Pebble meditation is a technique to introduce children to the calming practice of meditation. It was developed by Zen master, best selling author, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Thich Nhat Hanh. In A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles and A Pebble for Your Pocket, he offers illustrated guides for children and parents.
It can be practiced alone or with a group or family and can help relieve stress, increase concentration, encourage gratitude and help children deal with difficult emotions.
A very simplified how-to of the process:
- A participant places four pebbles on the ground next to him or her.
- At three sounds of a bell, each person picks up the first pebble and says, “Breathing in, I see myself as a flower. Breathing out, I feel fresh. Flower, fresh.” Breathe together quietly for three in and out breaths.
- The next pebble is for “Breathing in I see myself as a mountain, breathing out, I feel solid. Mountain, solid.
- Pebble 3’s recitation is “Breathing in I see myself as still, clear water, breathing out, I reflect things as they really are. Clear water, reflecting.”
- And the fourth pebble has us saying “Breathing in I see myself as space, breathing out, I feel free. Space, free.”
- End with three sounds of the bell.
This technique is not only for children. I would compare my own use of a grief stone to this practice. In some workshops, participants may find pebbles that can represent people in their lives and use that pebble when they breathe in and out and feel connection to that person.
There are pebble meditations that focus on specific areas of growth. For example, using the six paramitas, or six perfected realizations, are the elements that help us cross from suffering to liberation. The six are generosity, diligence, mindfulness trainings, inclusiveness, meditation and understanding.
Another pebble meditation uses the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), another uses the Four Immeasurables (loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity).
Some people write words on the stones and use them on a regular basis.
What is there about the physicality of a pebble that helps one connect to a particular idea?
Here, Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation is presented by Plum Village brother Thay Phap Huu.
(From the DVD, “Mindful Living Every Day,” an orientation to the Plum Village practice of mindful living, available at Parallax Press