Now that I am back into reading to little ones, I’m looking in the boxes of stored children’s books from my own sons. My grandkids are both under three so some books are too advanced but this is one that I will eventually introduce at one of their sleepovers.
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, so this is not just a children’s book.
Many books in the children’s section of the library and bookstore are worth being read by older people. This meditation 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.
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 those pebbles when they breathe in and out and feel a 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 training, inclusiveness, meditation, and understanding.
Another pebble meditation uses the three jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), and another uses the Four Immeasurables (loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity).
Do you have to be a practicing Buddhist to do this? Not at all. The terms used can translate to more common terms in many cases. Some people write words on stones and use them on a regular basis. (I see online that, of course, you can also buy stones with affirmations on them.)
What is there about the physicality of a pebble that helps one connect to a particular idea?
Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation presented by Plum Village brother Thay Phap Huu.