A few sessions ago, the pupils asked if we could have a tea break sometime during our 90 minute lesson. I told them about the Tea Ceremony and how special it is in the East.
We talked about how each step in preparing tea is an opportunity to notice ourselves: washing the freshly picked herbs, preparing the boiling water, setting up the teapot and cups – all even before we got to the tactile event of holding the warm cup, smelling the aroma, tasting it and letting it flow down to our bellies.
Since that week, one or two pupils are in charge of bringing the fresh herbs and other pupils take the lead in the other segments of the tea break.
We began quite simply, in silence and we enjoyed it. After that, came the request to bring plain cookies. One week it didn’t happen, and we appraised if we wanted to bring it back. They did.
After 3 times of our Tea Meditation Break, barriers have been opened. Our post-mindfulness sharing have deepened.
One pupil remarked that he’d enjoyed a warm relationship with a certain guidance counselor until one day when she was harsh with him. He didn’t understand why. A few days later, they had an opportunity to speak and she re-opened her heart to him (and vice versa).
What does it mean for a 13 year old boy to see an adult who’s been on his side, suddenly turn against him, but then, re-connect? This is a visceral lesson in our humanity. Seeing that life is change, impermanence is what rules us. And we each have a way to deal. We can take a time-out, pause to notice our breathing, or listen to the sounds around us and so doing fill the present moment with what is.
There’s no rule that we have to cling to anger or frustration or disappointment.
Another exercise we tried was to colour a Mandala from the point of view of a certain ’emotion’. I whispered a different emotion to each pupil: frustration, joy, anger, impatience, surprise, sadness and they were to pick colours and use them according to that emotion, without revealing which they’d been given.
This abstract experience is one that I thought would allow them a chance to consider the particular emotion and how to feel it, express it.
Then they all looked at the finished drawings and guessed the emotion. In most of the cases they got it! One child commented that I must have given each of them an emotion opposite to their usual daily state. He’d felt that ‘anger’ was his opposite, since he felt himself to be a happy person. He’d used dark colours, more restricting shapes – opposite to his usual out of the box style.
The girl who worked on ‘surprise’ came up with a half and half mandala, one side black and white, the other a delightful array of primary colours. This offered a surprise to those who looked as well as a surprise to herself that she’d come up with the concept!
As we continue as a small group, pupils are expressing mixed feelings about the relaxation phase. Some adore it, others find it hard to lie still, one doesn’t like it at all.
The winning activity is the active listening to the sound of the Tibetan Singing Bowl. Each takes a turn striking the bowl and they raise a finger when they cease to hear the sound.