Meditate with Me: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Journey by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Margarita Surnaite

 Meditate with Me: 
A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Journey
illustrated by Margarita Surnaite
Meditate with Me: A Step-by-Step Mindfulness Journey is a superbly written and perfectly illustrated introduction to mindfulness and meditation by an author with a long background as a teacher in Boston public schools where she created the Kid Power Yoga Program used in schools. With gently rhyming text, Gates begins her book by asking readers/listeners to find a comfortable seat, then instructing them to tense then release their bodies a few times as a prelude to focusing on the breath. Gates instructs readers to place hands above and below the belly button and feel the way that the breath moves your body. A page turn shows two of the characters sitting on the beach, enjoying the waves while the text invites readers to breath and relax. With readers/listeners calm and relaxed, Gates teaches them how to quiet racing thoughts and identify and calm strong feelings through the breath. As an adult, I learned about the Buddhist term "monkey mind," which describes the unsettled, restless, unfocused thoughts that usually occupy our brains, like a jungle full of screeching monkeys jumping from tree to tree at a frantic pace. While this is an idea and image kids can definitely grasp, Gates uses one that is perfect for kids: the image of a jar (like a snow globe) filled with glitter. She tells readers, "Your mind is like that glass jar, with shiny thoughts and feelings zooming this way and that." Surnaite marvelously illustrates this in the endpapers: the start of the book showing the shaken glitter jar, the end of the book showing the glitter settled on the bottom.
Gates's text guides readers in identifying the "thoughts and feelings that help you in your day," inviting listeners to make a face to go with the feeling (happy, mad, sad, excited) and then show it with their whole body. Helping readers/listeners notice thoughts and locate feelings in one's body, Gates then connects them to the breath and breathing, introducing readers to the calm that the rhythm of the breath and the practice of quiet listening and noticing the world around. Telling readers/listeners to, "Notice how each new thought or feeling has its own rhythm too. Like clouds in the sky, your thoughts and feelings drift by. Like glitter in the jar, they move through you." With these words, Gates lays the foundation for readers/listeners to learn about the impermanence of their feelings and thoughts and the way that regular breathing/meditation practice can return them to the relaxed, calm place that they just experienced. The final pages offer a streamlined practice that readers/listeners can do anytime, anywhere.






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