Research is showing that mindfulness and compassion training practices can yield a number of benefits in the areas of physical and psychological health, contributing to social-emotional intelligence as well. While the science of mindfulness is currently en vogue, we should not forget that mindful awareness is best taught and learned using the oldest of human traditions – good storytelling.
There are currently about 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States. Teachers all over the country face the challenge of teaching the Hispanic population with curricula designed and tested in Anglo-Saxon countries.
“El Regalo del Elefante, Mindfulness para Niños” is a Compassionate Mindfulness Curriculum, presented as a delightful story, originally written in Spanish and tested with Hispanic children. It has been successfully applied from K through 6th grades at public and private schools, community centers and hospitals in several cities throughout Mexico and the US since 2012. During this time, it has been found that children connect with the story and the characters and are able to remember not only the story but also the practices from one school year to the next. Even better, children want to become “mindfulness teachers” at their homes.
This curriculum introduces various developmentally appropriate mindful awareness practices as well as social-emotional skills using a narrative about two children and their discovery of a young elephant. Ancient contemplative traditions considered the elephant as an analogy of the mind. The elephant is seen as a powerful, majestic and noble animal that can be trained to take us wherever we want to go. However, a wild animal without training can be dangerous and destructive. In these traditions, the training of an elephant is an analogy of the training of our own mind, the most wonderful gift we have as human beings.
A well-trained mind can be very powerful and the best vehicle to help us achieve self-realization.
“El Regalo del Elefante, Mindfulness para Niños” takes two children, Danny and Maya, and Rumi, the baby elephant, through a journey of self discovery through mindfulness-based skill building.
This book can be regarded as a tool box, presenting a different tool every chapter. It comes alive through its use of language and art. We, as readers, share this systematic process of bringing our mind back home which brings us to the discovery of the magic of the present moment, fully aware of our sensory processes as well as our thoughts and emotions.
Although this book is designed to be used as a mindfulness curriculum at schools, it can also be read as a bedtime story. Ideally, parents or teachers will read it to the little ones, one chapter per week and then perform the practices and exercises presented in the chapter, throughout the week. The goal is that children gradually begin to incorporate these practices to their lives, helping them to connect with their innate compassion while learning new ways to develop their attention and self-awareness.
The English version will soon be available at bookstores.