Saturday, July 23, 2011

Zen Garden - Mindful Moments

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” ~ Alan Watts

A zen state is one where we simply exist in the moment, fully present, fully aware, simply content to BE. Children have their zen moments in the midst of their excited outbursts of childhood exuberance. Adults tend to lose their zen nature as they become involved in the daily to do lists and concerns over the past and future

Teaching children as they get older to take time to BE is very important. Creating opportunities for simple pleasures away from the high tech, fast paced lifestyles they are now used to can be a great gift. Taking a moment as you begin to eat to be mindful of the food, the preparation and how it nourishes us, and to offer an intention of gratitude is a very easy way to introduce mindfulness. To chew slowly and allow the sensations of the food to flow over us awakens new awareness. Showing the children, that as we do chores, we can slow down to just focus on the task at appreciate what it is we are working on...awakens a deeper awareness. Multitasking is a good thing, but as a perpetual way of life, it creates undo stress on the mind and body.

We find art projects are pathways to mindfulness for children and adults. The brain shifts in function and even in chemistry as it is allowed to just play. We're not talking so much about a project that has a definite desired result - this can create stress as we measure the finished product. Free flowing creative expression allows the heart to light the way.

With children on the Autistic Spectrum, we have often noticed, when left alone, they are quite Zen like. Very involved and deep into what has captured their focus. Sometimes, we see it expressed as a repetitive activity they use to calm and regulate their sensory systems as their minds try to filter and sort the onslaught of input. We will go to that place with the kids...share the flapping of hands, spinning plates, lining up of cars, the ripping of paper, the humming, the staring at lights through the window blinds, the fascination with the ceiling fans, the discussion of little known facts about a specific insect...somewhere in here is the beauty of being. As we engage, space is made for genuine connection. From here, we may find the child will engage further and shift into opportunities for us to teach or expand the activity. Art type activities of various types can invite a child on the Spectrum to connect with the activity and express. In turn, they connect with others, sometimes explicitly, and other times implicitly. The process unfolds in ways in which we see into one another and hear, even if words are not spoken. The art speaks, whether it was one brush stroke or a canvas full of incredible detail, one dance step or an elaborate routine, because the heart has spoken.

In this project of the Zen Garden, it is fun for the Spectrum child, siblings and friends to use a shoe box, some sand, some interesting objects and just play with their finger in the sand in a quiet relaxed way. Depending on the children, of course, use caution with the objects or watch for any inappropriate behavior with the objects, sand or box.

The girls in this example had fun creating their Zen gardens from stuff laying around. They did some yoga and then sat and "played" in quiet with the Zen Garden. They doodled their fingers in the sand. One used a quartz crystal to draw. A simple, gentle shake of the box allows the process to start anew. Arranging the objects, they found it had a calming affect. An easy, unplugged process of just being. A good stress release for the high strung moments.

For our Spectrum kids, the process is quite intriguing, each expressing and sharing. For the moms and dads, they are amazed how therapeutic it feels to just draw a finger in the sand.

So in the height of our summer heat, find a cool spot, a few supplies, BREATHE deeply, let go, and BE in a Zen state for a bit. Amazing what it will do for you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rock Art - Magic Colors

Here is a project kids love. Take a walk in the park with the kids and look for small stones. Collect the stones and bring them home. Have the kids clean the stones, and then they can sort for size and shape. Let stones dry.

Parent, you can heat the oven to 250 Degrees F and get out a cookie baking sheet. Place some foil on the pan. Have the kids place stones on the pan. Place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Parents, remove the pan and stones from the oven and sit in safe place, so kids do not get burned. Take a stone from the pan with tongs and place on a paper plate and then have the child place a wax crayon on the hot stone. Wow! It melts! Use one color or many...swirl the colors...experiment. The colors may run down the side and around the stone, creating a colorful effect.

Stones will cool down after 5 minutes, so you might want to keep the extra stones in the oven while you are creating. When ready get out the next stone and have fun!

The waxy, magical nature of the colored stones is alot of fun and they make cute gifts. We gave ours to people in a meditation class, and they loved the uplifting, joyous child energy in the the stones! A good way to connect the child within.

For the stones you keep, you can decorate houseplants, the garden, table, or anywhere a little unique splash of color would be great. Enjoy!

Materials needed: Stones, crayons, baking pan, oven, oven mitts or potholders, tongs, paper plates & mix with IMAGINATION
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Tshirt Art Time

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Looking for some Cool Summer fun? Need to take a break from the outdoor activities? Need to get the kids moving? Or need to channel the kids' energy? Here's a simple fun project: T-Shirts!

Materials needed: Shirts, fabric paints, glitter, sequins, any other cool things you want on shirt & IMAGINATION

Parents and kids, please make sure you protect the surface where you do your creations. Let your creativity flow. We did splatter paint in the backyard under the shady tree, which made for some great effects.

Set the shirts aside to dry. Wear and enjoy!

(Parents, be careful when washing...handwash or delicate cycle suggested, air dry, to protect your creations!)