Spiritual Work with Children/Classes of Psychical Self-Regulation and Painting with Children
Classes of Psychical Self-Regulation and Painting with Children
This article describes practical experience of work with children of 5-11 years of age. The work was aimed at smoothing inner disharmonies — which are inherent to most children — with the help of ethical and ecological education and with the help of developing their creative abilities as well their capability for concentration and relaxation. For this purpose one can successfully use the methods of psychic self-regulation and recommendations described in the book . The methods described in this chapter can supplement this information.
Classes with a senior group (10-11 years of age) took place in the gym and in nature. Classes for children of 5-7 years of age were conducted only in the gym.
The duration of the classes depended only on the children’s age. Children of 10-11 years of age worked for three hours without feeling tired. Children of 5-7 years of age could work successfully for an hour and a half. In the middle of the class, we usually took a short break.
There is one point to take into account when selecting children for classes. No doubt classes are useful to all children; however, one has to decide what is more important: to “average” all children and thus to develop them slowly — or to make a group of the most capable children, who can advance more quickly and successfully. The experience of work with schoolchildren of different ages proves that the choice of “averaging” them prevents good progress of gifted children. And the progress of less capable children achieved in such classes is almost negligible as compared to their negative manifestations. Of course, this does not mean that one should not work with the latter. But one has to make groups taking this factor into account and use different methods of work in different groups.
Groups should not be large. The best number of children for classes is from 5 to 16, because it is very important to have an individual approach with each one of them.
This is an example of a program for the class:
Groups of children of 5-7 years of age:
1. Introductory meditation.
2. Games that include physical and psychophysical exercises.
Groups of children of 10-11 years of age:
1. Introductory meditation.
2. Psychophysical exercises and physical warm-up.
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Introductory meditation is very important; it has a strong effect on the formation of ethics and on the development of emotional love for all manifestations of life; it also helps to develop the skills of concentration of the attention. Besides that, it creates a positive emotional background for doing other exercises.
For children of 10-11 years of age, the introductory meditation is performed in a form similar to that of adult groups. All children like the posture for making this meditation — so-called student posture. In this posture, they quickly calm down, and this helps them to receive information from the instructor.
For children of 5-7 years of age, one can give the introductory meditation in the form of the exercise The Sun. Children form a circle, as if they stand around a lake. They imagine themselves to be trees, grass, flowers which stretch their arms-branches towards the sun; they take the sun into the hands, bring it closer, embrace this giant, warm, shining ball — and the sun enters the chest and kindles our hearts with love. Every one of us turns into the sun; our arms turn into its rays. Children turn from side to side, whirl to soft music, make wavelike movements with their arms, shine with light. They shine with the sun from the chest — at each other, at animals and birds, at fish in the water, at trees and grass. Children themselves suggest to whom else they want to send their light-love.
One can use other forms of performing the introductory meditation.
It is very important to feel when it is time to end this exercise. It is important that the children enjoy the light emanating from them, but on the other hand, their subtle state may turn into excessive agitation, and children become hard to control.
Then one can perform warm-up or give to children psychophysical exercises. One should not follow the program too strictly — it is more important to feel in the process of conducting the class what is needed at the current moment. During the first classes, psychophysical exercises that follow the introductory meditation are difficult for children to perform, because children need to change activity after the concentration. However, after one or two months of work, they easily switch from introductory meditation to psychophysical exercises.
During the warm-up, one can alternate dynamic exercises — with Hatha Yoga asanas and pranayamas. It is better to give physical exercises in the form of a game or together with visualization. This makes the warm-up interesting to children. The instructor should give asanas to children gradually, without overloading them.
We perform the warm-up to soft music, ask children to do the exercises gently, harmoniously, without haste — so that their movements follow the rhythm of the music. One can also suggest to them the game Mirror (see the article by E.B.Ragimova) when the instructor makes movements and children imitate them.
Below are the exercises which we do in the class most often:
1. We raise the hands and “inhale” sunlight through the palms, then bend down and “exhale” everything dark, coarse, unpleasant, so that inside the body there remains only goldish light of the sun. We repeat this exercise 3-6 times.
2. We stand with the feet at shoulder width apart, the hands are slightly moved backward, the palms are turned forward. With inhale, rise on tiptoes, the hands move forward and upward as if raising a wave; with exhale, the hands move down, the feet stand on the floor. We repeat this exercise six times.
3. We do mountain pose (tadasana), focusing the attention on the arms moving gently upward as if by themselves — without effort from our side, we just watch how the arms move. Later when children begin to paint, the instructor may remind them about this feeling by drawing an analogy between the spontaneous movement of the arms in tadasana and the movement of the hand holding the brush.
4. Then children can do tree pose: its variation when the left hand holds the forepart of the left foot bent back; the right hand is relaxed and raised up slightly above the forehead with its palm turned forward. The instructor suggests that children feel the right leg as the trunk of a tree with its roots going deeply into the ground; the right hand is a branch; its palm and fingers are leaves of the tree. Then children do the symmetrical variation of this pose. In this asana, children may stay from a half of a minute to two minutes.
5. Then we gently do the following exercises to soft music:
— triangle pose (utthita trikonasana),
— extended side angle pose (utthita parsvakonasana),
— warrior pose (virabhadrasana) .
6. Then one can do several exercises from mian chuan (“slow water”) or tai chi chuan. For example, “to raise one’s leg using a non-existing thread”, or “to raise one’s knee using a non-existing thread”, or “to catch and to raise a falling wall which does not exist”, etc. Many of these exercises are described in .
One can supplement these exercises with pranayamas  and visualization.
7. On the first classes, exercises from the beginning of the course on psychic self-regulation described in  can be very useful.
Children do with pleasure exercises which resemble a game and are supplemented with visualization.
8. The exercise Butterfly (for stretching the muscles of the legs; based on bhadrasana pose) is one of the most favorite for children. We sit down on the floor in an upright position, the legs are bent and stretched outwards, the soles are pressed against each other, the hands clasp the toes and the forepart of the feet. The bent legs make rhythmic, springy movements downward, thus stretching the muscles. When doing this exercise, children can imagine themselves butterflies fluttering over flowers. The butterfly has chosen a flower, descended on it, and stopped moving. Then it folded its wings (children move the knees upward), sipped sweet nectar, thanked the flower, and flew to other flowers.
9. Then one can do fish pose, snake pose, bow pose, and boat pose .
10. Children of 10-11 years of age do the following series of asanas well: half-candle pose (viparita karani) — candle pose (sarvangasana) — plow pose (halasana) — rabbit pose (sasangasana) — half-candle pose — candle pose — half-candle pose.
11. All children do the following exercise with pleasure: the feet stand wider than shoulder width, inhale and bend backward, exhale and bend forward, press the palms on the floor. “Walk” on the hands forward a bit, the feet do not move, the body sags down. Turn the head and look first at the right foot, then — at the left foot. Then return to the original position.
12. In the end children may jump for some time. Children like to imagine themselves as a rag doll and jump gently, relaxing in the final position. They can imitate jumps with a skipping-rope, make jumps while clapping the hands, or with slapping the buttocks with the hands, or with turning from side to side, etc.
To include all these exercises in the warm-up of every class is not necessary. The lower the age of the child, the less must be the load on them: the instructor has to increase the load very gradually — from class to class. One has to keep in mind that children always want something new. Therefore, the instructor has to change the forms of the exercises often. It is especially important for younger children.
To help children to do psychophysical exercises successfully, the instructor may suggest images to them. For example, children can imagine themselves as fishes, seaweeds, trees, clouds, birds, waves, wind, balloons, snowflakes, specks of dust, sail boats, etc. After children have identified themselves with the image — they can easily fill this image with light.
With time children do psychophysical exercises more easily and with more interest. They all will feel the Light that fills their bodies and the space around them — they feel it as real.
Spontaneous dance in the case of children has to be supplemented with visualization and introduced during the first classes. Children easily move, dance; they do not feel shy before each other, never worry about how they look from the outside.
It is very interesting to do the exercise Lotus — as the first psychophysical exercise. Children sit on the floor in a circle; their legs are stretched forward; their feet are in the center of the circle. The children form a lotus flower together; each child represents a petal of this flower. They can take each other by the hand and bend forward to close the flower bud, then unbend, release hands, and lie on the back on the floor and imbue themselves with sunlight flowing from above. Then they sit up. One of the children stands up and begins to whirl in the center, then the next child joins this whirling, and the next… Children form the inner circle and whirl smoothly. There can be other variations of this exercise.
Relaxation is a very important exercise. Everyone knows that for modern people it is very hard to relax. Those unable to relax accumulate much tiredness by the age of twenty.
In relaxation it is very important and convenient to give ethical directions to children, to develop the emotions of love in them, to refine their perception of nature, to give them ecological education. Usual conversations with them do not have such an effect.
The instructor suggests images to children during the entire relaxation. The instructor’s voice guides the child and does not allow it to go to a state of relaxation that would be too deep . For example, the instructor may tell a fairy tale which corresponds to the subject of the class. Relaxation can be performed in the half-tortoise pose, in the crocodile pose, on the back, on the side. Usually the instructor suggests to children some particular pose; if some children prefer another pose, the instructor should not prevent them from assuming it.
The way of giving relaxation to children is different for different ages. Children of 10-11 years of age can enter the state of deep relaxation to soft, gentle music and to the voice of the instructor, which suggests images to them. For children of 5-7 years of age, one can successfully use the methods described in the book .
Painting can also be done in different ways depending on the age of the children. One can use any material for making pictures; in our classes we prefer dyes. Children use watercolors, watercolors with whitewash, gouache. For children of school age, it is better to give gouache; watercolors are more efficient for higher ages. The brushes should be wide and flat; for painting fine details, there must be also thin brushes. And one needs a piece of cloth for cleaning the brushes.
First one has to teach children to mix dyes and to make subtle and pure hues of different colors. This is done with large color spots.
All tools have to be prepared beforehand, before the class. As children exit the state of relaxation, they themselves take everything necessary and begin to paint.
The feeling of color harmony is inherent in many people from birth. However, they often do not know about their abilities, and therefore they need to be helped with this. If this help is provided in childhood, the child begins to develop more harmoniously.
For children of 5-7 years old, it is necessary to suggest the subject of painting and demonstrate to them the methods of work, since they lack basic painting skills. It would be good if the subject has a certain state even in its title, as is customary in China and Japan. Children paint brooks flowing over the melting snow, clouds changing their shape under the wind, branches of trees on the background of a pure sky or rising sun, the underwater world, meadows with flowers and butterflies, the sun, the sea, etc. They can paint animals, birds, trees, flowers — this develops in them love for all creatures.
In the process of painting, children learn to see the world. In this way, one can teach children to see and to feel the world from most interesting points.
In the work with children of 10-11 years of age, the emphasis is put on spontaneity. In this age, it is enough to encourage them a bit and direct them — and they begin to express their states and mood using the methods of work familiar to them. Children learn and apply new techniques very easily.
In the process of painting, the instructor must not be an outsider but paint together with children — to establish the correct mood and to help them. It is also necessary to prevent children from chatting during painting, because this causes them to leave subtle states. It is not so easy with children of 5-7 years old, because they experience everything that they paint and say it aloud. Yet the instructor has to pay attention to this matter and prevent excessive chatting.
Tea-drinking is also an important component of the class. Before the meal, the instructor gives meditation which attunes children to the feeling of gratitude to the Earth and to people who feed them. It may be the first time that children begin to think of this matter. Under the guidance of the instructor, children learn to share food with each other and to have a careful attitude towards it.
If in the process of tea-drinking, children start talking about vain subjects, the instructor has to try to direct their talks to spiritual matters by gently changing the subject. Sometimes children themselves make such remarks to each other.
An important pedagogical form of work with children is going to the country. One has to take children to nature in order to give them examples of the correct and careful attitude towards it, which is very important for their future spiritual life.
In such trips, it turns out that many children can talk to plants, insects, animals, and birds — and understand them well.
One can learn much from such children.
However, other children are surprised with the attitude towards plants and insects as living beings capable of feeling pain and of loving. First, these children even laugh, because they do not understand it. Nevertheless, with time, they accept the same perception of the objects of nature — as living beings, because they learn it in meditations in the classes as well.
Such an attitude to nature is close to children; they easily accept it and begin to perceive the nature as a Temple of Life.
In forest trips, children also learn to build a fire without causing harm to living beings, to not be afraid of bad weather, to distinguish edible and inedible plants, to distinguish calls of different birds and to enjoy their singing.
It is also useful to show children slides with states of nature. However, one should not show too many slides, because children get tired very quickly.
When the group is well prepared, it may begin to work with the exercise Surya Namaskar — Sun Salutation . Children of 10-11 years of age do this series of asanas with pleasure. It is very good to do it in nature.
Sometimes there occur conversations on religious subjects; it happens most often in the forest, when the group sits around a fire. It is interesting that all children of 10-11 years of age, who have been attending the classes for five months, believe that there is God. Most of them imagine Him as Light or as the All-Pervasive Spirit, though we have not told them such ideas in the classes. Such a perception results from their personal experience acquired during psychophysical and other exercises.
Our practice of conducting such classes shows that in the beginning there are very few harmonious children that the instructor can work with ease and pleasure. However, their number grows as the classes go on. At the end of the five-month course, there are about 40% of children in the group who value the classes very much. To work with them is a great pleasure and reward to their instructor.