My routine of unwinding for the day usually involves looking at social media. It’s a habit, and I get sucked right into it. The problem is that when I finally pull myself away from the screen, I still feel unsettled. I feel anxious and have a hard time falling to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and I see that it affects my daughter in the same way. If she is on the iPad for a certain amount she comes out of it agitated and off-kilter. The rush has ended yet our brains are still seeking input. To help with transitions, we’ve been winding down with softer music in the evenings, and a reading or drawing activity.
Charity Kahn, the lead vocalist for the Bay Area group Charity and the JAMband, has been working to introduce mindfulness as a reliable resource to help others find relaxation and peace. Below Charity talks about her own practice as well as her recent project, “Sit Breathe Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups” which offers guided practices to families, children, and schools.
I have had a meditation practice for about eight years that has dramatically transformed and improved my life. About four years ago, I decided it was time to bring some of these principles and practices into my work with children and families. People of all ages are looking for relief from stress and way to calm down their bodies and minds, which mindfulness practice directly addresses. And children are incredibly receptive to the related concepts of kindness, gratitude, generosity and peace. No surprise there!
Our most recent project in this vein is “Sit Breathe Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups”. We’ve so far released three guided practices for families or classrooms under this umbrella to enjoy together: “Ball of Light Meditation”, “Mindfulness Experiment”, and “Meditation on Non-Harming”. Our plan is to release one per month.
But it all started with the music. I had always integrated mindfulness themes like peace and love into my songwriting, but I took this intention more seriously as my practice deepened. Our most recent album, “Family Values”, is built around sixteen mindfulness-related concepts: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, and peace.
For example, there’s the “Lovingkindness” song — a sweet little singalong based on an ancient practice — that starts by sending goodwill to oneself (“may I be happy, healthy, safe and at peace”) and then extends these wishes for goodwill outward to others, and eventually to everyone, in all directions. Listen to the song. View the dance video (filmed by Peace Is The Way Films).
There’s also the “Lemonade” song, a favorite at our concerts. This one is a rock epic that follows the adventures of a community of fairies living in a land called Lemonade. They are visited by an angry dragon who threatens to smite them and their land. Instead of resorting to fight, flight, or freeze, they end up using non-violence, compassion and generosity to solve the problem by making the dragon a special batch of their magical lemonade and bravely welcoming him into their community. Listen to the song.
And then there’s the funky little “Grateful”, which explores some of the life experiences for which we have gratitude: the sun, the rain, our home, our school, our friends, and our family. This song includes musical performances by my kids (on trumpet and trombone) and my partner’s kids (on voice and piano)…it’s a family affair! You can listen to the whole “Family Values” album here.
Since all of our music has accompanying choreography, there are dances that go along with these songs,and we sing and dance these themes with children all over the place — at our “Charity and the JAMband” family concerts, at my solo shows at libraries and schools around the Bay Area, at my JAMcamps for school-aged children, and in my early childhood music and movement classes, JAMboodas.
I also practice mindfulness-inspired exercises with the children in my camps and classes, and with the families at my concerts. One of my favorites is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Mindful Movements” — basically some simple yoga-like opening stretches that are done while staying connected with the breath. I’ve also written his Pebble Meditation practice into a song which has accompanying dance moves. I also share lovingkindness meditation, body scans, mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of emotions, mindful listening, mindful eating, mindful speech, and many other related practices as part of my programs.
In parallel, I teach weekly Mindfulness Meditation classes for adults, and offer periodic workshops exploring Mindfulness practice and its intersection with various topics like relationships, stress, parenting, and joy. Some of these workshops are for adults only, some are for parents, some are for families.
I have trained with Mindful Schools and combine their curriculum with my own to create a broad foundation of exposure for the children. I’ve also done retreats at Spirit Rock and the Insight Retreat Center, as well as training with Against the Stream, Insight SF, and IMC in Redwood City. For more information or if you’re interested in attending a concert, class, camp or other program, visit www.jamjamjam.com, or contact me at 415.425.0372 or firstname.lastname@example.org.