Monday, May 17, 2010

Teaching TZ to breathe

I've tried a few times in the past to get a hopped-up TZ to calm down by stopping and breathing. Sit still. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, three big breaths. This hasn't worked even a little bit, because he has just ended up panting and/or giggling.

Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, I tried one more time a couple of weeks ago. TZ was all silly and wound up and not-listening, very close to being just plain old rude and disrespectful. So I took him into his room and had him breathe, unsuccessfully. Staring desperately out the window, I had a moment of clarity.

"Come here to the window."
"What?" Bouncy, giggly, squirmy.
"Look at this tree. Tell me everything you see."
"Okay. A trunk and some leaves. Are we done?"
"No. Now count the leaves on that twig right there."
"Umm... Twelve. No, thirteen. No... Twelve. Or maybe sixteen."
"Tell me every color you see. Every detail--every hole, every bump, every spot from this part of the trunk right by your face, all the way up to the top."
Now he was engaged.
"Look at this plant next to the tree. Tell me every detail you see."
"Now close your eyes and see if you can feel where your feet are on the floor."
Back to wiggling.
"Keep still and try to feel the edges of your feet. Feel where the floor ends and your feet begin."
"Can you feel it?"

And we moved on to the feeling of his pajamas on his body, his arms on the windowsill, his hair, the top of his head. And then,

"Now breathe in slowly, and feel where your breath goes in your body. Then feel what happens when you breathe out."

One breath in, one breath out, and he started to talk.

Be quiet. Try it again, three more times.

Each time, he appeared to try, then tried to tell me about it. Each time, I made him be quiet and do it again.

"Are you feeling calmer?"
"Uh-huh. Now can I tell you what I felt?"

He had not achieved serenity. He was still his wheel-spinning, mouth-running, tightly-wound little self. But he wasn't quite as obnoxious as he had been minutes earlier. And I think that he may have had a moment--maybe even two or three moments--of total, mindful concentration on his body and his breath. He told me that he noticed that as his inward breath filled his lungs, it pushed a wall down into his stomach, and with his outward breath, that wall came springing back up to push the air out.

Which I think is pretty good for a seven-year-old boy who minutes before was using his inward breath to fill his lungs so that on his outward breath he could sing, "Batman in the kitchen/ Robin in the hall/Joker in the bathroom, peeing on the wall!"

Baby steps.

 Tell me every color you see. Every detail. Every hole, every bump, every spot.

Now, the plant next to the tree:

1 comment:

  1. beautiful...i am breathing deeply and calm. thank you for this gift today.