This mindful listening practice asks your children and students to explore what they can hear around them in an intentional way. Our hearing is so sensitive. All of the sounds around us are competing for our attention all of the time. Learning to attune our hearing to the sounds that are most important at the moment is a life skill that children are called upon to exercise from the moment they are asked to pay attention. (in the world, at home, and when they enter school).
1. First find a still and comfortable position with your body. It's fine to sit in a chair, or lean against the wall. The most important thing is that you are comfortable enough to be still just for a few minutes. It may be helpful to close your eyes for this activity. If it doesn't feel comfortable to close your eyes, let them rest on the ground right in front of you.
2. Now that you are still and comfortable, take a deep breath or two to help you get ready for what is going to come next.
3. The first thing that we are going to listen for are the sounds that are far away from us. Open your ears as wide as you can make them, and imagine stretching your hearing way out beyond the room you are sitting in, and maybe even the house or classroom that room is in, all the way to the outdoors. Listen carefully and find the furthest away sounds that you can hear.
4. When you start hearing sounds, don't worry about identifying the sound, or figuring out what it making the sound. Just notice it exactly as it is. (Give your kids and/or students a few moments to minutes of silence here depending on age).
5. Now that you have heard the farthest away sounds you can find, bring your hearing in a little bit closer, and find the sounds that are in the classroom, building or house. Again, don't worry about figuring out what is making the sounds, just listen for them.
6. Next we are going to bring our hearing even closer, to find the sounds that are in this room. Reach your hearing into each corner of the room and see what sounds you can find.
7. After you have found all of the sounds in the room, we are going to bring our hearing to the closest place of all - our own bodies.
8. Pull your hearing all the way to your body. Pull it out of the room and turn it to the sounds that you can find your own body making. Listen carefully. Your body might have a lot to say.
9. After a few moments of listening to your own body, gently open your eyes.
1. Talk with your kids.
2. Give them time to process the activity and give them the space to experience how they felt during the activity. Perhaps offer a journal activity or a craft afterwards.
3. Ask them some questions and allow them time to answer and share.
4. Remember and discuss that this is a practice. It may not be easy to do so it's nice to mention that exercises like this sometimes take practice just like any activity or sport. Our listening and the mind and brain are all like muscles and we are exercising them just like any other muscles in our bodies!
5. Share the benefits! Learning to listen is such an important part of life and discuss why.
Teaching our minds and ears to become quiet and to focus is an amazing gift to provide kids. They are constantly being asked to pay attention and to listen. These are the foundation of skills that are crucial in helping our kids thrive in life.
As always we would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to comment and share your stories!
Layers of Sound and many other fun and effective practices can be found in Jennifer Cohen Harper's book, Little Flower Yoga for Kids.