Aesthetical Means of Psychic Self-Regulation
One of the tasks of the classes for children based on the system of psychic self-regulation developed by the School of Dr.Antonov is to help children to perceive the world as beautiful, multifarious, miraculous, and kind.
In our time when the relationships between people are full of stresses and difficulties, it is very important to teach children to live in a calm and joyful state, to be confident of themselves, and to know what to do in different situations.
Aesthetical means based on creative artistic activity (fairy tales, poetry, singing, music, mime, dances, games, painting) can be very helpful in work with children. They possess imagery, vividness, and creative elements, and allow children to learn more about themselves, that is provide children with the possibility to know about their own inner states, emotions, and values; to know relationships that exist in the society; to become closer to nature.
Our experience of work with children younger than 10 years old demonstrated that classes become most successful if they are conducted in the form of a fairy tale which includes meditative elements and psychophysical exercises. Children easily assume the images of fairy tale heroes and willingly perform the commands of the instructor. Besides that, a fairy tale may become a powerful emotional and ethical lesson for them.
For instance, when telling the fairy tale Father Frost, where a girl did work for Father Frost (kneaded dough, fluffed his featherbed, chopped firewood, washed his clothes), the instructor can suggest that children show how she did this work — and this becomes gymnastics for their joints. If one includes in this exercise work with light (goldish dough flowing down from the palms, featherbed filled with silver snowflakes which cover the hands as sparkling dust, penetrate inside the hands, melt and flow down as pure streams of water), then this cleanses the energy channels of the hands.
One can also tell the story about how an elephant calf cleared the way of a brook blocked with stones, and watered flowers and trees suffering from drought. This can be used to perform pranayamas for the meridians of the arms. In this exercise, the arms (one after another) play the role of the elephant’s trunk, etc.
Another interesting element in the work with children is verses. For example, one can use verses to do the introductory meditation:
Let us arrange a magical dawn today:
Let us go uphill — up to the sky
And take an armful of shining rays.
Add to these yellow rays
An armful of green branches,
A piece of the sky, the sound of a stream,
And small birds of various colors.
Add a bit of warm wind,
The fragrance of flowers,
The ringing of grass,
And a bit of blue water.
Mix it together,
Close your eyes —
And we can turn it into magical dawn,
We just need to wish to everyone around:
May all be peaceful, happy, and calm;
May all be loved, beautiful, and kind!
Children speaking in a good, rich language are able to: think better, correctly describe their psychic states, understand themselves and other people better, and understand their own experience as well as the experience of others; their emotions are more differentiated.
For training this ability in children, the instructor can suggest that they make stories, fairy tales. The instructor begins to talk on a certain subject and asks the children to continue the story.
Another variation of this exercise is to retell the story from the end to the beginning.
Telling a story by pictures, telling a story about dolls which are taken out of the “magic bag”, humor, performing a play along with the narration — all this increases in children the joy of doing such exercises.
It is very important to teach children to fluently change their emotional states, to be aware of them, to correct these states and to use them purposefully.
Direct interaction of the instructor with each child helps to carry out every particular task better. For example, when mastering relaxation, the instructor can raise a child’s body and draw the attention of other children to how the relaxed arms and legs of the child hang down and swing loosely, how the body is bent and the head tilts down. Here is one more additional exercise on relaxation and establishing the contact between the child and the instructor: the child stands with the back turned to the instructor and, in the state of relaxation, falls back — into the instructor’s hands.
In order to remove tension or excessive excitement in children, one can use relaxation against the background of motion. Children imagine that they are young lithe apple trees covered with fruits. Ripe apples begin to break off, fall down, and hit the ground. Yellow leaves fall off along with the apples. We watch how they dance in the air, whirl slowly, fall down… Together with the leaves, our anxieties, sorrows, and insults fly away. New leaves — young and tender — begin to grow on the branches.
There is another similar meditation, which includes work with the voice: we are airplanes at the start. Ahead of us — there is a long difficult path, the blue pure sky awaits us. We feel joy and excitement. Inside the thorax of each of us, as if in the airplane cabin, there is a pilot who is ready to fly the airplane. The body-airplane does everything that the pilot commands. Now the pilot pushes a button. The airplane shudders, shakes off the snow from its wings. We shake off sleepiness, laziness, irresoluteness. The engines begin to work. There is a powerful rumble coming from the very center of the fire — from the belly. The airplane shudders; it vibrates with the rumble, bounces up and down. The rumble increases. The airplane accelerates and takes off. And then — there is only the pure sky around and the morning sun, which colors the airplane goldish; silvery spots of sunlight dance on the airplane’s surface.
The classes may include mime, when children play a piece of acting to learn poses, gaits, expressive movements, gestures, facial expressions. Mime exercises help children to overcome barriers in communication with other people, help them to know the body better, to understand others better, and give children the opportunity for self-expression. Performing short silent plays such as Birthday Party, Request for Help, Goldfish in Aquarium, Dwellers of the Sky — Planets, Stars, Galaxies — children feel the benevolent, loving atmosphere of the entire group and their own place in it; they express their individualities. The mimes Shadow, Mirrors Store, Vice Versa Boy, Time Lapse improve the motor coordination, teach one to foresee the movements of others. In the sketches Curious Boy, First Snow, Encounter with a Friend, and Visit to a Patient, children learn to imitate different emotional states. The emphasis is put on the emotions of love: tenderness, compassion, sympathy, empathy.
Children develop the ability to feel the states of other people, of animals, and of nature. A talk about ethical principles, about conscience can increase the effect of the exercises.
In the initial stages of work of the group, one uses games that allow children to become acquainted with one another, help them merge into one big family, and create a friendly atmosphere.
For example, it can be the game Who's Voice: When relaxation in half-tortoise pose comes to an end, the instructor touches one of the children, and he or she says: “It’s me”. Other children have to guess whose voice it was.
Game Who Has Disappeared: One of the players turns away, and then a few other players hide. Turning back, the first player has to tell who have disappeared and what has changed in the postures of the remaining players.
Game Rocking on the Waves: One child rests on a rug with closed eyes, and all others stand in a circle, raise the rug with the child, and gently rock it. (This develops mutual trust and careful attitude, removes the feeling of loneliness). In our classes, children began to create short stories for everyone while doing this exercise. They rocked one child like the warm breeze rocks a little nestling on a branch; they rocked another child — like the wind rocks a small spider sitting on a light, flying cobweb; they rocked the third — like waves gently rock a water lily.
Children can also play like this: one half of the group becomes the waves and another half — the shore. The “waves” run up to the “shore”, tenderly embrace it, and run back. And again, with new force, bringing more love, the “waves” run to the “shore”. Then players change their roles.
In the games, one should put the emphasis on a careful attitude towards each other, mutual aid and assistance. This can be supplemented with discussions about kindness, justice, honesty, not taking offence in the game as well as in life. The task of the instructor is to reveal and emphasize the abilities of each child and, without attracting attention of the rest of the group, help each child to do what he or she cannot do right.
One can perform the following game-meditation. One child stands in the center of the circle formed by the rest of the group. Everywhere around — there is the sea of our love. With our hands, we create waves and send them to the center. Let the waves of our tender love raise the one who stands in the center very high!
The following game-meditation becomes one of the most liked by children: Guess Who I Am. In this game, the main player portrays some bird or animal and everyone else guesses who it is.
Playing the roles of little foxes, bears, sparrows, rain drops, and falling autumn leaves — brings much new interesting knowledge about the world. It becomes a means of discovering something new about an object or phenomenon.
For example, by identifying oneself with the drops of water in a cloud, which is about to send rain to the earth and imbue it with moisture, the children in our classes could feel the form of a drop, could feel how it is attracted to the earth. Observing different states of water, they concluded that nothing vanishes completely but just changes its form.
Before motion games, for example Jumping Sparrows, children were offered a short meditation which attuned them to the spring season of the year. In order to portray a sparrow, it was necessary to recall a spring sunny day, the pure blue sky, the smell of freshness. Let us listen to the ringing of merry brooks. Sparrows flutter joyfully among the tree branches. Their simple song “chiv-chiv”, “zhiv-zhiv” is a celebration of the awakening nature, of spring’s coming. A sparrow jumps boldly to the edge of a puddle. It shakes its feathers and begins bathing in the water warmed by the sun. It cleans its feathers, stretches its wings, dips itself into the water, then tidies the feathers with its beak and shakes off. Water drops fly to all sides; a thousand tiny spring suns are reflected in them.
In our classes we often use games for development of the attention, intellect, memory, and motor coordination.
For development of the creative spontaneity, we use role play games. The instructor suggests a certain theme to the children, and they become the authors, directors, and actors of the performance. This gives them an opportunity to realize their responsibility for their behavior, emotions, and thoughts.
Music can play a significant role in games and in any other part of the class. Composition of musical portraits of people and objects, expressing one’s own impressions through music and singing is one of the most captivating games.
Music is closely related to dances, which are also a means of self-expression.
With the aid of dance-meditations, children can depict the seasons, the nature elements, other various images.
Dances and music establish balance between the inner world of the child and the outer world, harmonize the inner state according to the outer one or vice versa, and allow the inner beauty to manifest in the outer form.
Dances, role play games, and mime sketches can be combined well with subject painting. The content of the pictures quite often becomes the theme for a piece of acting performed by children.
To make children cooperate with each other and become emotionally closer to each other, it is good to make them do some work together: when they draw a common picture on a large sheet of paper, or make the “creation of clay world” together, or when each child starts to paint something important for him or her and then passes the picture to the neighbor to the left and receives the picture of the neighbor to the right and continues it, and so on.
One can use any theme for painting: paint dance, paint music, paint with the help of templates, conventional figures, or usual blots. Painting calms children down, removes stresses, and develops creativity.
Children love to work with plasticine. In the classes, we model not only specific objects, but try to express in shape our state, mood, or the nature of the object. For example, one can model a powerful, strong tree and a light, elegant one, and then combine these qualities in one tree, etc.
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Let us give some examples of psychophysical exercises adapted for children of the age of less than 10 years old:
In autumn, acorns fell from an old branchy oak tree to the earth. They slept the entire winter, covered with fallen leaves and the fluffy blanket of the snow. Then the spring sun melted the snow cover. The meltwater soaked the acorns. (Children-acorns sleep deeply — lying in half-tortoise pose. Then by movements and facial expressions they show how acorns grow bigger). Acorns grew big; their shells broke, and tender sprouts appeared and began to grow to the sun. The sprout climbs up towards the light, growing closer and closer to its goal. We help ourselves with the hands, with movements of the body. We almost have reached the surface, so we make one more effort, push ourselves up, and come to the open air. We feel that everything is different here. We inhale fresh air. We continue to make movements; they help us to grow. We are attracted to the sun. We discover a new world for ourselves. We have been sleeping and did not know how wonderful the world around us is; we did not see its beauty. We knew only our small house — acorn. But extremely powerful forces were hidden, enchanted in it. Meltwater, sunlight, and spring air freed us from this enchantment! We were freed for new life — interesting, conscious! We have to be able to accomplish a lot! Let us grow, strive to the light!
… All children know the words: “Peace, peace, peace, and no more fight!”. Has it happened to you to reconcile with others with the help of these words? What do you think: are all the words correct in this saying? Would it sound better if the ending was like this: “Let us not fight but smile!”? It often happens that the feeling of offence has gone away, and we could be reconciled and play together, but it is difficult to make the first step. At such moments we can find the following exercise helpful. Let us stand up, relax the body, and raise one hand up. Let us feel the palm of this hand, as if its very center is being warmed by the sun. The sunlight flows in through the arm into the chest. Let us now feel this sunny warmth in the chest. Then we begin to wash the space around us with this light pouring from the arm-hose. With the hand we draw flowing lines. We turn to different sides. We draw lines near the body and through it. We feel how our state has changed. Now we are calm, loving, forgiving, and magnanimous. If someone behaved not as I wanted, maybe it is their response to my deeds? I forgive them. I have to be wiser. I will behave towards others as I want them to behave towards me. I will feel responsibility for my own actions. I will act in the best way and doing so, I will be happy. Indeed only generous people can be happy — those who give their love and smiles to the world!
… A mother-hen sits on eggs and warms her children. Let us imagine that we are these baby birds inside the eggs. We feel good inside the home-egg. Let us touch with the elbows, legs, head the wall of the egg-house. Let us move a little, turning inside the egg. Now we feel that we have collected enough strength and have the desire to know what makes that noise outside and where this flow of warmth and love comes from. Is it time to hatch? Let us set our feet and hands against the walls of the egg and push them. A first small crack appears in the shell. A bright ray of light penetrated into the house as if through a window. We make this window wider. We throw out pieces of the shell, which prevent the light from reaching us. Let us make sure that we remove them on all sides. Here is a piece of the shell stuck to the head. We accurately remove it. Let us try to move in this unusual to us world of light. We raise the hands up, and little clouds of light descend on our palms, and with this light the hands move down. We repeat it several times. With each new movement, the light becomes more subtle and tender. The waves of love and happiness roll to us from all sides; we have been born into this wonderful world! We look around with amazement. Every one of us sees brothers and sisters around us. Let us approach each other. Let us look at each other as if for the first time. How happy we are, how joyful, mischievous, and amusing! We want to embrace each other! In the chest we feel a warm, yellow sun. Let us send tender rays from the heart to each other. Let these rays embrace each other as we do!
… Let us imagine ourselves standing in the center of a circus arena suffused with bright light. The first number of the show is jugglers. With skillful, rapid movements we toss up imaginary silvery balls. Our attention is focused on the movements of the hands.
… Now we rotate a bright cane. Each of our fingers works; the body is getting filled with warmth and light within.
… In the lying position, we raise the feet up and rotate a large light golden drum. We move the feet rapidly. We feel pleasant warmth, and white light appears in the feet and ankle joints, as if small bulbs are turned on in them. The rotation becomes faster; the light grows brighter. Now all the feet up to the knees are filled with light! We bend the legs and straighten them to toss the drum high up; then we catch it with the feet. Our legs feel springy; white luminous springs appear in our knees. We stand up and begin to jump. The springs do not let us stop; they compress and expand. The legs are warmed up more; they become white-hot and glow brighter! We jump higher and higher, as if jumping on a trampoline! We turn to different sides with each jump.
… And now let us perform a dance with a golden ribbon sparkling in the rays of light. We move the ribbon in 8-shape. We whirl, turn! The ribbons are long; they wind around our bodies. We become enveloped in golden cocoons.
… And finally an animal trainer comes onto the arena with his merry dogs. We are these dogs. The dogs dance waltz on their hind legs, receive candies, and run in a circle barking joyfully!
… The last number of the program is fast horses. Raising their knees high, the horses jump around on the arena. The animal trainer claps his hands — and the horses stop and stamp the ground. One more clap — and the horses begin to run, stretching the legs backward. Another clap — and the horses run, moving stretched legs forward. A clap again — and we run sideways.
Then we rest in the relaxation asana.
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Summarizing the results of our half-year classes, children answered in a written form several questions. They believed that they had learned:
— to be calm and to control themselves;
— to do good to everyone in the world;
— to behave honestly and fairly;
— to believe in the existence of God;
— to find out something new;
— to transform themselves;
— to love everyone.
To the question about what qualities they want to acquire, children wrote that they want to become good, tender, strong, beautiful outside and inside, want to develop in themselves uncommon abilities, want to travel to different places and in different times, want to understand others, understand their feelings in order to distinguish good and evil people, want to change their own character having mastered composure.
It was clear from the answers, that all of them attended classes with a pleasure. Children especially loved to paint, play games, and perform plays. One girl wrote that she likes to attend classes because here everyone is loved equally. One third of the children wrote that they liked most of all to relax and to meditate to music.
It is great happiness to the instructor to see how the souls of children grow and bloom, to grow together with them, and to realize that each class as well as the entire life is creative work!
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Appendix: Scenario of fairy-tale class Singing Forest:
Once there was a Green Forest. It was not just a Green Forest but a Singing Green Forest. Birches sang the tender songs of birches, oaks — the ancient songs of oaks, willows — the pensive songs of willows. Everything around sang. The river sang; the forest brook sang; but the best singers were, of course, the birds. Blue tits sang blue songs; redwings sang red songs; and goldfinches sang gold songs. Let us listen to how the forest sounded (children listen to music Golden Journey to Mibukla).
Do you know how such a beautiful melody was created? Why each plant, each bird could find their own note, which fitted harmoniously into the common large orchestra? It was so because everyone in the forest began their morning with wishing love, goodness, and happiness to the entire world, to all living creatures. Along with the beautiful sounds of singing, the subtle light of love and calm was radiated to all sides from this magical place. Let us join this light with our tender rays coming from the heart and send it far forward: “May all beings have peace! May all beings be calm! May all beings feel bliss!”
Every morning the forest washed itself with clean, fresh, transparent dew. Having had drunk several droplets of dew, merry birds began to sing like ringing silver bells on the tops of green fir trees. Let us recall how we drank dew — very carefully we sipped drops of dew, as if inviting them inside. We feel in the mouth their subtle taste.
Let us imagine: I incline the big cup of a flower — and together with dew, amazingly fragrant nectar pours out. Flower pollen falls like golden rain from above and envelops me as a golden cloud, penetrates inside, fills the body with goldish light. I observe how a golden wave goes through my entire body: from the head to the soles. Body begins to rock; let it be free: let it sway, let it bathe in the golden flow. Let our hands rise and sway like leaves of seaweed in the warm, tender, pleasant flows of goldish light.
Children do relaxation in half-tortoise pose. The narration continues during relaxation:
Songs in the Singing Forest were different at different times of the year. Also, every new day, every time of the day gave birth to their own melodies:
In the morning, songs were merry, ringing, pink —
The songs of pines and birches.
In the afternoon, they were soft and golden —
The songs of honey, the songs of resin.
In the evening, they were different —
Blue and red, lilac and yellow,
And very pleasant mint songs.
So lived this Singing Forest. Everyone enjoyed its songs — the Deer, and the Fox, and the Squirrel, and the Hare. Everyone was happy in this Forest!
Underground the Mole constructed its labyrinths and built tunnels. It also liked to listen to songs very much. It was especially pleased with the song of the Robin, and always hurried towards the first morning trills of its favorite singer.
Let us listen to the sounds around, like moles do. Somewhere high above us, a wonderful melody sounds. Only some of the sounds reach us. Let us feel that above us — there is pure sunlight. And in the sky — there is a giant loving being — the Sun! We feel the desire to become closer to it, even a little bit. It gives its light and love equally to all living beings. And how close we get to it depends only on us, on our efforts! With our hands we push aside all the dark layers of the earth; we push ourselves upward. The further we get, the easier it is to move… We make one last effort and come to the surface! We delight in the song of the Robin, in light and warmth! We feel much happiness and satisfaction, because we managed to overcome the obstacles! We are strong; we managed to traverse this difficult path!
After thanking the singer and the sun, moles continue their job underground, but in the chest of every one of them there shines a very tender, kind, bright sun. It is the same as the Sun above. Moles are very happy about that and never forget to give the rays of their suns to everyone they meet on the way!
We approach each other and shine with the rays of our love. Feel how the sun in the chest grows, increases, becomes brighter with the desire to warm, to gladden other people. Making movements with the hands from the chest to the sides, we pour out kindness and tenderness!