The end of a program, semester or school year calls for a reflective, memorable experience. I love designing custom rituals to punctuate the completion of time spent in yoga and mindfulness practice. This is the creative part of teaching that keeps it alive and authentic. I savor the chance to think about my students’ processes and progress; to discover new ways of celebrating their journey and send them off with intention. I’ll share here two of the most popular and requested rituals for youth yoga and mindfulness students; Bead Necklaces and Tea Ceremony. These activities can be used to meaningfully signify the end of any type of class or program wherein youth have developed a sense of trust with each other. Please share the ways you enjoy facilitating “endings” in the comments to inspire others.
Start with one or more strands of wooden beads. Use the strand as a metaphor for the time the group has spent in practice together. Share a few standout moments from the group experience. Acknowledge the challenges and process. Appreciate the growth and development.
Cut the strand, spilling the beads into a bowl. Explain that even though we will all go our separate ways, we will always be connected by the lessons and experiences shared. Pass the bowl around a circle allowing every student to choose a bead.
Now, ask students to share a reflection on their experience during the program. This could be an insight, a practice they will take away with them or a standout moment. After each student shares, everyone passes their beads in one direction to the classmate beside them. After each pass, pause for a long deep breath. The process continues until every student has shared and everyone has their original bead back.
The ritual can be deepened by asking students to choose one quality or wish they would like to share with the group. Ask them to think of it when they handle each new bead. Once the beads have made their rounds, remind students that their bead is now infused with the well wishes of their classmates.
Next, supply students with various colored cords and scissors. Hemp cord is strong and lasting. Allow them to help each other create and tie necklaces (or bracelets, anklets) using their single bead.
This incredibly simple activity has been so well received by my students over the years. I’ve even seen students still wearing their beads after summer break.
By no means is this activity meant to mimic a formal tea ceremony. The intention behind this ritual is to allow students to serve each other. During all of my programs, I work to create opportunities for students to translate their learning into service; by teaching younger peers, being mindful of where they can be helpful in any situation, and thinking about how their work in the world can benefit others. I love ending programs with this ritual dedicated to the simple joy of serving, and the sweet taste of tea in their mouth for emphasis.
First, make tea. My students favorite over the years has been a teen-friendly version of spiced chai. I’ve also used mint and fruity herbal teas. Since I offered this activity regularly, I invested in several large thermos containers for easy transport. You’ll need paper cups thick enough to protect their hands from the heat. Set a small table or large tray in the center of a circle. Use cloth to cover a piece of furniture available in the classroom or on site. Place enough cups onto the centerpiece. Just before the ceremony is to begin, fill the cups with tea.
While the tea cools a bit, and fills the room with a comforting aroma, explain the ritual to your students. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. Share your gratitude for their presence and any good deeds that stand out. Let them know the ceremony will happen in noble silence, which means only talking if necessary. I often play soft classical music to support noble silence.
Explain the process. One at a time, each student will quietly walk into the middle of the circle and carefully pick up a cup of tea. Next, they offer it to the person on their left. While making the offering, students are encouraged to think about what wishes they have for their peers; health, happiness, peace. Ask them to silently offer those wishes as they give the cup of tea. Then, they take their seat and prepare to receive.
This is an opportunity to explore the power of receiving in service work. Being receptive is crucial to service work. Serving others is an exchange of gifts. When we serve authentically, we are open, listening, and able to receive with humility.
We wait until everyone is served before enjoying our first sip together in silence. Then, the silence is over and we sip tea while sharing memories and reflections on the school year. Again, another very simple activity that carries value with young people. Once, I overheard a 7th grader urging a 6th grader to sign up for yoga because, “Dude, she brings tea!”
So, there you have it. Two of my favorite ways to let students know I love them and end the program on a peaceful note. I’d love to hear about your rituals and activities in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading and sharing.