Alternate Activity 1: Spiritual Practice - Walking Meditation
Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Chime or bell
- Optional: Books by Thich Nhat Hanh (see Find Out More)
Preparation for Activity
- Identify an open area that can accommodate all the children walking undisturbed. If you lack a large enough appropriate space, consider sending smaller groups to multiple spaces, each with an adult.
- Read the Description of Activity, and other resources such as books by Thich Nhat Hanh (see Find Out More) if needed, to become familiar with concept of walking meditation and how it is done. See Susan Helene Kramer's Meditation page on BellaOnline for a walking meditation for children and related links.
Description of Activity
This activity will engage participants in mindful concentration and introduce them to walking meditation. Walking meditation can be expanded from the very basic process noted here to include more intentional realization of one's surroundings and intentionality around the physical nature of walking, such as paying close attention to the feet and how they work.
Ask the children what they know about meditation and then what they know about walking meditation. Explain briefly that a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh made walking meditation popular. Nhat Hanh is exiled from Vietnam for his peace activities. Show one of his books, if you have one.
Lead the group in a walking meditation designed for children: Arrange the children either in a line, so they can each cross the room back and forth without interference, or in a widely spaced in a circle, so they can walk clockwise. Explain that they are simply going to walk and breathe but they are going to try and time their breathing to their walking. Tell them:
A walking meditation practice develops concentration and balances the body and mind. Everyone will have some time to try. Then we will answer any questions, and everyone will do it again for three to five minutes without interruption.
Ring the chime to begin the meditation. Then, read aloud:
Take a walk at regular speed while letting your arms swing easily back and forth. When the left foot steps forward, the right arm swings forward; when the right foot steps forward, the left arm swings forward.
Breathe in on one step and breathe out on the next step. Or take two steps breathing in and two steps breathing out.
While walking, concentrate on breathing evenly in and out. Concentrate only on the breathing. As other thoughts enter your head, notice them, but return to counting your breath as you concentrate.
Let the group walk for about 20 seconds and then stop them and ask if they have any questions. Answer any that you can. Then say you will ring the chime or bell as a signal to begin and then again when it's time to stop, when you would like everyone to stand in silence for 15 seconds. Tell the group you will let them know when the 15 seconds are up. Encourage everyone just to try their best-meditation is something that takes practice. This first time they might get it right only a few times but assure them you will do it long enough so that everyone will get that chance. Ask them to cooperate by simply walking and breathing.
Ring the chime again to start a longer walking meditation. Then, signal the end. Allow the children to stand in silence for 15 seconds, then ring the chime a final time.
To finish, ask everyone to stretch their arms overhead and then bring them down to their sides. Ask a volunteer to lead the group back to the regular meeting space.
Thank them for trying the walking meditation.
Including All Participants
Individuals with restricted mobility can participate in the breathing aspect of the meditation while they remain seated.