Loving the Monster Under Your Bed
One of the things I loved about my new teaching position this year was I had the opportunity to teach young students about mindfulness. We used both the contexts of drama and music to become witnesses to our own thinking and the emotional results we get from our thoughts. Our school bought a program called Zones of Regulation. It puts emotional states into 4 colour groups. Red for angry emotions, Blue is for fear or tired states, Yellow is anxious or on the verge of going into the Red zone and Green is for happy and peaceful emotions. I thought I was using the program to teach students about mindfulness and managing emotions but once again, it turns out that they had some things to teach me too.
One day I brought in a book by James Howe called There’s A Monster Under My Bed. It is a story of a young boy who has decided to sleep without his night light. As he lays in the dark, regretting his decision, his mind begins creating scary stories of a growing number of monsters that he is certain are under his bed, all with very hungry tummies. While reading the story, I stopped just before the ending. I put the students into groups to decide and act out the main character’s thinking and possible endings. Not everyone’s main character remained in the same emotional zone. Why? Because not all the groups selected the same thoughts for the main character. Since everyone’s situation was the same, we noticed believing different thoughts got different results in how the main character felt. It turns out being in the dark isn’t scary, it’s our THINKING that’s scary.
When I read this story in one of my Kindergarten classes, the goal was simply for them to identify the main character’s thinking and guess what colour Zone he was in. Most of the students shared he was in the Blue Zone “because he was thinking about the monsters under his bed.” I gently encouraged them to consider where the monsters really were: under his bed, or in his head? For some, it was challenging to consider that they were not under the bed. Either way, I asked them how could he change his thoughts in order to get out of the Blue Zone and into the Green Zone? One of the junior kindergarten students had an idea. He announced to the class with pride that “I would just love the monsters! Maybe they just want to come out and play.” Another moment of me sitting back in my chair in amazement.
Wow, now there’s a thought: loving our monsters. Now I know this 4 year-old was talking about loving the monster he thinks is under his bed, but really, how different are we from a 4 year-old at times? How often do we lie in bed worrying about the things we can’t see, but imagine are there and soon they become very real in our minds? How many times do we try to deny the “monsters” in our minds? How many times do we try to just focus on gratitude or think of something else or just stay busy so we don’t have to address our “monsters”? What if our “monsters” - our fears, our hurt, our anger - had something to tell us? What if our monsters offered us an opportunity to learn and grow? What if we could be brave enough to stop and let our monsters come out and play?
Hmmm, what does that mean exactly? What would that look like?
Please share your ideas in the comments.
Jill McPherson has a diploma in Spiritual Direction. She is an ordained and licensed Metaphysical Minister who enjoys officiating weddings and as well as other meaningful ceremonies. She available for Spiritual Counselling and appreciates speaking to various groups on topics around self-empowerment, forgiveness and addressing spiritual needs with children and within the home. Jill is a part time Elementary Music Teacher and makes a point of teaching mindfulness strategies with her students. She also hosts her own spiritual talk show called Awakening Within. Jill lives with her husband and 4 children on a farm just outside of Orangeville, Ontario in Canada.