Teaching second grade has taught me a lot about children and what these modern-day youth experience. When my students get upset, it is most often because something is out of their control: lost homework, friends who won’t play a certain game, a parent forgetting their lunch . . .
Whatever their reaction—loud, quiet, angry, or sad—I use one tool over and over again: Peace Begins With Me.
Peace: Touch your thumb to your pointer finger.
Begins: Touch your thumb to your middle finger.
With: Touch your thumb your ring finger.
Me: Touch your thumb to your pinky finger.
This simple combination mantra/mudra is so powerful that I taught it to my entire school. It soothes, relaxes, and restores control to the child. Best of all, it can be practiced anywhere and anytime as a way to create a moment of peace in a hectic day.
It can be used to have some reflection during sibling squabbles. And if my students come to class with that look . . . You know the one: squirrely eyes, fidgeting . . . Well, when that happens, I remind them of the mantra. We usually say it three times out loud, then three times in ours hearts and minds.
I have my students close their eyes, and I watch as their shoulders drop, their breathing slows, and their foreheads relax. I love to see one boy in particular, who can’t help but run everywhere, touch his fingers so fast and then become perfectly still. Or another child who puts a little extra pressure on each fingertip, as though she is pressing hard enough to make the words stick into her hands.
This is their time to relax, recharge, and reclaim the one thing that is within their control: their actions.
I find this quick mediation helps both my students and myself. I often imagine what the world might be like if we all reminded ourselves that peace is within our fingertips. It begins with you and me.
Kat Cantelou, yoga instructor and camp counselor.