This month, I kind of stumbled upon the mindfulness practice I used in my classes. I wanted to teach Laurie Berkner’s version of “There’s a Little Wheel A’Turning in My Heart”. As I began to introduce the song, I asked the kids if they really had a wheel in their heart. They laughed and said “Of course not.” But then, I asked them if they ever feel like there is a wheel turning quickly in their heart after they run quickly? They could all understand that feeling and enjoyed making their arms into wheels and turning them really fast. One 3 year old piped up and said his heart felt like that once when a wave hit him in the face. I realized that it was an amazing opportunity to make the brain, emotions, body connection for them. I said, “Yes, when we get very afraid, it may feel like that wheel in our heart is going very fast. Or maybe if we get very mad, we might feel like the wheel is going very fast. I got mad yesterday, and my heart felt exactly like a fast wheel turning. Have you ever felt that way?” I stopped and had them make a mad face. I observed aloud that all of their bodies where angry too – we noticed how tight our chests get, our hands and arms forming fists or other defensive postures. We talked about how our hearts can feel like they are going really really fast and our bodies and faces are mad or scared. I continued by describing how I remembered that if I softened my body and face and took a deep breath, that it slowed the wheel down. They spontaneously mimicked my deep breath and softening stance.
Then, we sang the song and acted out all the funny things that are “in our hearts” and made up some of our own! Did you know that dragons roar in our hearts, bad guys hide in our hearts, cats meow in our hearts and circles circle in our hearts?!
I encouraged their teachers to continue to draw the kids’ attention to the wheel in their heart over the next month. When a child is angry, afraid, over-excited, just drawing their awareness to the speed of the “wheel in their heart” can be a way for them to shift out of the fight/flight response and into a more productive space.