Calm Waters, Calm Minds

a reflection by AMY McDONALD

On Sunday 3 September five children took part in the St Marks’ children’s programme. The activities were prepared by Ida Silkenat and themed to link with the water communion service.

We started by reading a story about Buddha, which I believe was also shared in the main service. It talked about one of Buddha’s disciples who was unable to collect water for Buddha to drink as the mud from the bottom of the lake had been churned up. After returning to the lake a number of times, the mud eventually settled back to the bottom and the disciple was able to collect some drinking water. Buddha told the disciple, ‘Your mind is like the lake. Sometimes it gets churned up and disturbed, but if you let it be, it will settle back down and be calm and clear again.’

We talked with the children about how our thoughts can sometimes feel out of control, but that if we take time to be quiet and still it can help clear our minds and settle down our thoughts. All the children made a ‘calm bottle’ to help them with this, a bottle with water, glue and glitter. When shaken, all the glitter gets churned up but if you leave it a while the glitter settles back to the bottom of the bottle. Watching the glitter settle is wonderfully calming.

Small children can have pretty big feelings, and it must be overwhelming for them to try to wrap their heads around our complex world. It’s great that awareness of mindfulness is building; it’s a tool the children will need as they grow. I’ll be the first to admit that being quiet and still doesn’t come naturally to all of us though. There’s also room for lots of noise and joyful chaos in life, as evidenced by the children’s peals of laughter whilst stirring the glitter and glue and the energetic game of chase which followed the creation of the calm bottles!

It was great to share this activity with the children – they absolutely loved the mess of it all - and my own kids have been proudly showing us their ‘stormy’ and ‘calm’ bottles all week. What a wonderful way of helping the children gently reflect on mental wellbeing – giving them a tangible tool and a new vocabulary to help describe their thoughts and feelings.