Spiritual Work with Children/Experience of Work with Psychic Self-Regulation in Groups of Children and Parents in the City of Brno (Czechia)
Experience of Work with Psychic Self-Regulation in Groups of Children and Parents in the City of Brno (Czechia)
The original material used for developing the program for our classes was the earlier publications by Dr.Antonov. We also relied on our experience of teaching based on the system of psychic self-regulation developed by Dr.Antonov, on our experience of teaching in the preschool, and on our love for dance and poetry. We also used the books listed in the bibliography of this book [46-56].
The course of classes outlined below is intended for three months of work. The group is composed of children of 5-10 years old (12-15 people), of their mothers and young grandmothers, as well as of “assistants” — girls of 12-15 years old. Classes are held once a week in the school gym. Each class lasts at least 2 hours.
The program of the classes is the following:
1. Introduction (introductory meditation).
2. Main part:
b) psychophysical exercises,
c) spontaneous dance,
d) meditative games,
e) physical exercises (Hatha Yoga asanas, etc.),
f) motion games (in the gym or in a park),
3. Final part:
a) display of slides accompanied by music,
b) listening to music,
c) fairy tales,
e) role play games (playing of fairy tales, situations, etc.), motion games,
f) conversations with parents, final meditations, and so on.
Each particular class does not include all points of the program.
The main goal of the classes is to develop in children love for parents, friends, nature, and for everything living. Conversations with parents are also aimed at this purpose.
Introductory meditation. This is an exercise when children wish joy and love to everything living. They visualize a sun inside the chest and begin to caress everything with its rays-hands. We have enriched it with another exercise called “pouring out of the pot”. It is performed as follows: everybody sits on their heels, slowly bows the head to the floor and “pours out” from it everything that is not supposed to be there (including, in case of adults, thoughts about work and home). Both children and adults like this analogy — their heads as beautifully painted pots with handles, which they need to empty of dirty water in order to fill them with fresh and pure one.
This introduction harmonizes the group. Some children and adults began to use it at home for positive emotional attunement.
It has become a tradition in our classes — to send rays of sunny love to the absent members of the group.
The main part of the program includes frequent alternation of motion and rest. It is most suitable for the children’s form of work. It includes brief relaxations, during which all participants “breath with their tummies” like kittens who curled up into purring balls or like rabbits trying to catch their breath after running. Usually almost all children and adults actively participate in this game, getting accustomed to the roles of animals. If some hyper-active children try to run away to gymnastics apparatuses (which attract them very much), then we solve this problem by charging these children with leading roles in games.
During relaxations we never force children to stay in static postures or with closed eyes for a long time. It is important to note that during such exercises, the majority of the children sit together with the mother, grandmother or with a girl-assistant, which facilitates the performance of the exercises significantly. Contact with a close senior person is an important emotional factor for children, which they lack in many cases.
If we want to console children in case of falling, bruise or collision, we embrace and stroke them. This exercise becomes one of the most favorite ones. It develops in children kindness, compassion, tenderness, caring attitude towards each other. It is an excellent means of ethical and emotional development as well as one of the means of socialization.
Warm-up. To warm up, we use motion and meditative games, running, dynamic exercises of Hatha Yoga.
Psychophysical exercises. They consist in combination of physical movements with self-suggestion. For the purpose of our work with children, they were modified, for example, by adding the following texts:
“Seed sprouts, young plant grows, flower bud opens, flower grows to the sun…”
Or: “Hatchling breaks free from its shell, stretches its little wings, and finds itself in the sunlight!…”
Or: “We are flowers; we bathe in the sunlight and become filled with it so that later we may give it as fragrance and nectar — to bees and butterflies.”
Spontaneous dance. Psychophysical exercises can transform quite naturally into spontaneous dance — free and harmonious (or even playful in case of children) movements of the body defined by music or visualization. Spontaneous dance helps to improve one’s emotional and physical states, eliminates isolation, removes fatigue from children and adults. Most of all children like to use for this dance the following meditations: to feel themselves as butterflies fluttering over meadows, as gentle clouds, balloons, flowers emitting fragrance, “dancing” seaweeds, bright autumn leaves or snowflakes dancing in the air, and so on.
Meditative games. They develop, first of all, the ability to think figuratively. With their help, the ethical and aesthetic upbringing is carried out naturally, without violence, in the form of a game. Children imagine themselves in any role (usually an animal, a flower, etc.), get accustomed to it, and freely express their emotions via motion.
Themes for meditative games can be derived from the everyday life of children, from fairy tales, or can be invented according to children's age. They can be, for example, living meadows with flowers or toys in children's room. Themes for meditative games may be like these: “how the sun was rising” , “how a girl walked in the forest, collected berries and met different animals”, “how I planted a seed, took care of the plant, and it grew into a flower”, “how a puppy grew, what it learned, what it knows and what it can do”, “what happened to the monkeys that ran away from the zoo into the forest”, and so on.
Hatha Yoga asanas are included in the program as a component of warm-ups, meditative and outdoor games, mostly in their dynamic variant — that is when children stay in postures for a short period of time. Static postures are difficult for little children.
Motion games. They mean active cooperation of all participants when everyone plays one’s own role. Unlike meditative games, they are focused on active motion, training of children’s reaction, attention and speed, development of the coordination of movements. They may include games of tag and others. Children love games that include running.
These are some of such games: Airplane (start, rise, fly quickly in the clouds, land), a similar game called Train (the train departs, speeds up, goes through a tunnel, come to a station, etc.) [48,54,56]. These are some running games: the wind comes over and drives us, rain starts; horses run — either free or with a carriage, with obstacles; carousel — create a circle, holding onto a thick rope, rotate the “carousel” slow or faster, stop, change direction. Children like motion games and running very much. They need them as a means of relaxation.
Another favorite game of children is to imitate poses and movements of animals [49,51], such as a cat, a dog, a tiger, a lion (stretch the paws, arch the back, or, for example, “cat drinks milk", “cat looks at its tail”, “cat watches a fly”, etc.).
It may also include walking with bent knees (imitation of a walking duck or goose).
Or: a jumping sparrow, the proud gait of a rooster, or a stork walking slowly, with dignity, etc.
Or: calves, foals gamboling on all fours, leaping frogs, rabbits.
Or: flying butterflies (the arms represent the wings).
Or: a little worm, snake, crocodile — we crawl on the floor, lift the head, and turn it from side to side. Motion games can be combined with breathing exercises. For instance: “we are a breeze, a wind, a whirlwind” — and blow loudly as the wind, or pump up a ball. Or: after running, in relaxation — inhale loudly the air with the tummy, like whelps trying to catch their breath in the burrow of their mother. Or: loud imitation of the voices of animals: mewing, barking, the roar of a tiger, mooing, bleating, purring, croaking, cooing, hissing, humming, quacking and the like. Or “I am a flute” — press on the keys (different parts of the body) and produce different sounds: tummy — haaa, heart — yaaa, throat — baa, forehead — eee, and so forth. First children are afraid to pronounce sounds loudly, but later they master it and play with great pleasure; they especially like the “heart sound”.
Relaxation of the body and mind. We use relaxation to rest after dynamic exercises and for training the children’s ability to relax. In the case of small children, it is best to train relaxation in pairs . One child represents, for example, a rag doll, and another one lifts and lowers doll’s arms and legs, moves doll’s head. Another variation is Carriage Game: one child lies on the back on the clean floor, and another one moves him or her by the legs around the hall. Children can do also Relaxation of a Tiger , Rest of a Crocodile, etc.
During the final relaxation, we use elements of autogenous training of Dr.Schultz (“heavy, warm legs…”, etc.). However, it fits better to senior students. In most cases, final relaxation is accompanied by music or visualization of pictures of nature by children. One can also use poetry and relaxing fairy tales (Cat’s Tales, or How Doll Fell Asleep; see ).
Fairy tales with an ethical orientation are read by the instructor or by an assisting girl while the instructor talks to the parents.
Painting. Subject matters for painting can be scenes from fairy tales, free expression of impressions from the class, etc. Children also can paint together a common picture on one big sheet of paper. For example, they can paint small fishes around a big fish-mom.
Feast. On holidays we arrange a feast at the end of the class. We arrange "a magic table” with various dishes of the ovo-lacto vegetarian diet: nuts, dried and fresh fruit, etc. In the beginning, everyone expresses gratitude to those who grew these fruits and cooked the dishes. Only after this do we start the meal.
Our experience shows that first time children pounce on the food and only after a reminder will they offer it to mothers and others. It shows that it is very necessary to develop in children a careful and unselfish attitude towards people around them, for example, during such feasts.
Role play games help to form the child’s individuality properly; children develop correct social relations — by learning social roles through a game. In our specific case of working with children, these social connections include a child’s relationship with peers, as well as with adults, including parents.
One of the favorite games of our children is Guiding the Blind: the game is played in pairs, one child is blindfolded and guided by another. Several pairs play this game at the same time. They move, bypassing obstacles and trying to not collide. This game develops mutual trust, sympathy, responsibility, and the ability to understand each other.
For development of altruism and keenness of observation, we use the game Catch Falling Leaves. For this purpose, we make "leaves" of paper and throw them up in the air. Children have to catch them on the fly. In this game, children in the beginning exhibit much egoism: they seldom want to give their "leaves" to others who caught less.
One of the most favorite games is the preschool game Ouzel. In this game, children in pairs say simple text and touch each other; at the end, they embrace. “I am ouzel, you are ouzel, I have a nose, you have a nose (everyone points first to their own nose, and then to the nose of the partner), mine are smooth, yours are smooth (they point to the cheeks), mine are sweet, yours are sweet (lips), I am your friend, you are my friend. We love each other!” When saying words “we love each other”, they embrace. Then children repeat it in different pairs.
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Conversations with parents are also an important part of the program. While we converse with parents, girls-assistants divide children into small groups, read fairy tales to them, draw pictures, perform exercises on gymnastic apparatuses, play with a ball, look at pictures.
In these conversations with mothers and grandmothers, we acquaint them with the fundamentals of the spiritual School of Dr.Antonov — we talk about the Path to God through love, wisdom, and power. One can also talk about the principles of yama and niyama , about children development with the help of motion, singing, about educating them on parents’ example; we also have conversations about killing-free nutrition — as a part of ethics and the basis for one’s physical and spiritual development. In these conversations we receive a lot of feedback from parents.
Children and their mothers usually do not like to leave right after the class, so classes become longer and longer.
From parents’ feedback we learned, among other things, the following: children willingly go to the classes and some of them even try to “impart their experience” to other members of the family. Children remind their mothers and grandmothers about cooking only killing-free food at home.
It is undesirable, when in such groups where almost all children have “their own” adults, some of them remain without a mother or a close senior person. They take such situations very hard. Some of them even have difficulties contacting with the rest of the group.
As a result of attending the classes, relationships in the family become better.
With time, mothers and grandmothers completely merge with the work of the group and enjoy playing in all the games. Two of them, teachers in a preschool institution, started to use some forms of our exercises in their work.
One of the grandmothers after attending these classes began to sleep better.
The girls who assisted us (all of them came to this group voluntary; one of them was my daughter), also received much help from these classes: they developed the proper emotional attitude towards little children, which is so important for future mothers. Besides that, they acquired experience of group management and developed creativity while working in the class.
I also want to note that classes with children are conducted most successfully only when the instructors fully give themselves to the games and meditations, when they themselves experience everything that they give to children. If the instructor “withdraws” even a little, children feel it immediately and the class “collapses”; children cease to react to the instructor’s words.
I personally received much from this work. It expanded the limits of my love, taught me to feel people better, to sympathize with them, to feel joy together with them. I felt myself both a child and a conductor of the Light of Divine Love. This Love helped me to work on myself; it opened for me the Path of development.