A few years ago I took my daughters to visit Findhorn, Scotland. Findhorn is an ecovillage and spiritual community nestled way in the Scottish Highlands near Inverness, (https://www.findhorn.org/). Its founding was something of a miraculous story in that three adventurous folks, Eileen and Peter Caddy with their friend Dorothy Maclean pulled their tiny old trailer out to the rather barren sand dunes and began to meditate with the land as they created a garden. Over time, their relaxation and collaboration in listening to the land began to produce giant vegetables. Their 40 pound cabbages and 8 foot delphiniums made the BBC news back in the 70’s!
While this is not only a beautiful example of the power of our mind and mental focus to become fruitful in the midst of barren thoughts, it’s also a story of the power of meditation and relaxation to transform our inner and outer realities.
During our visit, my daughters wanted to bring home a pebble from the beach. I told them, if they consulted the pebble and it felt like it was a “yes, take me home!” then they could bring home a pebble. We began to put them in our pocket to remind ourselves to relax and take a deep breath each time we touched the pebble. Being from such a peaceful place as Findhorn helped us with the association. In fact, those pebbles still sit in our relaxation corner today.
Recently I came across Thich Nhat Hanh’s children’s book, A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles. It is a wonderful small group activity that can be practiced at home or at school! In this book he has created meditations using pebbles. I thought this was a wonderful way to link the Findhorn pebbles I brought for “show and tell,” and to bring a pebble relaxation practice to my groups at school.
Nhat Hanh includes many mindful, relaxing activities that can be done with four pebbles. The pebbles, each representing a different quality of nature, (the freshness of a flower, the stability of a mountain, the calmness of water and the expansiveness of space), are used in various breathing, mindful focus, and relaxation techniques that have the potential to bring calm to wherever you might be reading this book and practicing with your child.
At school this week we tried the first activity in which you select a pebble for each quality. Then, mindfully taking a turn with each pebble, you place it in your hand and begin to breathe in and out while considering that quality within you.
There are poems, a song, and places to draw the qualities that each pebble represents. In addition, there are more qualities suggested for working with the pebbles, (such as qualities of love: love, compassion, joy, and inclusiveness–all which could be the theme/focus topic of that week’s group).
As I was reading the explanation aloud to my group, I could almost feel and hear Thich Nhat Hanh’s tranquil, present and soothing voice. It is written in a simple, clear, sweet manner.
Pebble Relaxation Moments can be a very fun way for your students to “set the tone” and “choose the atmosphere of calm” for group each week. Mindfulness can be taught in the selection of the pebble, to the practice with the pebble, in the activities to follow up and discuss and in the storing of the pebble. For our group, each student decorated a pebble meditation bag that we will use each week moving forward. You might even include rock painting to relaxation music one week! Together, we discussed and came up with a routine in collecting our bags and practicing our Pebble Relaxation Moments, which begin the first five minutes of our group.