bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: teaching

fun mindfulness event at MIT in boston

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Hello Bringing Up Buddhas readers!

Please join us in Boston on Saturday, June 13th for MASTERING MINDFULNESS AT HOME AND SCHOOL – an experiential mindfulness workshop for teachers, parents caregivers. This is an engaging, interactive, **fun** program for beginners and for those with mature practices.

Deepen your practice with four dynamic teachers: Christopher Willard, Janell Burley Hofmann, Daniel Lauter, and Vanessa Gobes covering subjects like: managing teen anxiety, mindful use of technology at home and in class, creative mindful practices for the classroom, exploring meditation through the senses, introducing mindfulness to public schools, sustainable home practices, healing the body through meditation, and more.

You will leave this workshop with:

  • teachable practices for stress reduction and compassion cultivation
  • ideas for expanding mindfulness in your hometown or school
  • a network of professionals and parents doing similar work
  • online access to guided visualizations and meditations
  • a smile on your face

June is the perfect time to fire up your practice! Parents can engage mindfulness with children during long summer weeks  and teachers can use the summer to strengthen practices for a solid September start! Book a sitter, grab a friend or colleague, and make your way to M.I.T. for a class that can change your life and work.

The Stata Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Saturday, June 13, 2015, 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM

(Lunch break 12 – 1)
$50

MEET YOUR PRESENTERS AND REGISTER HERE:

http://www.vanessagobes.com/workshops.html

tips on teaching kids to meditate

Relax your expectations when meditating with small children. If they want to meditate with their feet in the air or their eyes on the ceiling, let them. Posture will develop as they engage consistently in practice.

This short video is of me introducing meditation to my son’s kindergarten class. They are on their third round of mini-sittings taking place over five minutes. Each mini-sitting lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes. During this round, they are using their ears to count how many times they hear my bells chime. My son is assisting with the ringing – he’s excited to be an active part of the exercise.

Notice the children’s creative posture… but also notice that they are participating attentively. They’re hanging in pretty nicely if you ask me! Giving kids a little wiggle room (literally) will help them acclimate to silence on their own terms.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

parenting advice from lama sonam

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Every Wednesday morning, I host a group of neighborhood moms in my living room, where we meditate and discuss mindful parenting.  Today we had a seasoned meditator as our special guest – my friend Lama Konchok Sonam, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who directs several spiritual centers around the United States. He shared a couple of terrific parenting tips with us this morning – too good not to share.
Tip #1
On a child’s birthday, take him to a pet store and buy him several small animals (fish, mice, birds) – one for every year of his life. Then invite friends over on his birthday and release the animals together. We are all going to die, it’s important to live freely while we’re here. I’m getting teary just thinking about it.
He also suggested that we not serve or eat meat at the birthday party. Good thinking.
(Note: Work with pet store employee to find animals that are safe to release in your region.)
Tip #2
A child between the ages of 8 and 13 can only focus for 14-16 minutes in a sitting, so get her moving at these intervals. A great way to do this is by assigning quick tasks. Write simple directives on index cards (one on each card). Some examples could be: sweep the porch steps, hug your sister for one whole minute, water the plants, meditate for five minutes, take the trash out, find a heart shaped rock, weed a garden, change a lightbulb, watch the clouds go by. Stack the cards and, at the 15 minute mark, let the child pick her assignment. Once the task is done, she can get back to homework and lessons with renewed energy.
Teachers, this is a great tool for the classroom, too!
From mine to yours,
Vanessa
Hey!  Do you like these ideas? Share them on Facebook or Twitter!
Are you local to Boston? Join me for “Introduction to Family Meditation” beginning next week – details online at http://www.vanessagobes.com.
Want to learn more about Lama Sonam? Find him at Drikung Meditation Center in Arlington, Massachusetts. Buddhist teachings are a wonderful layer for any peace practice.

 

step-by-step: how to teach your young kids to meditate

This is a script that I loosely followed while teaching the children in my town’s public elementary school to meditate.  I thought it might be helpful for other parents who’d like to do it with their own children, with scouting troops, with church youth groups, with summer campers, with classrooms.  My best advice in doing this is to be animated.  Don’t be afraid to ad-lib or get silly.  The kids will respond beautifully.

For children grades 2-5

Hi, my name is ________________.   I’m here to teach you a way to be happy.  Not haha happy.  Not that-was-a-funny-movie happy.  Or I-love-ice-cream happy.  Not even I-just-got-a-new-puppy happy.  I mean heart happy.  We’re going to use a tool to help us learn how to do that.  Can anyone imagine what our special happiness tool could be?

 

The thing I’m thinking of is very close by.  It’s free, it’s super easy to find and it does not require assembly or a special carrying case.  It’s as close as your breath….  In fact, it IS your breath.

 

Just by breathing we can help ourselves find happiness.  And we can use special breathing tricks to help us.  But to be good at anything, what do we need to do?  Practice!  Right.  Just like soccer or piano or drawing.  If you want to be good at something, you need to practice.

 

But before we start practicing our breath work, I want you to help me with a check list.  You don’t need to raise your hand, just check a little box in your head if you’ve ever experienced the following things:

 

  • Had a big fight with someone at home
  • Forgot to turn in your homework
  • Couldn’t sleep because you kept thinking about something
  • Felt embarrassed in front of your friends
  • Worried about something happening in the world
  • Got the sillies and found yourself in trouble
  • Was scared on a carnival ride
  • Felt out of control with excitement before a big day
  • Knew the answer but felt shy to raise your hand in class
  • Got left out of a party or outing with friends

 

I’ve felt all of those things.  And I bet you have, too.  And if you haven’t yet, you will.  No one is exempt from this.  We all feel bad sometimes.  We all mess things up.  We all feel insecure.   You, me, the most popular kid in school, the bully down the hall, the star on the basketball court.  Everyone.  And it’s okay to feel these things.  These feelings are important parts of being a person.  The bad stuff lets us know when something’s wrong so we can work to ease those feelings when they’re no longer useful.   Once we acknowledge the bad stuff and send it packing, we can create more open space for the good stuff that reminds us how wonderful it feels to be alive.  Each and every one of us deserves to know happiness and success, acceptance and love.  And we can achieve these beneficial feelings when we activate our superpowers.  We are all born with super strength.  No one is exempt from that either.  We’ll talk more on how to use your superpowers later but I don’t want you to forget you have them, so let’s pull on our super suits, tie on our super capes and adjust our flashy masks.  Check to make sure our tool belts are on tight.

 

Okay, good.  So when we can find a comfortable balance amongst all these feelings, we can feel peaceful.  Composed.

 

What does composure mean?  Let me try to help you understand.  Listen to this.

 

(Play a bit of Mozart.)

 

Can you hear how everything is in harmony?  All of the pieces of the orchestra are very different.  Some are deep, some are light, some sound a little sad, some sound cheerful or even silly.  But when they work together they create something balanced, productive and beautiful – something composed.  In order to maintain this composure, the musicians need to practice.  They need to dedicate time.  They need to focus.

 

We are like that.  In our lives, we juggle lots of different feelings.  They’re all important.  But when we can make all those diverse feelings work together and still feel balanced, we can maintain composure.  When we can engage that composure throughout the day, our frequency begins to rise.

 

Frequency is a big word.  It’s like the radio station our lives are tuned into.  You can tune into frustration and negativity or you can tune into love and empowerment.  Which one would you like to tune into?

 

Yes, me, too.  So think of frequency like energy – and get those super suits ready.  When it’s on the rise, we’re getting happier and happier.  We can use our super powers to feel good and think clearly.  And when our frequency rises, the people around us can feel it and believe it or not, our awesomely fast frequency helps others.  Just by being fast.  Superhero fast.

 

Understanding that we are all very much the same may help in relieving some of the confusion we feel when we’re angry or sad or anxious.    And we can team up that understanding with meditation to cool our own jets and ease the stressful feelings we’re carrying around.

 

Who has heard the word meditation before?

 

Meditation is a quiet time to connect with our breath, to be still, to remember that right here, right now, we are alive and safe and okay.  When we meditate, we remember to treat our bodies well, to use kind words with others and think before we speak, to think clear, useful thoughts.  When our thoughts are good, our lives will be good.

 

For some people, this comes naturally.  But most of us need to practice to achieve that state of peace and harmony, which we can find by taking a moment to TUNE IN.

 

Times to use meditation:

  • While taking exams and quizzes (you know the answers but your jitters keep you from remembering clearly)
  • Leading up to big celebrations, holidays, vacations or events (when you’re so excited that you’re having a hard time sitting still or thinking clearly)
  • Before games, recitals, performances (visualization helps you prepare by creating a vision for your future)
  • During arguments with friends or family members (taking time to breathe will calm you down so you can use your most compassionate voice)
  • In uncomfortable social situations (mindfulness will bring you back to your personal truth and keep you out of trouble when trouble is tempting)
  • To ease depression or sadness (bringing your thoughts to center will connect you to “what is” instead of “what was” or “what might be”)

 

There are many ways to meditate.   But we always begin by breathing.  So let’s sit straight in our seats, feet on the floor, spine long, chin tucked in, head reaching to the ceiling.  Place your hands in your lap, palms up and close your eyes completely.  Now think of yourself as breathing “on purpose”.  Start with a deep inhale, filling your lungs as much as you can and releasing the breath, completely emptying your lungs.  Try it two more times with me.  Now breathe in and out through your nose naturally and notice the way your body feels from the inside.  The chair supporting your weight, your hands relaxed on your legs, the air touching your skin, your soft belly rising and falling with every breath.  If your thoughts get lost and you forget that you’re breathing, just gently bring yourself back to this place.  Let’s breathe for one more minute and when the time is up, I’ll invite the bell as a signal to end this meditation.

 

(Wait one minute.  Invite bell.)

 

A great tool to help us is this bell.  You can think of the bell as a peaceful voice, inviting you to take a breath.  You can accept this invitation each time you hear any bell.  Keep your ears open for school bells, church bells, door bells – and use their sound as an opportunity to stop what you’re doing and breathe.  Tell the people around you what you’re doing and invite them to stop and breathe, too.  Use it as a reminder to think about your breath and about being connected to the earth and about being a perfectly imperfect human being.  Listen to the way the bell resonates and stay still and quiet until you can no longer hear its sound.

 

The Pebble Meditation is visual type of meditation that we can use to relax.  I learned it from a book called Planting Seeds, written by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh.  He worked with Martin Luther King Jr. to bring peace to America and to his own country Vietnam during a tough time in our countries’ histories.  And he’s continued to help us find peace since.  He especially loves to help children like you.  So here we go.  Each of you can close your eyes.  Imagine that there’s a black movie screen behind your forehead and you are a film director.  You choose all of the pictures in the movie.  Let me guide you the first time.

 

Imagine a flower.  Any color.  See its petals, its center, its softness, its beauty.

Imagine a mountain.  The weather around it is stormy, but deep inside the center of the mountian, it’s solid and still and quiet.

Imagine a clear, still, placid lake.  See the way the water reflects the sky above and the trees around like a mirror.

Imagine the sky.  See the clouds and the sun.  See a bird wheeling through the air, turning and twisting, happy and free.

 

Now, I’m going to share Thich Nhat Hanh’s Pebble Meditation.  As I share this meditation, I want you to imagine yourself as really being the things I say.

 

Pebble Meditation:

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.

 

Flower, in, Fresh, out (3X)

Mountain, in, Solid, out (3X)

Still water, in, Reflecting, out (3X)

Space, in, Free, out (3X)

 

(Invite bell.)

 

How do you feel?  Do you have any questions?  There are lots of ways to meditate and you can learn more about a mindfulness practice at the library or online.

 

In order to enjoy the benefits of meditation, we need to practice.  Try to find a few minutes every day to sit and be quiet.  Maybe for a minute or two after your alarm clock rings.  Maybe when you get home from school.  Maybe in bed at night when your mind is racing or before you start your homework.  As you work on your practice, you will find that you’ll notice your breathing all day long.  And that’s when you’ll know you’re getting really good at it.

 

Grades K-1 (Have kids sit on a line in a circle.)

 

Hi I’m ________________.  I’m here to teach you a way to get happy.  Not haha happy.  I  mean heart happy.  But to be really good at something, what do we have to do?  Practice!  We’re going to practice something called meditation today.  Does anyone know what this is?

(While you say the following sentence, use your fists to demonstrate the way these feelings look – ball up your hands and squeeze then hold them to your mouth as if you’re terrified, punch the air like you’re fighting, pump them in the air as if you’re excited, squeeze the seat bottom and bounce like you can’t sit still, pretend to hug something as if you can’t squeeze it tight enough.  Give yourself over to the acting – the kids won’t judge and it’ll help them understand.)

Have you ever felt squeezey?  We ball up our fists so tight like this.  We feel Scared.  Angry.  Excited.  Overwhelmed by love.  (This puppy is so cuuuuutte!)  Fidgety.  Meditation helps us to control our minds so that when these challenging feelings pop up, we can let them go and make our hearts happy and peaceful.  We can relax our bodies and our squeezey hands.  It starts with breathing deeply.  When I ring this bell, I’d like everyone to take three beautiful breaths.  Then we’ll stand up and start moving our bodies mindfully.  Stand in a circle and be sure not to touch anyone else’s body.

 

Invite the bell.  Walking meditation…

 

Imagine walking through very deep snow, leaving deep footprints.

Imagine walking on thin ice, careful not to break it.

Walk like a business person.

like a big hairy beast.

like a robot.

like a burglar.

like a soldier.

like you are wearing a big crown.

like you are sad.

like you are happy.

like you are scared.

on a tight rope.

like a cat.

on hot coals.

like a toddler baby.

elephant.

shy

confident.

skipping across stones.

really fast.

 

Now walk really slow.  Notice how the heel of your foot touches the floor.  Lift and move your other foot slowly.  Can you feel how your body keeps its balance?  Let your body relax in each step and put all of your weight on the floor.  Breathe deeply.  Now breathe in whenever you lift your foot and breathe out whenever you place it down.  Walk this way for one minute.

 

When I invite the bell, I want you to stop walking and sit down where you are.  Then close your eyes.  Walking is a fun way to calm down, but we can also calm down by breathing deeply.  And no one even has to know we’re doing it.  Let’s try that now.  We’re going to do some square breathing.  As you breathe in count to 4.  When you reach the top of the breath hold it there and count to 4.  Then release the breath to the count of 4.  Then wait at the bottom of the breath for the count of 4.  I’ll snap my fingers 4 times while we breathe and help you keep track.

 

(Do 3 square breaths together.)

 

Now take 3 deep breaths.  Feel the way your body connects to the floor underneath you.  Relax your jaw, your hands, your belly.  If your thoughts get lost and you forget that you’re breathing, just gently bring yourself back to this place. Reach your head high to the ceiling and draw your shoulders back.  Let your body feel heavy and loose.  We’re going to do one more meditation.  It’s called The Pebble Meditation.

 

(Use same meditation written above.)

 

Invite the bell.  Anytime you hear a bell ring, I want you to stop what you’re doing and take three breaths.  Church bells, school bells, door bells, cow bells…  any bells.

 

Try to do this at home.  Teach your family and friends.

Have a peaceful day.

 

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

 

divine chaos: what you think is gone forever is really not lost at all.

Preface:

I haven’t seen my Pop in 20 years or so.  I’ve forgiven him for skipping out on his fatherly duties and have accepted that he walks a path that leads him far away from home.  His dreams were always much bigger than the reality his small suburban family could provide.

He taught English through a bilingual program he developed at Boston English High School.  He spoke passionately about the growing Latino movement in Boston.  He was nominated for Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and invited by Harvard University to do a lecture series about his work.  His students loved him, his peers respected him, and his family thought he was nuts.

Pop walked down the street pinching a joint in one hand and flashing a peace sign in the other.  His signature look was a  “No Nukes” sweatshirt, overalls, and long curly hair wrapped up in a red bandanna.  No apologies.  Crazy genius, I like to call him, but as a father he pretty much sucked.

Today’s story…

In 2001, my husband introduced me to Dorchester’s Mother Caroline Academy and Education Center, a tuition-free middle school for bright girls of limited financial means.  He’d been involved with the school’s fundraising mission for some time and brought me to their annual spring event in Jamaica Plain.  I remember being greeted by a bunch of smiling girls in plaid kilts, knee socks, and oversized red blazers with shoulder pads – all singing, chattering, laughing, and doing double dutch.  Suddenly an nun came out of nowhere and jumped between the ropes.  She was really good.  A couple of other nuns ran in and did the same.  I laughed out loud.  And so the love affair with MCAEC began.

After several years of volunteering for the Academy as a fundraiser, I longed for a real connection with the students.  So in 2009, I signed up to mentor a student.

My girlfriends Kelly and Cate also decided the time was right to reach out to one of these amazing Mother Caroline girls.  The three of us attended a meet and greet with the entire 8th grade class and after a few awkward conversations, I came upon a charming girl, Leidi – well, “came upon” might be an unfair way to put it.  Honestly, I practically gave Cate the Heisman to get to her, interrupting their conversation and inserting myself between them.  The reason for my boldness, though unknown to me at the time, would be revealed later.

Leidi and I chatted easily for a long while,  sharing some pretty personal things about each other and discovering we had loads in common.  She’s an old soul.  Thoughtful, inquisitive, interesting, genuine, beautiful.  I cornered the head of the mentoring program at the end of the game and gushed to her that I had a great conversation with Leidi and would love to have her as my mentee.  As it turned out, she liked me, too.  So we were matched and spent the next few years getting to know each other.

One Sunday afternoon, Leidi and I were in the car together, talking about high schools.  I mentioned that Pop taught bilingual students at Boston English.  She said, “My Mom went to Boston English.”  Some quick math led us to realize that our parents were there at the same time.  And Leidi’s Mom being Puerto Rican, the likelihood of her knowing my Pop was good.  Really good.  Really really good.

About 8:30 that night Leidi called and told me that her Mom had class with my Pop, “Mr. Cronin,” and remembered times staying after school with him when he’d tell her about my family and his days living in Honduras with the Peace Corps.  Not only that, but she also spent a couple of years as a counselor at Pop’s Campemento Hispano Internacional, providing summer camp experiences for Spanish-speaking inner-city youth.  I had also spent a fair amount of time at that summer camp as a kid, assisting counselors and shadowing Pop.  Weeiiiirrrrrd.

I’d just spent the last couple of days blogging about coincidences so I was certainly conscious of the ones happening in my life and was well-studied on synchronicities.  And right there, on my family room couch, I was living through a pretty major one.  I hung up the phone with Leidi and chewed on the idea for a minute.  Then I proceeded to burst into tears.  Fat ones.  A full-on contorted-face-heaving-chest ugly cry.

I surveyed my mind to figure out why I was having a fit and realized that I was feeling the loving presence of my Pop for the first time in 20 years.  I felt our intangible connection through the Universe.  I saw the parallels between us, our mutual desire to make the world a better place, and the genetic gifts he passed to me that have allowed me to live my best life.  I understood in that moment that God’s power is great.  That there are no coincidences.  That Leidi is my karmic gift – one that I am so happy to accept.

The things that had to happen and the timing of which those things had to occur was perfect.  Divine.  How on earth could something like this happen without God?  God is perfection, organizing events in just the right way, even though to us it looks like total chaos.  But it’s not total chaos, it’s divine chaos.

For me there has been a paradigm shift.  Leidi fell away from my Mother Caroline family neatly settled into my soul family.  We are part of each others’ weaving labyrinth of life and always have been.  And now we know.  Now there’s no question, no surprise that I practically gave my dear friend a black eye to get to her at that football game over a year ago.  Everything is written.

I’ve thought about this series of coincidences and decided this.  Change (in some cases loss) is inevitable.  Embrace it.  Everything will be okay.  And sometimes, what you think is lost forever is really not lost at all.  God will bring it back to you in one form…  or another.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.  Please share this story.

p.s.s.  This is Leidi and me – then and now.

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do you believe you’re perfect?

Self work (that’s Self with a capital “S”) is something that we all experience over the course of a lifetime.  This work begins with our very first breath, when we start figuring out how to survive on earth, how to use what we learn to create new experiences.  Some make choices that lead to hardship and struggle.  Others experience hardship and struggle that lead to better choices.

I’ve gone both ways – creating messes and surviving them.  And I’ve found that both ways of living are equally valuable.  I can especially see this now, after several years of active awakening.  Though I fail at tasks, though I say the wrong things, though I fall short in my domestic responsibilities and sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion, I trust that my Self is perfection and I don’t feel embarrassed or egotistical for saying it.

Perfection is funny word.  It’s stacked with all sorts of subjective assumptions.  Can a person be perfect and still make mistakes?  I think so, yes.  Because my interpretation of perfection is through a divine filter.  Every time I’ve royally screwed up, the screw up has led me to a healthier or more productive place.  So in that regard, I see “imperfection” as a catalyst to course correct, and therefore is actually divine perfection.  And I see all of those decisions that led me to the royal screw up as perfect opportunities to more deeply connect to love through the empathy and compassionate understanding that only comes with personal experience.

My meditation practice allows me to see my own perfection and to do the best I can to live in that state of acceptance; but I still get mad.  I still feel jealous.  I still get overexcited.  Just not as much as I used to, and not for as long.  (Thank God for that!!!)

It’s not that feeling these things is wrong or bad.  Anger, jealousy and excitement are important parts of the human experience.  But they are also feelings that manifest physically in the form of conditions like anxiety, depression and IBS among other things.  Contentment, joy and acceptance, on the other hand, manifest physically in ways that can make us feel pretty great:  restful sleep, younger skin, emotional well-being and a thousand others.  The practice helps the practitioner to notice the more challenging feelings when they arise so that they can be processed and balanced in a period of time that does not wreak havoc on one’s body.

But even in the course of writing this story, I’m sliding in and out of my perception of perfection.  For example, sometimes I’ll read articles or books written by gurus who are further along in their spiritual development than I.  And then months later I’ll watch them in an interview or read another account in which they appear to be attached to material things or fame or power, and then I get miffed.  I assume that because the guru seems to be far along the path that he should have the strength and wisdom to resist temptations and challenges – that he should be more resilient to those things – more so than us reg’ler folk.  That he should be “perfect” in his choices and behaviors because he is on a huge platform instructing people how to live through spirit.

But I have to remind myself that for the most part, with few exceptions, they’re just reg’ler folk, too.  Today they’re enlightened.  Tomorrow they’re swirled up in a twister of materialism, competition and Nielsen ratings.  The day after that they may be enlightened again.  (Not that I think it all happens that fast.  😉  The awakening process is a practice, as is enlightenment.  Imagining that enlightenment is a higher level of awakening, even an enlightened person must continue his Self work.  Humans are only human, after all.

This said, I find that more than any spiritual teacher or guru, the person I need to trust the most is myself.  When I follow my heart I can’t go wrong.  And I can never disappoint myself, because I know I’m perfect – in my own way and in my own time.  I need not worry about the state of someone else’s practice because depending on someone else’s state of awakening only distracts me from my own.  I do my own work and I encourage others to do theirs, in their own way.  As the Buddha said, “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

So we’ll try our best not to judge ourselves or those around us as we all stumble and glide and stumble and glide through life collaboratively.  We can lower our expectations while raising our frequency to find harmony with the perfection that exists in each of us.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa