THE SLOW WALKING KINDNESS REFLECTION ACTIVITY FOR KIDS
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” (Aesop)
If you enjoyed my BAM post on Mindful Walking, please try a second experimental reflection activity with your class. When I created this new activity, I thought I was asking too much from students, teachers, and myself. So I attempted the slow walking kindness reflection activity (yes, you heard that correctly) and was totally surprised after completing the body-and-mind journey. Check it out yourself to see if it works for you. Follow the step-by-step instructions that will come up in the article and experience the effects/affects of the multi-sensory exercise good-for-kids-and-adults.
BAM PULSE RADIO PODCAST SERIES:
"The Slow Walking Kindness Reflection Activity for Kids"
PLEASE listen to Parts #1 and #2 of my podcast titled, "The Slow Walking Kindness Reflection Activity for Kids," on BAM Radio's new radio show, PULSE: pulse.bamradionetwork.com/jeffrey-pflaum. Part #1 introduces the procedures of the activity and how it came about through my real life experiences and reading books by Robert Walser. Part #2 features more details about the activity, including suggested discussion questions you can ask students after they have completed the entire activity. Part #3 of the podcast series will come in the next two weeks. Here I describe my experiences in attempting to do this physical and contemplative exercise.
Mindful walking leads to the “slow walking kindness reflection activity”
In my previous BAM blog post, “Mindful Walk Activities Take Students ‘Places’” (10/10/13), I created my own type of walking meditation based on experiences walking along Little Neck Bay in Bayside, Queens, New York and to Ft. Totten, a public park. The activity develops, what I call, the “prerequisite fundamental skills” for learning and learning how to learn: concentration, recall, visualization, reflection, experiencing, motivation, and self-expression. These combined academic and EI abilities allow children to get through any “distractions” and focus on the world in front of them.
For the activity, children walk around the school block in silence while mindfully observing the things in their path. It’s like a “leisurely walk,” only their eyes become cameras snapping away at whatever makes them think, imagine, and feel. At the end of the walk, they recall, reflect, contemplate, and then write about the experience. A discussion, featuring oral readings of the writings, plus questions probing their experiences, follows.
The “slow walking kindness reflection” in brief
“Forget injuries; never forget kindness” (Confucius)
Instead of focusing so much on the world in front and around them, children focus on the act of walking, taking slow steps and feeling each one as a movement of kindness. This reflective and contemplative physical activity creates a peaceful calmness through slow walking, or walking with deliberate steps. Students focus on, sense, and experience each one, and realize, at the same time, that the movements are steps of kindness, and try to feel the kindness flowing through their bodies.
Creating the combined physical and reflective exercise
For young children and adolescents, movement activities work, so I like to include, if I can, the physical with the mental, emotional, and psychological components. Slow walking gives kids “moments of pause,” as opposed to speed walking, where walkers move at a fast pace for mostly physical results or exercise.
Origins of the “slow walking kindness reflection” activity
“Kindness is wisdom.” (Phillip James Bailey)
The idea for the reflective-contemplative physical activity came from a line in Robert Walser’s book, The Tanners: “Walk with slow steps, feeling every footstep as an act of human kindness.” I read the line and imagined a feeling of warmth and kindness in my mind, experiencing them as I visualized myself walking slowly: the beginnings of a new reflective-contemplative activity.
Real-life kindness experiences trigger this author’s experiential exercise
“The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on.” (Julia Alvarez)
I am 68 years old, probably look my age (more than what I’d like to think), and also, emit an “old age” vibe to young people on New York City subways and streets. In two train incidents, where all the seats in the car were taken, people have offered me theirs, which dumbfounded me for an instant, because why would they do such a thing, and the answer was, “out of kindness,” to help an older person. On another occasion, I was in my car and left the front passenger door open while trying to reach something on the dashboard, but with little luck. A man saw me having trouble and said, “Do you want me to close the door for you?” I said, “I’m okay, I was just trying to reach something in front of me,” and thanked him for his kindness…and so began my thought processes turning on to kindness, and connecting me to the line in the Walser book.
The value of teaching kindness
“There is no exercise better for the head than reaching down and lifting people up.”
(John Holmes, “Thoughtful Mind,” Inspiring Quote for April 28, 2014)
How important is teaching kindness to all students: in a word, “very.” “Do onto others,” the golden rule, illuminates this crucial value, which is needed in everyday life. What is kindness? For me, it’s a feeling of warmth and love with a little bit of peace added—not a bad combination, right? If children learn this feeling-value early on in pre-k, how good would that be for their future? People—students and teachers—can step out of themselves for a moment in time and see-feel-connect with others by trying this slow walking kindness reflection activity.
The implication and consequences of walking, especially slow, or leisurely, walking
Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” (Lao-Tzu)
When you walk mindfully, kids get to look, see, and observe things. They experience the act of walking and movement, without a rushed or speedy feeling. In a sense, they stop themselves to connect with and appreciate the world outside: it almost becomes a meditative exercise. But the connection and meditative aspects in the slow walking kindness reflection are taking slow steps, imagining and/or sensing kindness in the body, and then actually stopping to recall, reflect on, and contemplate the entire experience. If these fundamental learning and emotional intelligence skills of recall, reflection, observation, and contemplation can be learned through the “walking activities,” it would make a difference in educating students in academic and artistic subjects.
Slow walking kindness reflection activity will motivate young and older children alike
Walking slowly with kindness, along with stopping and reflecting, will engage students. But other motivating factors come into play, for example, this is an unusual and unfamiliar activity for kids, something they probably never tried before. There is also an intriguing, unknown, and absurd quality to it, which would bode well for children in this experiential, motivational, entertaining, and challenging activity.
Best setting or location for the activity
The activity requires that the entire class do slow walking in whatever direction they choose, so the school gym, with no other classes present, would probably be your best place for the kids to perform it. Here you can do all the parts of the slow walking kindness reflection with the least amount of distractions.
Step-by-step procedures for the “slow walking kindness reflection activity” around the gym
Step 1 “What words come to mind if you think about the word ‘kindness’? Word-storm a list of words connected to ‘kindness.’ Note: Students bring notebooks, loose leafs, pads and pens or pencils to write their responses. (Time limit: 3 minutes)
Step 2 “Walk in whatever direction you want without bumping into and talking to anyone. Walk slowly, deliberately, and thoughtfully. Think about each step you take in the gym.” (Total time limit for walking around gym, steps 2 - 5: 15 minutes)
Step 3 “Feel every footstep you take. Make it a step of kindness. As you step down, imagine and feel the kindness coming from your body to the ground. When your foot touches the ground, feel the warmth of kindness flow up your body till it reaches your head. Keep walking. Feel the kindness moving through your body. If your mind should wander, that’s okay, gently bring it back to the act of walking kindness.”
Step 4 “Whenever you feel like it, STOP, close your eyes, and think carefully about or contemplate on what you are doing. What are you experiencing right at the moment?”
Step 5 “Continue walking, following each step with a feeling of kindness. STOP whenever you need to, close your eyes for 10 seconds, and think about this kindness walking. What feelings and thoughts are you experiencing? Recall and reflect.”
Step 6 “After walking for 15 minutes, you will hear me say, ‘It’s over, please take your last step’ and take a deep breath, hold it in for a second, and let it out slowly. How do you feel now?”
Notes: You want children to walk slowly, mindfully, and feel the kindness as they step and touch the ground. When they stop, it puts the “brakes” on their movements, allowing them to recall, reflect, and visualize what they experienced. Teachers should model these procedures to help students understand what is expected of them in the activity.
From “slow walking” to listening to music and re-viewing the entire activity mentally
- To the class: “I am going to play some music now. Please listen with your eyes closed. Reflect on, contemplate, and think carefully about your walking kindness experience. What happened on the inside and outside? RECALL. REFLECT. VISUALIZE. FEEL. EXPERIENCE.”
- Notes: Boom box and a CD with a few popular songs are needed. Suggested music: something slow for reflection. Kids can sit on the gym floor or sideline benches and listen to the music. There is no writing while the music plays. (Time limit: 10 minutes)
- To the class: “Write about whatever you can recall from your outer experience (while walking) and inner experience (in your mind and imagination). Have fun writing about the activity and your experiences. Remember that there are no right or wrong answers. Talk about and describe what happened to you.” (Time limit: 20 minutes)
- To the class: “After reviewing your writings, I will read them orally and anonymously the next day and we will talk about them. I’ll ask questions about what you wrote and your experiences.” (Time limit: 30 minutes)
- Notes: Teachers take home the writings, review them overnight, make up questions to explore a sampling of the student writings, and then have a class discussion the following day in the room. Questions should probe both the walking or physical aspects of the activity, as well as the psychological, or inner experiences of the kids.
Suggested sample questions for discussion
- What was it like to walk slowly or deliberately? Describe your experience.
- Did you feel the kindness as your foot touched the ground?
- What feelings did you experience while walking?
- What happened when you stopped walking? What were you thinking and feeling?
- Did you imagine or visualize any pictures in your mind while stopping and walking?
- Did you feel any physical sensations while walking and then stopping?
- What happened as you were listening to the music? What did you experience inside? Did anything come to mind that was unexpected and totally surprised you? If so, describe whatever they were.
- How would you describe the slow walking kindness reflection activity to another student who never tried it before? What would you say about it?
Rules for the slow walking kindness reflection activity
- “Please, there is no talking or playing around with classmates during the walking.”
- “Focus totally on your slow walking and the experience of kindness.”
- “Take each step slowly, silently, feeling the kindness as your foot touches ground.”
- “Visualize the feeling moving up to your mind, imagination, heart, and spirit.”
- “When you stop walking, close your eyes, and reflect on what just happened.”
- “At the end of the activity, listen to the music with eyes closed, and reflect by focusing carefully or contemplating on your entire walking experience. And please, do this silently without discussing with your classmates.”
- “Write about your entire slow walking kindness reflection for 20 minutes.”
Summary of the slow walking kindness reflection activity
“Kindness is ever the begetter of kindness.” (Sophocles)
The kids start off by word storming ‘kindness” and then begin slow walking around the gym. Each step is an act of kindness they should try to feel. Students can walk in any direction they want and stop whenever they want to recall and reflect on the experience. After 15 minutes of walking, they get to listen to music for 10 minutes and reflect on and contemplate their walking kindness experience. They finish with writing about their outer and inner experiences for 20 minutes. A discussion follows with oral readings of the writings (anonymously) and questions asked by the teacher about the work and activity.
MY SLOW WALKING KINDNESS REFLECTION ACTIVITY EXPERIENCE
“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” (Jean Jacques Rousseau)
- I tried my hypothetical, experiential reflection and surprised myself, because it worked. Experiencing the feeling of kindness was a goal of the activity, but it came at the end while listening to meditative music consisting of flutes, bells, whistles, and vocals. The 10-minute selection was called “Mountain” from the album, Music for MEDITATION by Peter Davison.
- All the time while walking I kept waiting for the kindness to shoot up and down my leg, but it really didn’t happen. The slow walking, this deliberate stepping, made me wobble somewhat, balance got a little hard at certain points, so I picked up the pace a notch.
- This type of walking, by virtue of its name, slows you down and makes you feel like you’re on a journey. When I stopped and closed my eyes, I felt my heart beating, at the beginning a little rapidly, but with successive stops, it slowed down somewhat, enough that I noticed the difference from the previous stops. Stopping with your eyes closed made a big difference because I could recall my experience and the gradual relaxation this activity brought to me. With more stops, the more amazement I felt, the legs seemed to get heavier and heavier, and at times, it was very hard to put the steps together with the thought of kindness.
- “Where is the kindness?” I kept wondering. “Isn’t it what I was supposed to experience in the activity? Where was the kindness?”
- I kept walking and stopping and feeling better with each step, and thought that was good. Finally, after finishing the 15-minute slow walking kindness reflection, I played slow classical meditative music (adagio) and listened for 10 minutes with my eyes closed. The funniest thing happened while the music played: I started feeling really good and the kindness, this loving calmness came over me, and that’s when I really stopped, when my mind slowed down and ceased taking its speedy internal and multiple side-trips.
- Reflecting in-between slow walking and focusing on kindness (as best as I could) seemed like a much longer trip psychologically than the real time showed on the clock. I enjoyed listening to the flutes and bells and felt my heart again and my breathing slowing down: the usual hyper sensations were no longer there because now I felt a little more relaxed. The music was incredible and made a huge difference. Slow walking and the slow music afterwards had much to do with calmer breathing and a relaxed heart rate. The heaviness in my body and mind lightened up and I wanted to keep this going as long as I could.
- I continued playing the Music for MEDITATION CD as I wrote down my experiences, and that, too, made a difference in my writing. Now I’m thinking it would be a good idea, and an option for teachers to play music while children describe their experiences.
- And yes, I could focus on all the instructions given for the writing: I recalled things, like the walking, where my focus was mostly, and I didn’t drift into inner experiences so much, like feelings, thoughts, mind-pictures, and/or self-talk in general, there was just too much to do in the activity between focusing on walking and kindness. This was a good thing because I wasn’t distracted and felt fully engaged in the total experience.
- I reflected during the stops—that was pretty easy—and the final STOP, or listening to the music, was a phenomenal way to reflect on my recollections. The music combined with the writing helped me express my experiences. And I could visualize what I just went through, that is, to see myself walking around (my house) and concentrating on kindness walking: it was fun, different, and challenging to keep my focus, but I was able to follow my kindness steps.
- What did I feel? I felt a lot while listening to the music: good, peaceful, calm, and for what it’s worth, a warmness, what you might call a physical sensation of kindness, and “lighter,” and I felt my self, was in touch with me and the sensations that ran through my body. Does it matter if you give the feeling(s) a name? I know I just felt happier than before I started the activity, so something was initiated, a certain positive energy arose through the physical effort of walking. Also, you can’t discount the skill of concentrating and contemplating, because they had something to do with the final experience while listening to the music.
- The music was a great ending to a 15-minute journey, which seemed a lot longer than the actual event. I wasn’t concerned about the time, it didn’t exist, and the experience felt “lived through,” where my body, mind, heart, and spirit became involved: it was truly a here-and-now, living-in-the-moment, and living-in-present-time event. I felt fresh, like I did something for real.
- And I thought about the phrase we hear today, “random acts of kindness,” where people, out of the goodness of their hearts, will do something for someone less fortunate, will do something just to be kind to another person, or help someone in need, indeed.
- Now, as I write, I am remembering my real-life experiences that got me into the idea for the slow walking kindness reflection. People on the subway offered me a seat on a few occasions, and although this was not a major event, it was an act of kindness that made me stop-and-think, and that’s what I am doing with the activity, asking you to walk slowly, take your time, feel your steps, feel the kindness, and really, just STOP for a few moments and feel yourself, the little journeys you take everyday on the inside and outside, and get back to yourself or selves.
- And the last word on the instructions: experience. Yes, this was a “lived” experience, where I felt each and every slow walking step. At the end, while listening to music, the entire trip came together, coalescing in mind and imagination, so I could express it in words, and I think that is what happened when I experienced the slow walking kindness activity. All my senses were taken up in my actions. I was involved with all my body and mind, so that when I did sit-down-and-write, I could get into things and get them out, by recalling, reflecting on, visualizing, feeling, and experiencing what I went through during the activity and coming out of it “alive.” How good is that?
Sources and resources for the slow walking kindness reflection activity
Check out my podcast-to-come, CREATIVELY SPEAKING, on the BAM Radio Network new show, PULSE. The tentative title for the future podcast will be “The Slow Walking Kindness Reflection Activity.”
You can also read my BAM Street Journal post on the BAM Radio Network, “Mindful Walk Activities Take Students ‘Places,’” to find this combined physical and reflective-contemplative activity good-for-kids.
Check out these resources on the Internet: “Walking Meditation” (Meditation Oasis), “A Guide to Walking Meditation” (Thich Nhat Hanh), and “Walking Meditation” (The Huffington Post, 4/19/14). You will find free audio downloads of walking meditations on the Internet as well.