In advance, gather all of the resources you will need for this activity, including the breathing meditation script from the Resources tab.
Gather your group to sit or stand next to a surface that they can work on, eg table, floor.
Distribute one jar to each person and direct access to the other resources (when required.)
By way of demonstration, announce that you are going to make a mindfulness jar.
Place a spoonful of glitter into your jar.
Fill your jar approximately halfway with warm water and carefully swirl the container to separate the glitter.
Add glycerin (or corn syrup) to your jar sufficient to thicken the liquid, ie this makes the glitter fall slowly.
Add a drop or two of dish soap, ie to prevent the glitter from sticking together.
Finally, close your jar tightly and give it a few shakes.
Hold your jar out towards your group so they can watch the glitter fall softly.
Allow up to 15 minutes for each person in your group to create their own glitter-filled jars.
Monitor and assist those who need help.
When ready, lead the breathing meditation.
Upon conclusion, invite your group to reflect on their experience.
How To Play Narrative
I know of children who made one of these mindfulness jars when they started school as part of their positive education classes. As such a useful tool, I know many of them still have it on their bookshelves years later and shake it from time to time.
Before you dive in, you’ll need to grab a bunch of resources, in particular, one jar or bottle for each person. Glass works well, but plastic is fine too – the key is that the container must have a lid that can be fastened tightly.
Gather your group and distribute one jar or bottle to each person and direct their attention to the other resources, such as the water and glitter, to share.
Explain that by way of demonstration, you are going to create a mindfulness jar and shortly, each person will be invited to create their own.
First, grab your jar and place a spoonful of glitter inside it, enough to cover the bottom of your container but no more.
Then fill your container approximately halfway with warm water. Carefully swirl the container so that the glitter separates.
Add some glycerin (or corn syrup) to your jar. This will thicken up your liquid and make the glitter fall more slowly. Add the glycerin bit by bit until you find a consistency (and speed) that you like.
Add a drop or two of dish soap – this will keep the glitter from clumping together.
Finally, tightly close your container and give it a few shakes, and you’re done. Be sure to hold your jar outwards so your group can see the glitter fall. This is when I predict you will hear all sorts of Ooooo’s and Ahhhhh’s from your group.
Once you have managed the obligatory questions and excitement, allow your group up to 15 minutes to create their own glitter-filled jars or bottles.
When ready, prepare for the best part…
Lead your group through a quick breathing exercise to learn how to use their new mindfulness tools to calm and relax.
As a guide, look for the meditation script supplied in the Resources tab, or create your own and/or improvise as necessary. The key is to take your time and use a calming tone throughout.
At the end of the activity, encourage your group to share their feelings and insights if they feel comfortable. You could adopt a Paired Share Debrief or open it more generally to the group.
For example, I often ask my group if they noticed any change in their breathing.
On occasions, they may also comment that they noticed many thoughts distracting them. When this happens, assure your group that this is normal – we all get distracted. Explain that next time, allow these thoughts to come and consciously put them away, then continue with their meditation.
Indeed, advise your group that they should keep their jars handy to use at any time that they need help to relax and calm down. That is to say, this is not a set-and-forget tool.
Practical Leadership Tips
Feel free to include meditative music or aromatherapy during both the creative and breathing sessions to help you set the mood.
Everyone moves at a different pace, so just know that the slowest person will dictate when you can commence the breathing exercise. Offer help where necessary, or invite other group members to assist.
Note, if you want to change the consistency of the liquid, simply add some more glycerin (or corn syrup) or water as required.
Remind your group that this is a safe space where they can fully let go and relax. There is no judgment or expectation here.
Assure your group that there is no rush, and they should be patient with themselves. It’s not always easy to clear our minds and focus on nothing but our breathing. Suggest that there is nothing to get ‘right’ (whatever that means.) The practise is to keep coming back to one’s breathing every time they notice themselves getting distracted.
You could integrate Mindfulness Jar as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s abilities to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
This exercise is explicitly designed to practice mindfulness. Start with the supplied meditation script and then encourage your group to grab and shake their jars at any time they feel the need. To squeeze the most value from your group’s experience, be sure to invite a short reflection at the end, perhaps guided by some of the questions posed in the Reflection Tips tab.
Also, practising mindfulness is a wonderful way for many people to build their emotional intelligence and resilience muscles. Remind your group that while on this occasion you may have led the meditation, that everyone has the ability to use their mindfulness jar at any time in an effort to relax on their own. It just takes practice and self-awareness of when this would be useful. Admittedly, this last part is the hard part, but everything comes with practice.
Floating Objects: Pop one or more small floating figurines inside the jar before the lid is tightened. Sometimes these objects will float or fall to the bottom or get caught somewhere in between, ie these become another focal point for the user to focus their attention.
Rest: For long-term or residential-based programs, consider using these jars to lower stress levels before bed and upon waking or directly after a rather boisterous exercise. Use them as a matter of routine to achieve these objectives.
Inspire Creativity: Use mindfulness jars to clear the minds and inspire the imagination and creativity of your group, perhaps to prepare them to focus on an important conversation or task.
Time Trials: For fun, invite each person to time how long it takes for all of the glitter to fall to the bottom. This is not intended as a competition as much as to encourage mindfulness.
Take a look at Gratitude Jar to explore another fun tool using jars to help build the health and wellbeing of your group.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
This activity can be done virtually but you’ll need to instruct your group to collect all of the stated resources in advance.
During the meditation, allow your group to switch off their webcams if they feel more comfortable sharing.
Group members can use the chatroom to share if they prefer not to speak or don’t have a microphone. You may choose to allocate your group to a series of smaller breakout rooms to allow for more intimate sharing.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Our next exercise will become a fun tool that you can use whenever you need to relax or clear your mind…
This meditative tool can help us focus on our emotions and work through them. When we understand why we feel the way we do and what caused it, our emotions feel less intimidating and scary…
Sometimes, it can be difficult to let go of our worries and clear our minds. This fun mindfulness jar can help you focus on your breath and relax as you watch the glitter fall…
I’d like you to imagine that all of the thoughts and emotions that clutter our minds are like glitter swimming in water. At first, they appear to spin like crazy, clouding up our minds. But, as we’ll see in this next exercise, with time, after sitting still and reflecting, our thoughts and feelings start to quiet down…
Our emotions and thoughts will always be there, we can’t ignore them or get rid of them. But we can learn how to live with them and work through them so that we can quiet our minds and see things clearly…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this calming meditative exercise:
How long did it take you to feel calm and focus on your breath?
Was it easy to focus on the glitter, or did you feel distracted at times?
How long did it take for your glitter to settle? Were you impatient or calm while you waited?
What did you find most challenging about this exercise?
What did you notice feeling once all of the glitter rested at the bottom of your jars?
What did you like most about this exercise?
What were your thoughts before starting the exercise, and what are they now that we’ve finished?
What emotions came up for you?
Can you imagine a way in which these jars can be used at other times? Why?