Two unforgettable and inexpensive mindfulness and happiness Christmas presents for children

By giving these gifts this Christmas you can make some young children happy throughout the year and help them learn mindfulness too!

A Mind Jar

Ingredients:

  • One large jar with a screw-on watertight lid.
  • A small amount of coloured dye. Blue works best.
  • Some silver and gold plastic confetti.

Instructions:
Fill the jar with water, add the blue dye until you get the shade and colour of a light sky.

Add the confetti. Screw on the lid until the jar is sealed tight. Turn it on its top and leave it overnight to test it is watertight.
Get a piece of paper. On one side, write “Happy Christmas, this is your mind jar. See the other side of this paper for instructions”. On the other side write these instructions: “Turn the jar over, watch the twinkling, star-like confetti spin and turn as it slowly drifts to the bottom. Notice how quiet your mind becomes. Turn the jar over again and repeat for as long as you want.
Happy Christmas from (add your name here)”.
Wrap it up and give for Christmas to a child.
Their mum will love you forever because it keeps them quiet for ages!

A Happy Jar

Ingredients:

  • One small notebook.
  • One large jar with a lid that the notebook will fit in.
  • A small pair of plastic scissors. (the type you give to children for craft projects)

Instructions:
Cut a hole in the top of the jar. The hole needs to be large enough to easily post a small piece of paper through it. About big enough to get a 50p coin in. Be careful when you cut the hole and make sure there are no sharp edges left.
Write these instructions in the front page of the notebook.
: “EVERY day, write down three NEW things (don’t write down the same thing twice) that either make you happy, that you appreciate, or that you feel grateful for. (If you’re not sure about what any of this means, ask mummy)
You can’t write down the same happy things twice, so you may need to find very small things that have happened in the last day”.
Cut each new thing you have written out into a paper strip using the plastic scissors and post it into the jar.
Notice how the happy jar soon fills up.
When you’re feeling sad or confused, go to the happy jar and take out as many paper strips as you need to help you to feel happy again. Read them, add another three and put them all back in the jar.
Happy Christmas from (add your name here)”.

This will make some young children very happy and you can have fun making it too.

Have a Great Christmas!

meditating on gratitude or appreciation

Gratitude and appreciation are things that seem to not be taught out of a religious context.

This is a shame as gratitude is a valuable counterweight to all of the negative context of modern life.

Modern life can easily become one of conflict, both internal and external. Gratitude is an acceptance of the beneficial things in life and helps us to realise that accepting life *as it is*, is as much about accepting the good things as the bad.

There are a number of gratitude meditations. The most commonly known are Metta Bhavana (loving-kindness), Buddhist meditations.

I have a meditation that I use, and which my students really enjoy.
Interestingly for a meditation, you may need to start with a few minutes of thought.

Gratitude meditation

Think of someone or something for which you can feel grateful for or appreciate strongly.

Allow yourself to feel the feeling, the sensation, that comes with those thoughts of gratitude or appreciation.

Bring to mind an image of your family and friends.
Allow yourself to feel that same gratitude when you think of them.

Bring to mind your community, the people that you see every day yet don’t know their names: shopkeepers, commuters, colleagues, people working in service industries.
Allow yourself to feel that same gratitude when you think of them.

Bring to mind your country and all the people in it.
Allow yourself to feel that same gratitude when you think of them.

Bring to mind all of the seven billion people in the world going about their daily lives, imagine all of the creatures, plants and animals that we share the world with, all part of one extended family spinning on a globe through space around the sun.
Allow yourself to feel that same gratitude when you think of them.

Hold that thought…

The Miracle of Grace

I didn’t know what grace was until just recently.

One reference that enlightened me was from Adyashanti in his brilliant book “The End of your World”.

Adya explains that grace isn’t about having things handed to you on a plate but that there is a thing that he calls “fierce grace”.

Fierce grace is what happens when life slaps you down for being inauthentic. Whenever we delude ourselves about anything, we create pain for ourselves. That pain is designed to force us to realise our delusions. When we realise them we can then allow ourselves to become authentic again. I can personally testify that this is absolutely a characteristic of life. There is nowhere to hide from reality. However we try to avoid it, through cosseting ourselves with luxuries or traveling or any other “lifestyle experience” the consequences of our refusal to accept life exactly as it is will cause us pain, sooner or later.

The other source of an understanding of grace came from a brilliant TED lecture by Father David Steindl-Rast which you can  view here.

it is actually a talk on gratefulness but during it Father David explains that grace is inherent in every moment in our lives. The miracle of grace comes because each moment is an opportunity. An opportunity to experience the outcome of our choices (see fierce grace above) and if we make the wrong choice, we get another moment and the opportunity to make another choice.

Can you see how all of this works to simply make us more aware of the present moment and enable us to become enlightened?

That, is the miracle of grace.

The Fisherman’s Parable

Morro Bay Sunset - Harbor ViewAn American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied “only a little while”. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, Señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I can help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But Señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, Señor?”

The American laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, Señor? Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”