Photo by Tycho Burwell
Children (just like adults) are faced with events and moments in their lives that are difficult and sometimes can feel almost unbearable. As a parent and a kids yoga and mindfulness teacher I try give my kids the tools to cope in these moments as it is often the ability to handle the ups and downs that allows us to find contentment and live life to its fullest. One way to do this is through the story of the Lotus flower. The national flower of India, the lotus begins its journey each day rooted in the mud and muck under water and travels upward. It breaks through the surface of the water to open clean and pristine with no sign of the dirt from which it arose. In the evening it closes up again often submerging back under the water into the dirt. The lotus flower presents a wonderful opportunity to give kids a concrete example of resilience and forgiveness and cultivating an ability to get through inevitable tough times. Here are some ways to use the story of lotus flower in your kid’s classes or at home with your own children.
What is your mud?
Perhaps it’s best to begin this conversation by describing the lotus and showing pictures of the flower to your kids. This alone will get their attention, as it is a beautiful specimen. You can explain to the kids that we all have mud in our lives like the lotus. We all have times that make us feel upset or stressed. Ask them to share a time when they have felt “muddy” prompting them to share an event in their lives that was unpleasant and the feelings that go with the mud. Sharing an example from your own life is a great way to get kids to feel comfortable talking about themselves in this way. It can be an argument, a loss, a moment of regret whatever you feel is an appropriate challenge to share.
How do we shake it off?
Once you’ve identified the “mud” meaning the challenges and the difficult emotions you can talk about the way the lotus is able to rise above the dirt and open up clean and beautiful. This image is a great way to get kids thinking about how to change their own perspective and their situation. Can they come up with some suggestions to shake off the dirt, handle the heavy emotions, change or approach the situation that causes them to feel stress and discomfort?
Again, using your own examples and your own ways of coping can prompt children to come up with some great ideas of their own. Maybe there are times to let things go and times to “do” something to change a situation. Making a chart with the children of situations and strategies can be a good way to have something concrete to refer to and remember when times are tough.
Guided lotus meditation
Once you have identified both the “mud” and the many ways to rise above it you can introduce a meditation exercise to help children imagine what it’s like to be a lotus flower and introduce the idea that we often need discomfort and challenge in order to grow and each day is a chance to start over. The children can either be seated in lotus or easy pose or relaxing in savasana. If at home this is a lovely way to wind down to sleep lying in bed.
The script can go something like this:
• Close your eyes.
• Place your hands on your belly and feel it rise and fall with your breath.
• Imagine you are a lotus flower, in the mud underneath the surface of the water.
• With every inhale and exhale you begin to make your journey towards the surface.
• As you grow you thank the mud for giving you what you need to rise above it. Past it.
• On your next exhale picture yourself bursting through the layer of water above you.
• Each of your petals unfolds, clean and beautiful.
• Once you have fully opened you feel yourself receiving the warmth of the Sun.
• Inhale and exhale as you feel warmer and more beautiful.
• Now imagine it is evening and your petals slowly fold as you make your journey back beneath the surface.
• Continue breathing slowly in and out, remembering that tomorrow you will have another opportunity to rise from the muck and open your petals under the sun.
There is also a lovely mudra or hand position children can practice in other poses such as Tree or in meditation while seated when they need to feel connected to their roots while they balance and expand their hearts.
Bring the heels of the palms together then bring the tips of the pinkies to touch each other then the thumb tips without touching your knuckles and spread the rest of your fingers open like the petals of a flower.
However you use it the lotus flower is a tool from the natural world that can teach so much to kids (and adults). To me the lotus is what we aspire to be and who we innately are.
Susan Verde is a yoga and mindfulness teacher, and author of the picture books The Museum, I Am Yoga and the forthcoming The Water Princess. She lives in East Hampton, New York with her three children.