I was thrilled when my editor Emma asked if I wanted to write an activity guide to go along with Ida, Always. I spent a long time considering what kinds of activities, discussion prompts, tips, and information to offer readers that would help in exploring the themes of friendship, love, bereavement and loss. (Maybe a little tooo long, thank you Editor Emma for being so patient.)
It took me a long time, because I had so many ideas. Over the years I've picked up tons of creative arts, grounding, and relaxation activities from acting classes, being a teaching artist, hanging out in elementary schools, summercamp...they're everywhere. It was hard to make choices because I was excited and nervous, wanting to offer the best ideas I could. At the same time I was fretting over decisions about what to include in the guide, I was also getting ready for the first session of a Loss & Bereavement group I was helping to facilitate in an elementary school. I was asked to lead the group in some grounding exercises. Again, an array of possibilities went through my mind. As I went to the group, I was excited, and nervous, wanting to offer the best ideas I could. So, I went with one of the most essential, simplest activities there are. The first one I'd put first in the guide. Something we do without thinking. Breath. Only this exercise asks kids to become aware of their breath for a moment, and guide it. I had learned how to breath deeply in acting class, meditation practice, and martial arts training. When I first started leading groups of students in deeper breathing, I worried the young kids would get too silly or the highschoolers would be too resistant. But, as it turns out, everybody is pretty psyched to learn how to center themselves. Sometimes I call it "actors breath," "air milkshakes," or "what martial artists do." This time, I'm using clouds, because Charles Santoso made such beautful ones in our book. Try it out, share it with a kid you love. Let me know how it goes.
Caron learned about belly breathing from acting and martial arts training; she uses it whenever she wants to relax, calm nerves, or focus.
Sit centered on feet or bottom; close your eyes or pick a spot to rest your gaze.
Notice your breath and how it is moving today, right now (is it fast? slow? quiet? loud?) Whatever it's doing to support you is great.
Now, imagine the air in front of you is a cloud. Take a slow, deep breath that that brings that cloud all the way to your belly, filling it up. You'll know it's there when you see your tummy move out a little.