It all started when…
A few years ago, I was having a regular day in the life of a Crouching Tigers instructor/CEO/curriculum developer and was gathering students for class and attempting to corral them into our dedicated class space. Twelve three and four year olds struggled to keep hands to themselves and “bubbles” in their mouths but we managed to get to our classroom and prepare for class. Back then, we would start class with a warmup before moving into a story and our martial arts skills but I struggled to keep the attention of this specific class. The kids talked over me, and one another, started shoving each other, crying, running in circles and not one child was doing what I asked, which was to sit criss-cross on the floor.
Something had changed over the course of my time running Crouching Tigers. While I previously enjoyed starting each class and instructing my students through various exercises, I was struggling to get them to focus enough to even begin class and I knew I wasn’t alone. My instructors were struggling, the teachers in these classrooms were struggling and I was consistently hearing how parents of these students were also struggling. It seemed as though the attention spans of these children were decreasing at a rapid rate and the ability to manage emotions was almost nonexistent and I knew that something needed to change.
At the time, I was fairly new to practicing mindfulness but had been researching the benefits for children and had also taken a few yoga teacher trainings so I decided to give it a try in my classes.
“Is it possible to teach mindfulness to children?”
was the first thought that entered my head. As someone who struggles to focus and manage stress as an adult, the initial idea of teaching this practice to children seemed unreasonable but I was determined to give it a try. I tried a few “meditation games” with my class and they seemed to be effective for a short period of time. After the children had played the games, however, they were bored with them and wanted something new so I knew this was only a short term solution to my problem and I kept searching for more.
While in my RYT-200 (200 hour yoga teacher certification) through Invoke Studio in Indianapolis, my (amazing) instructor, Ahna Hoke, introduced sound meditation to our group at the beginning of a class in the form of a singing bowl. The way that the vibrations calmed me down and demanded my attention is an experience that I’ll never forget. For the rest of that class, I struggled to get ideas of how to incorporate singing bowls into Crouching Tigers classes out of my mind. When I got home, began researching when I stumbled upon the term “monkey mind” and knew immediately that it was a term that I was going to be using quite often as we incorporate many animal themes into Crouching Tigers classes. Monkey Mind is defined as “unsettled; restless; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” and I knew that it was a term that would resonate with my students. Singing bowls are great tools but the name “singing bowl” isn’t one that I thought would stick with my students so I opted for “Chime” (I know it’s not a chime but guess what? It stuck).
In my next class, I couldn’t wait to see my students reactions to this tool. I explained that we all have “monkey mind” and that I have something that helps chase away that monkey mind. The looks on my students’ faces were priceless as they sat, jaws dropped, listening to stories of how monkeys can make us silly, make it hard to focus and can even make us be unkind to others. When I pulled the chime out of my bag though, I started to see the real magic happen. With eyes closed and hands on knees, I saw every one of my students hold their focus for the 14 seconds that the sound of chime lasted. Gently I instructed them to open their eyes and the smiles on their faces told me that I was on to something. “The monkey is gone!” “I don’t have anymore monkey mind!” they exclaimed and just like that, they were ready to begin class. Just like that, they were focused, calm and attentive and they couldn’t wait to use the chime again and “get rid of monkey mind” in their next class. Today, every Crouching Tigers class starts the same way, with the sound of the chime and my instructors, teachers and parents have reported that our students have an increase in focus and attention span as well as an increased ability to calm down, or manage stress.
We found something that works!
About a year ago, I began putting serious thought into the idea of using the chimes at home to see if they would work as a tool to combat melt downs, restlessness and overall “monkey mind” but I knew that I needed a story to make this happen. I knew that if I simply sent a chime home with kids that the chances of them using it correctly and benefiting from the experience was slim. The book has taken many twists and turns, has had ups and downs and ultimately has been one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. Thankfully, with the help and opinions of my students, instructors and families, we now have the first version of the book, named “Your Chime” and the beginning of what will be the Your Chime package that will offer both the book and a custom chime, designed specifically for kids.
The Your Chime Project Launches March 19th on Kickstarter and pre-orders will be taken from March 19 – April 19.
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