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Dec 24
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Time to Tiger in Vienna

Celebrating Children’s Day, families gather for a kid-friendly event in Austria

by Hans Kaufmann

IMG_3237klWe met at four o’clock in the afternoon, in order “to tiger.” One of the boys had suggested  this term about two years ago, making a verb of the noun tiger.  It was his name for our monthly meetings, which are dedicated to exploring playful ways of approaching mindfulness, meditation and warrior principles with children.

There had existed something like “Shambhala Kinderunterricht”  in earlier years, but it had ceased at some point. About two years ago, I met with some other parents, discussing how to start fresh. We did not want to revive another version of “Religionsunterricht,” but rather to try out something else, something more interactive, something that involved parents doing something playful together along with the children.

IMG_3269klWe started to experiment with some “bricks” of such an event, consisting of movement, stories (which catch childrens’ attention most easily), simple mindfulness exercises (like listening to the gong until it fades), and, after a break, a simple tea ceremony, where children learn to serve tea and cookies and to talk as little as possible during drinking and eating. The “less talking” part is still a challenge, but is already much better than it was….

Today the group was very small, with two seven-year-old boys and two fathers, including myself. Two girls who often attended were sick, and one boy had to do a lot of homework for school on this Sunday afternoon. Continuity has turned out to be a big challenge. Some kids, who were participating, feel so burdened by school and other activities during the week, that they want “nur ruhe!” during weekends, and not to go to another event. But we have not given up, and most times there are four to six children participating.

IMG_3242klOne starting exercise, which is a favourite for the kids, the “monkey-tiger-magic,” we decided not to do today, because we were guests in the main Buddhist center of Vienna. We were in the Theravada room, neighbour to the Zendo where a group of zen meditators practice Zazen. (In fact some of these practitioners showed up later, complaining about some noise the boys had made during break.) Instead, we began with a short Yoga session, which they started to like. During one exercise, raising one arm slowly up, when we started with the right arm, one boy said to the other, “The right hand, not the left!” The second boy, not impressed at all, said, “Whether the right or the left goes first does not matter at all. What counts is to raise one arm.”

We continued to ‘listen to the gong,” in upright sitting posture, until it faded. The boys decided to make a competition of it, seeing who could hear the gong the longest, and we had a hard time convincing them not to stick their ears right in the gong itself. (Sometimes our sessions would have been good enough for a Laurel and Hardy short film!)

IMG_3212 kl (800x450)Then I asked the boys what they know about the winter solstice. They knew a lot, and we started to go into the Iljana story, which they remembered very well too. Every year in the fall, when we approach the winter solstice and Children’s Day, we use the opportunity to transmit a bit more of the meaning of the four dignities. Gaining already some understanding for the mindfulness of the tiger, we explored today humbleness (and its opposite, as represented in the familiar Grimms’ fairy tale about a fisherman and his wife). I was surprised how well they had remembered the words and tune of the Tiger song. We also repeated the Lion’s song, which we had not practiced for a whole year. When the children were asked –  looking at the lyrics of the song –  which quality they would connect with the tiger, both of them knew quickly: “Joy”!

Then we had a break, and somebody commented about the zen practitioners, saying that “perhaps their meditation does not seem so strong, when they are so easily disturbed by noise.”

gesar und valentin - kl - KopieAfter break we practiced the tea ceremony.  The children like to fulfill the different tasks needed for the setup and for the practice itself: serving out the cups, the tea, and the cookies, as well as bowing. This time they managed to bow even after having served somebody! When we closed the ceremony with a final bow, I asked what they knew about bowing. One boy said, “I think Buddhists do that, because it works much more quickly than shaking everybody’s hand.”

Then we cleared the space, put a little dana in the basket, and everyone headed for home. Children and parents will gather here again soon.

Author’s note: the “monkey-tiger-magic” is an exercise that I invented as an opening to our sessions, looking for a way to help the children to move from excited activity to a more slow and receptive mode of being. It starts with jumping around like monkeys, accompanied by a bass drum played in quite a quick rhythm. Then, when they are somewhat exhausted, the sound of the gong tells them to transform into tigers, moving slowly and very attentively through the jungle, opening their sense perceptions for feelings, sounds, smells and colors. After the gong, the rhythm of the drum slows down to the pace of the tiger song, which at some point, we start to sing. While singing, we are also assembling in the circle on the cushions, sitting upright (as much as possible) and listening to the gong after the song has ended.

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1 response to “ Time to Tiger in Vienna ”
  1. David Brown
    Dec 24, 2015

    Dear Hans,

    I am delighted you have shared this with the community! May it bring great benefit to our next generations.


    David Brown

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