Mindfully on the Way

In August, twenty children (aged 6-10 years) from Belgium and Luxembourg spent five days together in a farmhouse in Medendorf, a picturesque village in the south-east of Belgium. Nine adults (teachers, therapists, art workers and educators) and a kitchen crew - all volunteers - accompanied the children on a mindful journey under the theme ‘Achtsam Unterwegs’ (Mindfully on the Way).

Organisers Marguy Krier and Stany Paquet explain why the summer camp offers such a powerful and moving experience for both children and adults:

“The overall aims of the annual summer camps are: Learning to better understand ourselves, our environment and the connecting relations in between. Realising and developing our potential for wisdom, knowledge and compassion in order to act in a more peaceful, happy, aware and joyful way towards ourselves, others and the world around us.

As last year, the children generated an atmosphere of caring, helping and serenity. It was astonishing to see them speak and play together in their free time, almost without the need of interference by adults. Again, we were - and still are - amazed how open they were to participating in the activities we proposed and integrating the learning. They really enjoyed the moments of silence, concentrating on their experience. We still see them carefully treading barefoot on the dewdrops in the grass without a sound slipping from their lips. We remember them conscientiously choosing their 16G card for the morning motivation, laying a stone silently for the mandala, integrating new ways of experiencing and trying them out. During their reflections at the end of the summer camp, most children expressed that they felt contented and many wished to come back next summer!"

THE PROGRAMME

In 2013 the specific emphasis of the summer camp was on mindfulness.

“We presented mindfulness by giving a theme to each day, linked to one of our senses e.g. ‘hearing and speaking’, ’seeing and feeling’. On the first day we presented the concept of ‘Non-Violent Communication’ as a mindful and peaceful way of dealing with each other (the ‘hearing and speaking’ theme).

The days started with a short meditation, a yoga session and the motivation for the day, which was symbolized by a stone mandala put together with the help of each participant in the group.

The morning activity focused on experiential knowledge of philosophical and spiritual themes. The understanding the children gained of themselves as human beings, our environment and its interconnectedness was then deepened together in groups. Through combining direct experience with discussion, reflection and sharing in groups, and using creative expression, the children learned how perceptions are linked to the body and senses, and connected to feelings and thoughts, but that perceptions ‘belong’ to us for just some fleeting moments (the ‘seeing and feeling’ theme).

On the last day, the theme of the activities was ‘hand and foot’, putting into practice the experiences of the week. This took place in the forest, where the children - guided by a story - built four different huts that housed animals representing four key qualities: the snail symbolized patience; the lamb stood for good-will (not wanting to hurt); the hen represented generosity; and the owl symbolized wisdom. By visiting each hut in turn, the children could then experience these qualities.

Throughout the week, activities were deepened through meditations, practising mindfulness, and yoga sessions. Each day, the children had the opportunity to choose among different ‘creative + nature’ activities, which followed lunch and a sleeping break. Divided into groups of seven, the children then spent three hours on their chosen activity.

Before bedtime, we all gathered once again, centring, meditating and looking back on the day and the morning motivation. We mindfully remembered the positive results of the day, which we observed in ourselves and others. Sharing this, we rejoiced and dedicated it to our wellbeing and to all living beings.”

THE TEAM

"All of the people involved did this important work for free. It is due to them that once again the summer camp was possible and such a success. As last year, even the weather was sunny, which made things easy for us and enjoyable.

This year we had six people to create the morning activities, spending a lot of time on preparation, and this team was present for the whole week and stayed committed, leading activities. It was reinforced by several people offering help during the afternoon activities and looking after the children during free time and breaks. We also held daily feedback meetings in the evening that were open to all participating adults. To maintain and develop the constructive potential of this motivated team we are thinking of deepening our practice of Non-Violent Communication.

Again our kitchen crew was a jewel to all participants. It was so nice just to pass by the kitchen, greeted by delicious smells and being met with so much care and kindness.

We weaved mindfulness into this circle of children (see photo above) and, on their wish, into this team of adults too. We experienced all of us as a big circle of kindness, part of the important, profound, significant and far-reaching work all over the Earth, creating the change the world needs.

For us it was an experience of growing into and filling out more and more our ‘proper place’, increasing our gratitude and confidence that we can concentrate our energies on this work and grow steadily. May our next summer camp be as successful as this one. May all this help to be part of the change we need in the world!”