I am heartily recommending the new book Little Flower Yoga for Kids by Jennifer Cohen Harper; the Layers of Sound exercise below is excerpted from it. Jennifer is the founder of the national Little Flower Yoga program based in New York City and leads the Little Flower Yoga Teacher Training for Children program in the New York City schools.
Jennifer introduces the many meditations and yoga poses that help children improve attention and emotional balance with a thoughtful exploration of neuroscience’s discoveries about attention, psychological research into children and stress, the importance of emotional intelligence for children’s thriving, and practical suggestions for incorporating yoga and meditation practices into a child’s daily routine.
Recommending this book and posting the exercise below lets me share a story about how cultivating one resource for recovering resilience leads to another.
Jennifer and I met again at a book signing at the March 2016 Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, D.C. Jennifer had participated in my Bouncing Back workshop at the Symposium three years ago. Now she had written her own book, Little Flower Yoga for Kids, was pioneering the teaching of yoga in the New York City schools, and was also teaching mindfulness to returning combat veterans in New York City.
Another person came up to us at that moment, introducing herself as a captain in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Germany. She was using my book Bouncing Back and teaching mindfulness to active duty military personnel on her base. This woman (sorry! I didn’t get her name!) and Jennifer realized the common ground they shared in teaching mindfulness to active/returning military and off they went into their own long and fruitful conversation. I love being part of these serendipitous connections.
Enjoy Jennifer’s Layers of Sound meditation, for yourself, for all the children in your life.
LAYERS OF SOUND
This mindful listening practice asks your child to explore what she can hear around her in an intentional way. Our hearing is so sensitive. We don’t have any way to block out sound the way we can close our eyes to reduce what we see. All of the sounds around us are competing for our attention all of the time. Learning to attune our hearing to the sounds that are most important at the moment is a life skill that children are called upon to exercise from the moment they enter school.
1. First, find a still and comfortable position for your body. It’s fine to sit in a chair or lean against the wall. The most important things is that you are comfortable enough to be still for just a few minutes. It may be helpful to close your eyes for this activity. If it doesn’t feel good to close our eyes, let your gaze rest on the ground right in front of you.
2. Now that you are still and comfortable, take a full breath or two to help you get ready for what’s going to come next.
3. The first sounds that we are going to listen for are those that are far away from us. Open your ears as wide as you can make them, and imagine stretching your hearing way out beyond the room you are sitting in, and maybe even beyond the house that room is in, all the way to the outdoors. Listen carefully and find the farthest away sounds that you can hear.
4. When you start hearing sounds, don’t worry about identifying the sound or figuring out what is making the sound. Just notice it exactly as it is. (Give the child a few minutes of silence here.)
5. Now that you have heard the farthest away sounds you can find, bring your hearing ina little bit closer, and find the sounds that are in this house. Again, don’t worry about figuring out what is making the sounds, just listen for them.
6. Next we are going to bring our hearing even closer, to find the sounds that are in this room. Reach your hearing into each corner of the room and see what sounds you can find.
7. After you have found all of the sounds in the room, we are going to bring our hearing to the closest place of all – our own bodies.
8. Pull your hearing all the way to your body. Pull it out of the room and turn it to the sounds that you can find your own body making. Listen carefully. Your body might have a lot to say.
9. After a few moments of listening to your own body, gently open your eyes.
After practicing Layers of Sound, talk with your child about what she heard in each layer. Some children love to use a drawing activity after this practice to express the sounds that they heard, while others like to talk about them. Make sure that your child doesn’t feel any pressure to identify the sounds – if she wants to share them with you she can just make the sounds out loud.
The periods of silence in between each layer of sound are important parts of the activity, but they can be challenging for your child. If your child is finding this activity too long, or is struggling with the silence between layers, you can break up the practice by discussing or drawing what she heard after each layer, instead of altogether at the end of the practice.
Layers of Sound is a wonderful activity to practice before bedtime if your child struggles to fall asleep. Make sure you have introduced the activity during the day when your child is engaged; once it becomes comfortable and is no longer new, it is a very relaxing nighttime practice that can help reduce the impact of noise distractions keeping your child awake at night.