Carry the vision at Del Mar

Del Mar fifth grade class practicing meditation. (Photo by Ruth Ann Angus)

MORRO BAY — The children in Mr. Weitzen’s fifth-grade class at Del Mar School cover their eyes and put their thumbs in their ears blocking out the world for just five minutes as they meditate, breathing deeply in and out. There is calm and quiet and peace.

Children practicing meditation in the classroom! What is this all about? It seems that Del Mar School has embraced the concept that nonviolence education restores and establishes a peaceful environment.  Principal Janet Gould accepted a concept brought forth to them by Julie Hitchcock, one of the parents and a coordinator in the Restore Program Instruction and Development program of Carry The Vision, a peace and nonviolence organization centered in Gilroy, California.

Carry The Vision’s mission is to restore lives and communities through nonviolence education creating a peaceful and compassionate world. This organization began with a local event highlighting the Season for Nonviolence, an international grassroots educational campaign launched by the United Nations on January 30th, 1998. Season for Nonviolence was co-founded by Arun and Sunanda Gandhi of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. Carry the Vision’s co-founders are Ellen Grace O’Brian and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and they have offered nine community-wide nonviolence conferences gathering thousands of people from diverse sectors of the community who share a common goal to carry on the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez. These conferences have brought international leaders in the nonviolence movement such as Arun Gandhi, Dolores Huerta, Dr. Bernard Lafayette, and Yolanda King as speakers.

In 2014, O’Brian created the “Restore Life Skills Program” to work directly with individuals and groups in schools, reentry programs, jails, and the workplace. This program provides training in nonviolence education that is for everyone regardless of stage in life, age, place, time, or circumstance. Hitchcock joined Carry The Vision to help develop the curriculum that is now in use at Del Mar School.

“We began a year ago at Del Mar with the Children in First Grade,” Hitchcock said, “and it was so interesting because at that age children have no inhibitions and they took to meditation easily.”

Gould then decided to use the curriculum school-wide and now it is a prominent part in every class. Hitchcock comes and facilitates the meditation in several classes teaching the children different methods.

The one in Mr. Weitzen’s class was entitled “Peaceful Tree” and this writer was there that day to observe. Not all the children took to this particular technique. One didn’t care for plugging his ears and another raised his hand and quietly told Hitchcock he didn’t want to do this one.

“That’s OK,” she explained, “each child can decide if they want to participate. There is no right or wrong and no discipline attached.”

Meditation begins with concentrating on breathing and there are several breathing techniques that Hitchcock uses. “Anchor Words is done by breathing in and then saying, ‘I am,’ and on the out breath a positive word such as ‘Special,’ so the child makes a positive affirmation about themselves.”

Another technique is “Finger Hold Breath” where one breathes deeply and then holds their breath for a few seconds while taking hold of each finger.

Each child has a special tool called a “Mind Jar” that consists of a large jar filled with hot water and clear glue and glitter. The glitter sits at the bottom of the jar and a clear jar stands for our minds that are naturally clear, bright and spacious. Turning the jar upside down shakes the glitter throughout the liquid. The glitter stands for our thoughts and feelings and these are often swirling. The children take their jars home to use in meditation and the technique has them focusing on their breathing and letting their thoughts and feelings settle.

“The idea of this meditation is to just let one’s mind settle,” Hitchcock explained, “in order to find repose, calm, and peace.”

Hitchcock has found that many students tell her that meditation has helped them at home especially when there might be some kind of conflict taking place. They can go into a quiet place and do any of the techniques they have learned, and it helps them to cope.

Teachers have found that there is less disruption in classes and on many cases grades have risen.

In these troublesome times, children have feared more than we may think. It is impossible for them to not absorb what is happening in our world. This program from Carry The Vision is a wonderful process for helping our youth and Gould and Hitchcock are to be commended for bringing this to the children at Del Mar school.

“Nonviolence is a power that draws its strength from the truth that we are all interconnected, and that love is the greatest force we can harness for positive change. This is what Carry The Vision is about—rousing that giant power through education and the inspiration of how it is already at work around us. In the light of nonviolence, love reveals itself.”  — Ellen Grace O’Brian


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