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Archive for June, 2010

Photo taken by Angela at KCL, Summer 2008.

For a number of years, I have gone on a retreat every summer.  I frankly don’t know what I did during prior summers, because now, in my mind:

summer=retreat

Retreat, of course, is not the same thing as vacation.  I’ll take family vacations this year both before and after retreat.  My family will start out running around the wilds of New Hampshire and taking a dip in the lake each night.  At the end of summer, I will travel to the shore with all of the women in my family, for our annual “girls week.”  Those are the bookends.

In the middle will be my sacred time.  Time to disconnect from Twitter and facebook and this blog.  Time to experience the present moment in Vermont at a very special place called Karme Choling.  I’m thinking of starting my Twitter/facebook/blog retreat even sooner than that… like now.

So, if you don’t hear from me, it’s likely because I’m paring away… gradually.

A friend of mine chided me for saying I was “checking out” for the summer.  That’s not what retreat is about.  It’s actually “checking in.”  Stepping away from daily activities and away from your home helps allow more space for that checking in to happen, and happen in a deeper way.

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Summer days have just about arrived, with all of their sunshine and heat.  For those of us with children at home (or grandchildren visiting), we turn our thoughts to kid-friendly activities…  What to do with those children over the next couple of months? Consider the winning outdoor pastime of bubble blowing.

Think back to your own childhood and the joys of blowing bubbles…  What do you remember about it?

Some kind of magic happens when we blow bubbles.  This simple activity delights people of all ages.  But what happens if you do it slower?  With mindfulness?  Really considering each breath and each bubble?

Last week, I guided some first graders in mindful bubble blowing.  I used Amy Saltzman’s “Bubbles” recording on her Still Quiet Place CD to prepare the children for our activity.  Then, we walked out to a gazebo on campus and sat out around the edge.  I passed out the bubbles and asked them not to open them yet, but to feel the container.

How does it feel in your hands?  Cool?  Smooth?

Then we mindfully unscrewed the cap.  How does it feel to be opening the bubbles?  Are you noticing the ridges in the cap?  Do you feel excited to be beginning this activity?

We took our time with that first dip into the soapy liquid, noticing all the while our wet, slimy, sticky fingers.  When we pulled out the wand, we waited.  We waited.  We watched.  Noting all of the wonderful colors in the swirls of liquid trapped in the wand, stretched across the circle.  Then, we took mindful breaths and blew.  Noticing our in-breath and our out-breath, we blew bubbles a few times — mindfully.

Next, I asked the children to notice the bubbles they were blowing.  Are there many bubbles?  Just one?  How large are they?  How small?  What colors do they reflect?  Do you notice anything else about them?

We carefully watched where the bubbles went.  Do they land near or far away?  Is the wind blowing them in a certain direction?  Or back at your face?!

We payed attention to what happens to our bubbles.  Do they float away until we cannot see them anymore?  Do they land on the grass and last a few minutes?  Do they pop immediately?  Notice how quickly they go away.

Last, we payed attention to how we were feeling.  We took the feeling and blew it into the bubbles — and watched our thoughts and feelings float away with those irridescent orbs.  We repeated this several times and then shared about which feelings we blew into our bubbles.  Some children blew bubbles of sadness at the ending of the school year, some blew happiness at the start of summer, others blew feelings of sheer delight at our outside activity on a sunny day.

Regardless of their feelings in that moment, all of the children learned some things from the exercise:

If we pay attention to what we are doing, the experience is somehow different.

We don’t have to hold onto all of our thoughts and feelings.

I hope that bubble-blowing is never the same for them…

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