Yesterday I began my teaching with a story about my friend’s daughter who felt resistance when it came time to downsize her belongings. She was too worried she would miss her art, clothing, and toys despite having an excess of all three. Her daddy asked her to part with some, and very reluctantly, she chose a few meager items to discard and donate.
Fast forward to the big move to a smaller place, and she did not notice a single item missing that her daddy chose to throw away without her knowledge. She didn’t miss any of it. All that worry for nothing.
Making Letting Go into Temporary Art and Meditation
Following this story about the emotions we feel and the reasoning we use to hoard belongings, my students made beautiful art creations out of decaying dried roses, cracked old sticks and pinecones, and seashells. They used these pieces that were soon to be dust to make and then destroy their art.
They came to meditate upon the things that these objects once were, their past trajectory of growing from seeds or being the residence of tiny sea creatures. And what they would be next: dust in the earth.
Stories Arising From Stories
Later when we put everything away, an 8-year-old raised her hand. She had created her own story which embodied the lesson and contained even more meaning. Her story, beautifully orated, blew me away.
Below I will paraphrase the main ideas of her legend.
The Cheetah, by 8-year-old Maddie
Cheetah was a brave warrior. He lived with his mother and community.
Cheetah kept an old seashell over his heart, which always made him feel like a warrior. The seashell came to represent this truth to Cheetah and his community.
One day, Cheetah lost his seashell, and along with it Cheetah’s sense of self. Others doubted if he could, in fact, still be a brave warrior.
Without his shell, Cheetah felt he was no longer a strong warrior and sadness filled his heart. His mother asked him to look within himself and feel the truth, that he is still what he once was, not from his beloved shell.
Cheetah did not believe her. How could he?
Cheetah's mother asked Cheetah to be brave once again and find his inner strength. Cheetah closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He looked deep within himself, realizing his own truth again. True strength comes from within, and that he was, in fact, the brave warrior he always had been.
Storytelling to Convey Meaning
Storytelling is such a powerful thing. It helps children see feelings and behaviors from a safe distance. They can see how others behave and determine how they would behave in the same situation. They can learn from the feelings and experiences of the characters because they are relatable.
We used these stories and the mediation experience to truly understand why people hoard and see how we may do so in our own lives. All the children could relate to the squeezy feeling in their belly and shoulders when being asked to downsize. They commented on holding onto old ripped shirts and toys they never use.
We all talked about children that are less fortunate that have very few belongings and we were able to see that we all live with relative abundance. Each child noted that they ate healthy food each day, had a clean home and clean clothing, and extra toys and learning objects, more than they truly need.
We finished class doing some gentle yoga and relaxation. We gave most of our attention to the lesson at hand. When the children left, they were centered and calm. It was a magnificent and humbling experience to facilitate.