There was much talk swirling around after the Family Retreat this past summer at Laurelwood. Nitai Deranja, who started the first Living Wisdom School, did most of the teaching and inspired the many families who were there. I wasn’t there, but heard about how he taught Ahimsa, and I knew I needed to try that with my class of 1st and 2nd graders.
Ahimsa is the term for the practice of non-harming or non-violence. Nitai had the kids practice Ahimsa with animals, teaching them that if they held this peacefulness in their hearts and bodies, that animals would be less afraid of them.
Now, the primary class loves the flock of chickens at Laurelwood. It is our first stop when we arrive, and it is impossible to imagine a day at Laurelwood without a visit to the chicken coop. However, they loved the chickens so much and were so excited to see the chickens, that the chickens grew to be a little…afraid of the students and immediately ran for cover as we bounded through the gate. One day at Laurelwood also happened to be Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, and it was the perfect opportunity to start talking about non-violence.
Before we went into the coop, we discussed Ahimsa and what it means. We got ourselves to a peaceful place and shared with each other what that felt like in our bodies. Then, we entered the coop calmly, and full of Ahimsa. Each subsequent trip to the coop, we all agreed to show Ahimsa before we went in. The students figured out ways to get closer to the chickens, and stopped chasing the chickens. If children need a place to practice Ahimsa, a chicken coop is a great place to start.