Take little pauses today and notice the different sounds around you.
In class, I often ask the children to close their eyes for a minute and pay attention to what they can hear.
Writing our discoveries on a large piece of paper and displaying it on the wall.
Each time we practise we notice even more. Our listening skills improve.
Sounds in our bodies, close by and further away.
And then the silence.
Pause and listen now. What did you hear?
Your children may like to join in too, maybe they could draw what they hear or express in a creative way that suits them or perhaps they would rather be silent.
'Wait for the magic to work' says my brother in law John.
'It's my siiinussssessss' I complain.
The trials of a travelling teacher always catching trending germs.
Homegrown garlic hanging out in hall.
8 bulbs peeled and simmered in a pot with 3 potatoes and chicken stock, whizzed, seasoned and sprinkled with a little grated ginger for maximum head clearing.
Spring Plantings for a A Winter Cold Production.
Together we formed an imperfect circle beneath the tree. For a magical minute, thirty Year 1 children and I watched mesmerised as the leaves gently drifted and played in the wind, eventually chasing and then choosing one each to observe more closely inside.
Other adventures included sniffing lavender, mint and thyme in the herb garden.
6 year old Charlie found the best treasure of all, a twig covered in different shades of moss. We passed it around noticing the dark and bright colours. Back in class we learned how to create a mini moss house garden experiment via YouTube.
I found out from the school's garden enthusiast what tree the yellow leaves belonged to in the right hand image. Do you know?
As often is the case a tiny percentage could identify an oak leaf that had snuck into the school.
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
Why Did Arthur Lose His Head?
On December 19th 2017, two days before the Winter Solstice my Random Dialogue's partner, Arthur Partridge, and I stopped off at the The Medicine Garden in Cobham for a late afternoon coffee.
Whilst parking the car, he seemed disorientated and agitated, arguing with a lady about a parking space, when there were plenty of others to choose from. I remained quiet and just observed what was unfolding. He took a while to calm down and was quite upset by the way he reacted and behaved, later thanking me for staying calm. We didn't know at the time, but this irritability and confusion was related to his deteriorating heart condition.
The Possibility of Courage
Today was the first time I have visited the gardens since and on arrival spotted the above sign: courage. Courage was one of Arthur's values, he used to say 'I am the Possibility of Courage, Love and Vitality'
A Beheaded Buddha
In the shopping area, I also noticed a 'whole' Buddha, and whilst checking the price and tilting him back slightly, his head fell off! Left holding the detached head and unable to balance it back on properly, nor spotting anyone to explain the incident to, I slowly edged away. Friends soon arrived for a Random Dialogues meeting and I told them the story, they discovered quite an amusing and interesting scene. We moved beheaded buddha into the Autumn Equinox sunshine and played with different settings on our cameras to capture the moment.
We were joined by his owner, curious to know what had happened. Over the weekend she explained he had been OK and wasn't in this place.
Your thinking determines actions, your actions determine the result
Feeling strangely embarrassed and uncomfortable to tell her the full tale, I remained quiet. We started to talk and found out she had recently returned from a Buddhist meditation retreat, she thought the broken ornament might be a lesson of some sort. As we spoke, I felt worse for simply not having the courage to speak the truth in the first instance, so told her what had happened, and apologised for moving him.
Practising Non Attachment
In Buddhism Non Attachment ultimately leads to care, compassion and freedom.
Have a search for this, you will see it doesn't mean to be cold, non caring or disassociated.
Perhaps the statue is practising non attachment, and my lesson was not to attach to the outcome of having the courage to speak the truth in the first place! What do you think?
The poem 'If' by Rudyard Kipling came to mind, here is the first verse:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
On the 21st of December, Arthur shared the note below on his timeline, we had been reading and discussing the book Buddhism Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen and asking our funny Buddhist friend Yeshe Trinley for clarity:
"Reality is something you can see. You can't conceive of it, but you can perceive it"
A Final Farewell
On the 22nd December 2017, after sipping more coffee together and putting the world to rights, Arthur walked back to his car and shortly after, I discovered him collapsed en route, a team of 3 ambulances were unable to revive him. The coroner confirmed the cause of death was a blocked artery.
As we left the Medicine Garden, Arthur and I took this photo of the sun setting. It's a nice memory to be attached to.
Why Eating Together Enhances Family Wellbeing
The knock on effect of eating together as a family, isn't just that kids usually eat more healthily, studies have found there's a whole host of other benefits including reduced stress, good mental health, improved grades, saving money, better family relationships and greater happiness.
Most parents I work with want to know how to create more calm and gentleness in their homes to promote family wellbeing. Below our ideas on 'How I'' promote this in my family , rather than a 'How To Do It', .only you know what works best for your family. Enjoy our family 'Shamba' image below too!
But I don't Have Time!
Do you enjoy mealtimes together as a family, do you have time to sit together, are you happy with the food choices you make and feel you have good variety and balance, is eating with your kids a nice experience or a chore? My Buddhist Meditation Teacher, said to me when I was training with him: 'no time means no intention'. Perhaps you aren't hungry or wish to eat later? In the long term just sitting and having a small plate and joining in with your child will create longer term healthy eating habits and wellbeing.
Since my kids were old enough to eat we've sat together at mealtimes. From about 6 months, minus the salt, they've pretty much eaten the same softened food as an adult, they made a complete mess, and still often do. Yet it's fun fun and sociable.
What About The Fussy Eaters?
Most children go through stages of 'fussing' over food and it's during these times that we may unintentionally reinforce it, so they end up with longer term picky eating habits. Eating together is more likely to encourage children to explore food more and try things out, especially when they see us modelling how to. Also avoid using this label 'fussy eating' as often it's unintentionally reinforced!
I've been teaching for 20 years and during lunch-breaks have seen many school kids pushing their food around their plate. They find it hard to control their cutlery and can't wait to get away from the table and nor can the lunchtime staff, who pace around with their cloths, waiting for the next year groups to take their places on the benches.
In some schools, staff do eat with the children, placing a high priority on the importance of eating together, modelling how to, communicating deeply and really engaging with one other.
Encouraging Eating Autonomy
What if we looked for more opportunities to give autonomy to our children? By allowing our child more choice we give them some space to be and to take ownership of their eating. By including them in our family decisions we can significantly relax our control and boundaries, and we may discover our children become more relaxed across other areas of their lives, so these skills are transferable.
Make Table Connection and Conversation & Priority
They've never been rewarded with pudding if they eat all their food, I also have a strong aversion to sticker rewards and making my children 'compliant' - if they don't eat there's no fuss about it and if they do it's the same, no attachment to any outcome. We enjoy being at the table with them, food isn't the priority, table conversation and connection is.
Usually food is served from bowls at the table, so they can just help themselves to what they fancy and measure their own portions too. There might also be bread & butter, cheese, crackers and salad on offer.
On Sundays, we sit together and go through calendars and planners in an attempt to get organised. Again a lovely time to connect and communicate as a family. We often write down meals we would all like for the week, and which meals they can help prepare/cook.
Encouraging the children to join in with cooking as often as possible, such as squeezing oranges, grating cheese, making fruit crumbles and teaching them how to handle knives to chop makes them less food adverse and this can be encouraged from a young age. Always looking for opportunities for them to get involved or do it on their own.
From about 3 years of age they've created their own shopping lists. In the early days this really made learning to read and write meaningful, their pictures and words didn't need to make sense it was just part of the process and often we would model how to create the lists. They'd run along the aisles on their own to find things, then be engaged with packing, paying and then unpacking back home. They are still involved at 13 and 11, nowadays they can go to the shops alone and pick up milk, bread etc if we run short and write things we need on the fridge door with a white board pen.
Where Does Food Come From?
Many kids don't know where food comes from. For the past 12 years, we've been privileged to grow vegetables at our allotment, so the kids have been able to sow, grow and eat from scratch.
If you don't have access to a garden or the opportunity to plant a few seeds, maybe see if you can visit a friend who does, or visit an allotment, garden centre or working farm. Most schools do have gardening projects, however I would say it can be rather tokenistic and dependent on the energy and enthusiasm of the staff member in charge.
Encourage children to look also at food labels and consider the ingredients, and even world maps to plot which country food has come from, they might enjoy this clip here.
Look forward to hearing from you to learn more about what inspires your family eating habits, and ways you promote family wellbeing.
Also, love to find out more about you and what you LOVE to do, my linked in profile is here.
Workshops and 1:1 resilience mentoring for children and families listed in my newsletters at yogarascal.com
Solving World Problems Playfully one child at a time'
'An appreciative listener is always stimulating' Agatha Chrisie
A Listening Game to play with children too (ideas from my Mindfulness Teacher Training With Adam Dacey, Mind Space.
Take it in turns to listen to each other for 2 minutes. Just listen while the other person talks. The listener sits in total silence for 2 minutes and takes in as much as possible noting not only what the other person is saying but noticing their body language too.
If the speaker isn't able to speak about anything, just sit together in silence for the 2 minutes.
Then swap roles.
After this discuss. What did you both observe? What was it like to just sit and observe?
It might even be nice to journal and draw the experience too.
Working Creatively, Playfully and Collaboratively with Children and Adults
Boosting Creativity, LOVE and Vitality