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Weaving the Magic Circle:
Teaching Spirituality to Children

by Kamala Alister

"Make a magic circle," I sing. Children gather quickly on the carpet from their places around the classroom. "Take three steps around." They sing with me now and we step together, "I...2...3." "Pass the magic signal", we sing together. I press the hand of child next to me. He passes the "squeeze" on to the next person and everyone waits with anticipation as it works its way around.. "Quietly sit down." Everyone sits cross-legged in a circle. This is the beginning morning circle with "Little Family" at the Ananda Marga River School in Maleny. I enjoy the challenge of bringing spiritual concepts, meditation and yoga into the children's lives, in a child-appropriate way, to help them feel centred and connected.

"Does everybody remember the snake posture?" I ask. Children lie on their bellies and push up their heads with a hissing sound. Its the "cobra" yoga posture. "The cat?" The get on all fours and arch their back with a meow."The palm tree?" They balance on one leg with hands above head in the "tree" posture. "Good, now we're ready for the story. Once there was a cuddly cat (they all do the cat pose) and a slippery snake (they do the cobra pose) in a forest filled with palm trees (they jump up into the tree pose.)" As the story progresses they "act out" the story while moving from pose to pose with each mention of snake, cat and tree. By the end they've had a wonderful flexibility workout and are ready for more!

Meditation time. The children sit with legs crossed, hands in lap, back straight, eyes closed. We sing one of our meditation songs. "i feel love, I feel it all around me. I feel peace like the great open sea. I feel love, it is all I can see. I feel joy, I feel it flowing through me!" The children sing and do hand motions with the words. The song gets quieter and we change the words to a Sanskrit chant which means "Love is all there is." Soon we are just whispering, and then I ask the children to sing the song inside their head only. I ask them to listen with their "inside" ears to the sound of the mantra and to use their "inside" eyes to see a loving light around them. The room falls silent. An occasional child fidgets or opens her eyes, and closes them as soon as I look over at her. On some days I walk quietly around the room, and place a small paper star on the third eye of each child who is sitting quietly. (Naturally anyone who has their eyes open at that point, quickly closes them so they can get a star, too!) After a long two minutes for these 5, 6 and 7 year olds, I begin to sing quietly again and they sing along. A few keep their eyes closed and remain in meditation until I remind them they can open their eyes.

Some days we practice mantra meditation so that children can experience their mind getting very still and quiet. Mantra meditation is a difficult skill that develops concentration and relaxation with potential rewards of inner peace and a sense of spiritual connection. On other days we use guided visualisations. Children love to go on an "Inner journey" with their imagination. Visualisations are powerful and very important for children. The images of the Inner Journey, used with a little bit of skill and creativity, can help comfort, teach, relax and inspire. But simply the process of conjuring up images with the imagination is vital to building children's brain power. TV's, movies and computer too often provide ready-made images, depriving the mind of the opportunity to invent its own pictures and robbing children of important creative skills.

Morning Circle at the Ananda Marga River School in Maleny in the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands, is the part of the curriculum that helps develop "Inner Me." For the fifty children from preschool to year 7, there are activities throughout the day designed to help children develop all parts of their personality: Feeling Me, Creative Me. Thinking Me, Active Me and Helping me as well as "Inner me" During Inner Me time especially songs, stories and games are the main teaching tools, especially for the younger children. Morning Circle stories this term have included stories such as 'Granny Goes to the Mountains." In this story a grey-haired "Granny' puppet wakes up on a spring day and decides she wants to go meditate in the mountains. Along the way she walks down the road, over the river, through the rain forest, and up the steep mountain. We sing a song for each part of her journey. Finally arriving at the beautiful mountaintop, she sits amidst the beauty and goes deep within (now the children sit ready for meditation.) A bird flies by and Granny is so still, the bird makes a nest in her hands. The bird feels so much peace and love in Granny's folded hands that she lays a tiny egg (I place a small stone in each child's folded hands.) She realises that she must now stay very still, so as not to disturb the bird and its precious egg, so she continues to meditate SO peacefully. After many days, the egg hatches and the birds fly away. Granny finally opens her eyes, stretches and walks back down the mountain, through the forest, down the stream and back home, singing along the way. ... In other days in meditation, I remind the children to sit as quietly as Granny!

A favourite game with all ages at the River School is the intuition game. Four coloured pieces of paper hang behind three volunteers who face the rest of the class. I point at one colour so the rest of the children can see and ask them to mentally "send" the colour to the children at the front. Then the children at the front take an "intuitional" guess at what colour I have chosen. Children that answer correctly stay in front for another round, while those who get it wrong choose someone else to take their place. Some children (and teachers) stay up for five or six rounds. They are learning how to listen to the voice of their intuition!

Teachers who meditate regularly with their children say it makes a remarkable difference in the classroom. When we hone our "inner" senses we balance the constant pressure of our world to find happiness outside of ourselves, and learn to search within for lasting peace.

Thanks to: Vistara School teachers, Trudi Cawley-Muir, Michael Haigh and the "Circle of Love Manual" for ideas presented here. The Ananda Marga River School is located on 25 acres of rain forest an hour outside of Brisbane.
For more information, contact the school by e-mail at: amschool@squirrel.com.au, visit our web page (www.suncoast.com.au/Maleny/AnandaMargaRiverSchool), or simply ring on (07) 5494 3559.

 

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