With a very generous birthday gift card in hand, I brought my children to a local bookshop to choose some new books to bring home. They flipped through glossy pages and sat on the carpet of the store while I read aloud; they brought Amelia Bedelia books, books about talking crayons, books about cookie-baking dinosaurs and books about animals with missing hats up to the counter. I added another book to the pile, one that is, perhaps, a little less silly but just as creative and imagination-stirring. Planting Seeds, by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a book about practicing mindfulness with children, and I brought it home alongside our pile of bright and bold stories with the hopes of sharing the quiet and simple ideas within with my family.
Learning About Connections
Practicing mindfulness is beneficial in a number of ways, but it can be a challenge to explain and then actually practice it with young (squirmy, excitable) children. I enjoyed the variety of exercises and anecdotes the book offers, but one especially caught my eye.
It begins with a peanut butter ball recipe and ends with the connectedness of all creations (!) but the path it follows to get there is a clear and thought-provoking one. How are we connected to a peanut butter ball (and not just in a six degrees of Kevin Bacon kind of way)? The answers (sun, water, work, to name a few) in the book reminded me of a poster my daughter has in her classroom.
Composed of children’s drawings and transcribed words, it displays her and her classmates’ ideas of their community. The classroom is in the center, along with themselves, their teachers and the school, but it expands to every corner of the page and includes things I would never have thought of – the sun, rain, the trees outside, families at home.
Even at a young age, the children showed their understanding of how connected we all are, how we all need the sun to survive, and rain, how each of us are shaped and helped by our neighbors, friends and families, who in turn our shaped and helped by the people around them. We don’t live in a vacuum; we are all connected to everything around us.
As the book explains, it is important to remember we are all connected so that we remember to care for one another. So that we don’t feel lonely. So that we spread our love.
Your Choices And Actions Have Impact
The author of the book is a Buddhist monk, but the idea of connection can mesh with any religion (or no religion at all). It simply serves to remind us that our actions and choices have an impact far greater and further-reaching than we may realize.
This can affect small decisions (buying a cup of fair-trade coffee, for instance) and influence large ones (such as becoming a foster parent), as well as help us to remember that what may seem like a small decision to us might make a huge difference to someone else. When our actions and choices are conscientious and positive ones, they spread that kind of attitude to everything (literally, everything!) around us.
When we remember that we are connected to one another, we give ourselves strong reasons for acting with compassion, patience and kindness. Think about someone you might struggle in your relationship with. How are you connected, in the greater sense? How can you remember to care for them, and for yourself? When I’m feeling frustrated or angry with others, I see that community picture in my head, bright with squiggles and magic marker suns. Nothing, and no one, was excluded from that pre-school community. What a lovely reminder that we are all connected, that we all belong.[Photo Credit: whologwhy]