9, Madeline Ko-i Bastis visited a Long Island Kindergarten
my years as a chaplain I have taught meditation to many different kinds of
people and I thought I had covered the gamut. However when a friend
requested that I visit her sonís kindergarten class to introduce the
children to meditation, my whole approach to teaching meditation and
inspiring people to make it a part of their daily lives had to be
Anyone who has been around
small children knows that their energy is boundless and it is difficult
for them to stay still. That, coupled with their short attention span,
challenged me to find new ways to present meditation.
When I asked what they thought meditation
was, some knew that it was supposed to make you relaxed and calm. I agreed
that this was so, but that meditation didnít mean getting sleepy; it meant
being wide awake and alert. I asked how many had seen a deer in the woods
(we have a surfeit of deer on Long Island). Again much hand-raising and
chatter about the deer sightings.
noticed how a deer stands perfectly still, like a statue, but as soon as
it hears a noise its ears perk up and itís wide awake? Is the deer
"No, no," the children responded.
"Thatís what weíll be doing - weíll be
perfectly quiet but still wide awake paying
We began with mindfulness of
breathing. Each child was asked to take a couple of deep breaths and to
notice where they felt the breath in their body most strongly - the air
touching their nostrils, their chest rising and falling, their abdomen
rising and falling. This produced much exaggerated breathing and a lot of
hands were raised to tell me where they felt the breath the most. For
many, it was the air coming in and out of the nose.
"How many of you have kitty
"Have you noticed how your cat will sit
very still for a long time watching a mouse hole and when the mouse comes
out, it pounces?" Nodding and a story about a new
"Weíre going to watch our breath going in
and out, just like the cat watches a mouse
I had adapted some of Thich Nhat Hanhís
guided meditations from "The Blooming of a Lotus" to relax patients in the
emergency room and also with emotionally disadvantaged adults. This was
the meditation I decided to use.
were already sitting on the floor, most indian style. I asked them to
close their eyes if they wanted to and began.
The period would only be four or five minutes long. I rang the tingshas
(Tibetan bells) three times. Then I guided:
Breathing in I know I am
Breathing out I know I am breathing
When Iím silent I want you
to watch your breath going in and out very carefully, just like the
cat watches the mousehole. (silence for 5 breaths)
Breathing in my breath grows
Breathing out my breath grows slow.
(silence for 5 breaths)
Breathing in I feel calm.
out I feel relaxed.
Relaxed. (silence for 5
Breathing in Iím aware of the present
Breathing out I know itís a perfect moment.
Perfect moment. (silence for 2 breaths)
When I ring the bells, I want you to sit
and listen to the sound until you canít hear it anymore.
(Ring bells twice.)
When youíre ready you can open your
"How did that make
"I felt peaceful."
"Did anyone fall asleep?", I asked.
A couple of kids nodded.
"When you feel
sleepy, just open your eyes."
"Letís try some walking
meditation. Everybody stand up and stretch and stand in a line. Imagine
that youíve been in a spaceship and traveled far, far away. Youíve been
away from the earth for a long, long time. Then your spaceship lands and
you put your foot on the earth for the fist time. Imagine that each step
you take is just as special as that first step. Move very carefully and
slowly, paying attention to each step."
children followed me in a line and we wended our way around the small
tables in the classroom like a centipede.
bells were a great hit with the kids and everyone had a chance to ring
We did a second session and by this time
the kids seemed to really get it. There was a different feeling in the
room and I reminded them that whenever they felt scared, or nervous or
angry to take a couple of deep breaths.
The mother who had invited me to the class thought a brief meditation each
day could be helpful - sort of a gentle time out, and she decided to buy
some bells for the class. The next day she saw her son Kevin sitting in
his room mimicking my meditation posture.