Hey there! Today I want to share with you a family activity that can bring a lot of peace and connection to your family members. It is based on the book “A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles” by Thitch Nhat Hanh. I highly recommend getting the book, as it is beautifully illustrated and it describes variations on the activity I am about to share with you, in a way that is easy to understand even for young children.
Why a family meditation? A bit of background information.
Both my eldest daughter and me are quite sensitive. And by that I don’t mean “just” highly empathetic, but also sensitive to different kinds of stimulation, like loud noises or a very busy environment. If we get over-stimulated, we get frustrated and this can translate into negative behaviors. For me, this usually means becoming passive – aggressive (the classic “what’s wrong, love?” “NOTHING.”) or snappy. For LM it means crying and melt-downs most of the time. Other times it can be anger or becoming snappy with us. Obviously, not taking care of our moods and reaching our limits is no fun either for us or the other family members.
I have noticed that mindfulness practices help a great deal with being more present and aware of how my environment is, what kind of stimuli there are, how my body and mind reacts to them. Luckily, LM is also very open to mindfulness and I ‘ve found different things that help her center and ground. I am also really glad that VJ, even though 3 years younger, likes to join us when we have our little meditation or yoga or creative sessions.
I feel that being able to ground one’s self is a very important life skill. And therefore a great gift to give our children. And since children learn by example, practicing mindfulness as a family is a wonderful way to pass on that skill, while bonding and spending quality time together. Ok, on to the activity.
The Four Pebbles Meditation
So, here’s how we did it. In the book there are four key images coupled with four key words: flower/ freshness, mountain/stability, water/reflection and space/freedom. There are detailed explanations in the book. For example, it goes into detail about how calm waters reflect things as they are, while if we are angry, like a sea with waves or a lake with ripples, then our reflection is distorted. So if we are angry, maybe we can’t see things as they really are. Or for space, it analyses how giving space to the people we love means that we give them freedom to be who/how they want to be. Or when talking about the mountain, the book refers to stability and how we can offer it to the people around us, by being reliable. Ok, you get the general idea. Moving on.
The guide of the meditation (that would be me, for our family) hands out a piece of paper with four sections (you fold it in half and then each half, in half) and asks the family members to draw themselves as: a flower, a mountain, water and space.
Once the drawings are done, the guide asks the participants to choose a pebble for each image. We have quite a few gemstones in our collection, but plain river stones will do. They are probably even better, actually, as they have those calming, round, smooth shapes and are a nice size to fit in your palm. If you don’t have any stones or pebbles at hand, marbles or beans will also do.
Top to Bottom: VJ, who turns 4 in June, started drawing from the right side, first her flower then the mountain that is a volcano, her sea with seaweed at the bottom and her space, with a rocket, that she was super-excited about and equipped with all the necessities including a water bottle and an apple for the astronauts to eat. Next is LM’s, who turns 7 in June and was sitting next to me and apparently taking some inspiration from me. I love how big the sun is in all her pictures, even in the “night mountain”. Next is mine, turning 36 in June, if you must know. I kept my drawings simple as I know LM is a perfectionist and gets discouraged and overwhelmed if she admires work she sees, but can’t yet achieve the same level. The last one is N’s, turning 38 in August. He is the one of us with the most calmness in his mind. He is very present in the moment, and though that’s not always ideal for future planning and avoiding disasters, he is a great balancing force for our family. I love the simplicity and clarity of his lines and who wouldn’t love his cute frog?!
The guide asks everyone to close their eyes while holding the first stone in their hands and try and think of the image (the flower), while breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.
The guide then narrates about the flower. For example: “I am a flower. I am fresh and soft. I feel the cool dew on my leaves and the wind blowing softly through my pedals. I am a flower. My roots are in the ground, the sunshine warms me”. Then the guide asks the participants to do a few more breaths with their own pace and slowly open their eyes, to put the pebble on the drawing of the flower. The process is repeated with the other three stones.
Once all four pebbles are on their place, we bow to the stones to show our gratefulness that they helped us in our practice. You could also opt for saying “thank you” or “namaste”, whatever feels more comfortable to you.
We all loved it and felt calm and connected by the end of it. Well, to be 100% honest, VJ got a bit bored/tired by stone n.4 but she did surprisingly well keeping her eyes closed and breathing the right way.
Next, we followed the book instructions to make little sachets for our pebbles.
LM loves sewing and she did a great job. VJ had trouble with it, because the thread was quite thick and she had a hard time pulling the needle through the thick-ish fabric as well, so I made hers.
And here is N., making his own! He never sews so it was a great opportunity to show the girls how nice it is to try out new things, even if we make mistakes. And how important it is to persist. He said he enjoyed it and went into a flow while doing it and we all agreed that this was also a sort of meditation.
And that’s mine, with my pebbles inside.
A tip: the fabrics we use are all thrifted. Whenever I go to a thrift store and see a fabric that I like, I get it. They don’t take up much space, they are super cheap compared to buying them new and they always give a happy touch to our crafting projects. So, you see a cool fabric at the second-hand store? Get it!
In case you have been following this blog for a while and wonder where ES has been during this activity, she has been sleeping in the wrap, curled up on me 🙂
So, even in a crazy family of five, or maybe even more importantly in a crazy family of five, taking the time to meditate, ground and center is both possible and really important. Give it a try 🙂