upon
what shores the battle next will rage
surely all comes home the same
your shore is my shore, here or there

he loses a limb
you lose your job
she loses a child
they lose their source of clean water
a nation loses itself
we all lose our home
and our hearts break, and bleed

we have almost out-bred
integrity
compassion
wisdom
respect
perspective
kindness
truth
gratitude
self-preservation
even joy –
an evolutionary experiment
gone awry
and one which will appropriately
take care of itself
if allowed to continue

had we an accurate perspective on time
we might wink and nod
at the insignificance
of this error of biology
and how we could all be wiped away –
and the garden with us –
in a relative millisecond
the garden starting over
in one form or another
growing anew and mysterious and magnificent
and perhaps even learning something
from its mistakes

but we are in the meantime
and the garden waits, frozen
for us to make a choice

as in a dream
we begin to strain
with every muscle and heart fiber
a desperate devotion calling us
to turn this impossibly heavy ship
away from the sharp sudden edge
of our beloved earth

as in a dream
it feels too slow
and we cry and scream out our horror and grief
all the while pushing, breathing, believing
holding it miraculously all at once
for there are children on board
and we are the ones at the helm

we know we need to wake up
and do this in real time
now
and together

so please don’t stay away
come visit my shore
we’ll sob into each other’s exhausted arms
dance our love into the dirt
sing into the air that still feeds us
and bow down
to the waterfalls
to the mountains
to the clouds
to the double rainbows
to the shiny sun and sparkly stars
to every creature great and small
and to yet one more day spared for loving

but most of all to our children
for they shine with the light
that could have saved the world
and it is like a benediction
and a resolution of sorts
to see it still and always glowing warmly there
in their smiles
and in the simple movements of their arms and legs
and in the questions they ask
and even in the way they drape themselves
around their open hearts
while sleeping

because in this light
is contained the love of everything
and all things
and no thing
which, by definition, can never die

[poem copyright 2011-2012 Charity Kahn; that said, please share it]