From Surat To Baroda: Kindness Circles
As I recollect now, what a wonderful time it has been with the 5th graders every week since last 3 months. We meet on Wednesdays for an hour, but the sessions still don't have a name. For convenience sake we call it kindness circle.
It all started with an idea during a youth retreat in Surat to have Awakin circles for parents and kids. The intention was to create a non-competitive atmosphere within the school eco-system. I wished to open a space within the kids where they could feel complete and explore various dimensions about themselves. The Director of the school was very much willing to provide us the time and space for this experiment.
The time flow of the circle is in the order of Head, Hands and Heart where we start our circle with few minutes of guided breathing meditation followed by a video or a story that helps built a context for them to reflect upon few questions together such as what is kindness? What is mindfulness? How are we all different and yet equal? What is evolution? How can we be better human beings? How would you want the earth to be?
During the reflections, we had a mindfulness bell, a reminder to bring us back to the present moment followed by an activity which involves painting, clay art, creative writing or activities related to awareness through the body. This is the best time for the kids. Fully involved, they create unimaginable art work, and have some beautiful insights on life. The nature of the activities was such that they would not even think of copying or competing with any other kid. For example, The clay activity was for making something which will act as a reminder to be present (like the mindfulness bell).
Once we asked them that if they found a 50 rupee note on the street, what they would do. Also what are other forms of capital apart from money? What is richness and poverty? It was very interesting to notice how everyone in the beginning thought of giving food and clothes to the ‘poor’. And later they found how the ‘poor’ are ‘rich’ in other aspects and what they could learn from them.
We did an engaging activity on awareness through the body where the kids were asked to evolve from single cell to a human being by actually being that. We started with being amoeba, then forming multicellular organism, then a fish, snake, crocodile, mammal, monkey, ape and finally a human. They loved to act out all these forms of life and also evolving out of it! We ended that circle by asking them to evolve further as human beings by walking slowly and being aware of everything happening around them.
Each time before we close the circle, we give them a question or an act of kindness as part of some homework. During their summer break, we asked them to do 4 acts of kindness as listed in the Smile Deck, one act each for the world, stranger, family and one self. Astonishingly, almost everyone completes the homework that we gave and shared stories! Finally we close the circle by singing a peace prayer together. Personally, this is my favorite part. It creates a collective energy of oneness within and without.
Highlights from the last circle: Our friend Pancho’s ‘one earth’ flag reached my sister and we discussed with the kids about unity and diversity. One earth, 7 billion worlds! The question for reflection was, how would you want the earth to be like? It’s amazing to see their imagination unfold on paper!