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Finding Mindfulness in Small Ways

By Melissa Hyde

As a Challenge to Change teacher, I go into many schools each month leading lessons in yoga and mindfulness. Mindfulness, we tell the children, is learning to be fully present in the moment.

Most children are happy to participate in the lessons, but occasionally I face a child who is resistant to what I have to offer. Having learned that mindfulness can’t be forced, I let those children be and hope they will eventually become intrigued by my lessons and will join in of their own volition. The other day, I was reminded of what it is so important to let children come to mindfulness on their own.

I was leading a group of first graders in their yoga and mindfulness practice, and noticed a little boy wandering around the back of the room. He was obviously not engaged in the lesson, but since he was not bothering or distracting anyone, I let him be and continued to teach the lesson to the rest of his engaged classmates.

I thought for sure that the little boy would join us for the Yoga Nap portion of the lesson, as many initially reluctant children often do, but he surprised me by remaining crouched by the corner of the classroom window where he had been for the past several minutes. While the rest of the students lay peacefully in their Yoga Nap, I walked over to check on him and knelt by his side.

“Are you okay back here?” I whispered.

With his gaze still focused on the corner of the window, he nodded in reply.

I squinted in the light, curious what had his attention, and saw a small spider spinning its web on the lower ledge of the windowsill. It was beautiful and intricate, with sunlight highlighting each carefully formed thread. Together, the little boy and I watched in silence as the busy spider carried on with her very important task. After several quiet moments, punctuated only by the sound of our breath, the little boy turned his head to me and quietly said, “Do you see?”

And the truth was, I did indeed see. While the rest of the class had been learning mindfulness with me through their breath and movement, this little boy had found mindfulness in his own way—through the miracle of a spider spinning its web. He was reminding me that mindfulness can be found everywhere around us—we just have to be present enough to look.

“Yes,” I told the little boy. “I do.”

I gave my new friend a gentle pat on the back to let him know it was okay for him to stay in his corner and continue his vigil, then I returned to the front of the room and brought the rest of the class out of their Yoga Nap. We brought the lesson to a close by bringing our hands to heart center, bowing, and whispering, “Peace.” Even my little friend in the back paused and bowed his head.

When I return to that classroom next month, I hope the little boy decides to give our lesson and activities a try. There is, after all, great value in what we have to offer and enjoy. If he is never persuaded, however, I’m won’t be worried. After all, in sitting with that spider and appreciating her beauty, my little friend showed me he already intrinsically knows what mindfulness is.

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