This peaceful pebble practice is based on the pebble meditation developed by Thich Nhat Hanh. It utilizes the grounding sensation of pebbles, along with visual imagery, mindful breathing, and simple mantras to help provide anchors to the present moment. With some modifications, the peaceful pebble practice can be made accessible to children and adults, making it a perfect family meditation experience.
Step 1: Secure Your Pebbles
In order to complete the peaceful pebble practice, each participant will first need to secure four pebbles. The pebbles are used to represent images and qualities of 1. Flower/freshness, 2. Mountain/solid, 3. Still water/reflecting, 4. Space/freedom. You may like to take a walk and gather stones or pebbles that feel like they embody these concepts. Just the collection of the pebbles can be transformed into a mindfulness exercise. Beaches, forest trails, meadows, riverbeds, lakeshores and other natural locations can provide a pleasant place to look, but garden rock beds, playgrounds, or city parks may also hold excellent promise. Depending upon your constraints, it may not be feasible to go out on a nature expedition to search for pebbles. In this case, you may pick up a bag of decorative stones at your local dollar store, home goods store, or craft supply shop
Step 2: Create a Mental Image of the Four Concepts
Before sitting in meditation with your pebbles, you may like to explore each of the four concepts (flower, mountain, still water, space) and develop a rich mental image to represent them. If you were to think yourself as possessing the freshness and beauty of a flower, what image comes to mind? Is it a particular type of flower or stage of flower development? Maybe you’re a lotus growing through the mud, a sunflower reaching towards the sun, or a dandelion offering the first food to bees in the spring. You might see yourself as a flower bud, full of possibility, or perhaps you’re in the process of blossoming and revealing your ultimate beauty. Now see if you can conjure an image of a mountain, solid, strong, and stable, undeterred by the strong winds and storms that blow past. Next, call to mind an image of still water. See if you can envision a body of water that is clear and calm, a surface capable of reflecting things as they, without distortion. Finally imagine space, boundless open air, offering freedom and infinite possibility.
To integrate and enrich these images, making them come alive visually, you may also like to create meditation cards. You can use any type of artistic materials to draw/paint/color the image and make it appear on paper. It might also be helpful to write Thich Nhat Hanh’s suggested mantras on each card.
These are the mantras as presented in Thich Nhat Hanh’s charming book, “A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles.”
“Breathing in, I see myself as a FLOWER, Breathing out, I feel FRESH.
Breathing in, I see myself as a MOUNTAIN, Breathing out, I feel SOLID.
Breathing in, I see myself as STILL WATER, Breathing out, I REFECT things as they are.
Breathing in, I see myself as SPACE, Breathing out, I feel FREE.”
Step 3: Sit in Meditation
Now that you have your materials prepared, find a quiet place to sit. You may choose to sit in an easy cross-legged position on the floor, or sitting upright in a chair at a table or desk. You may also like to embody the image of a lotus flower on still water by positioning yourself in lotus pose or half lotus pose. You choose the position that will allow you to adopt a seat that is attentive but also offers some comfort and ease. Place your pebbles on your left hand side. If you’ve decided to work with meditation cards, you can place them in an accessible spot on your right. Select the pebble representing your flower essence. Hold it in the palm of your left hand, gaze at it for a moment, noticing its color, shape, and features, before covering the pebble with your right hand. Breathe in and out slowly as you repeat the mantra silently. Younger children may repeat the mantra just once, while adults or older children may enjoy repeating the mantra with breath three or more times. As with most mantras, you can feel free to modify the words so that they resonate for you and suit your needs in that moment. Once you have finished reciting your flower mantra, gently place the pebble down to your right. If you're choosing to work with meditation cards, you may place the pebble on the corresponding card. Continue the practice by repeating these steps for the mountain, still water, and space pebbles.
After you have taken the time to sit in quiet contemplation with your four pebbles, softly close your eyes and see if you can feel the beauty, strength, stillness, and spaciousness that exist within you. Carry these qualities as you move forward into the rest of your day.