When Children Are Present
Young people call on us to be our best selves, teaching us to slow down and see the beauty in simple things, writes Meikyo Chelsea True, coordinator of the newly re-envisioned Children’s Program at Green Gulch Farm, now renamed the Youth & Family Program.
We are currently in the midst of something remarkable. Children all around the world are practicing. Through the movement of secular mindfulness and in our own Youth & Family Program at Green Gulch, children as young as four years old are practicing.
They are tuning into their inner seasons and using skills like awareness of the breath to generate mindfulness, compassion, and understanding in their own lives and in their communities. In our current political climate, in a world of greed, hate, and delusion, this gives me hope.
I once asked a group of children what the word compassion means. One boy, just four years old, said, “It’s when someone doesn’t have something so you give them yours.” In another program, after a short period of zazen, a six-year-old girl reported noticing that, “It’s like we have two bodies. An inner body and an outer body. And the inner body tells the outer body what to do.” These young people are cultivating a deep self-awareness — an ability to notice, understand, and self-direct body, speech, and mind.
Practicing alongside children helps us cultivate these qualities too. It also helps us open to the multidimensionality of our world. Children still have eyes to see the magical stupas rising up from the earth and flower petals raining from the sky. They see the preciousness, the buddha-nature of each special rock, of one another.
This raises a big question. Can we practice this way? Can we see each moment with what our beloved teacher Blanche Hartman called “the wide and curious eyes of a child”?
Young people call on us to be our best selves. In their presence, we often slow down. We see the beauty in the simple things — in cricket songs and spiderwebs. We see the sparks of the dharma in flowers and in birds. We return to the pure open sky of our own true nature.
The Green Gulch Youth & Family Program is looking for volunteers. We hope you’ll join us and receive some of the many fruits of practicing alongside children. For more information, please contact Meikyo Chelsea True at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Green Gulch Farm Youth & Family Program here.
Photos by Myles Cowherd.