At 12:30 every day the campers at the Colorado Mountain Ranch stampede toward the "Trading Post" to buy gobs of shocking, sizzling and sugary treats. Wild eyed and wagging their bright blue and purple tongues they are then under my care for the next hour. It is my job to calm them, to get them to a place where they can sit still long enough to breathe in the delicious Rocky Mountain air.
This is when I whip out an activity called "The Blind Walk," one made famous by Steve VanMeter in his teachings.
First, I explain that all of us, the camp staff, did this activity and we really enjoyed it. Mentioning this simple fact can determine the entire outcome of the activity as camp counselors are generally regarded as complete rock stars of their kiddie public.
Then the kids line up single file and place their right hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them. After reminding them to walk silently and try their hardest not to open their eyes, I lead them through a twisting path, in and out of sunshine and shade, in order to make it a more diverse experience. We walk over the pungent sage, over downed limbs, around squirrel holes and through the squish of mushrooms. All the while we remain silent unless I feel the children need a simple reminder, to "breathe in everything around you. Pick up all the smells and sounds you can. We want to have a lot of neat things to talk about when we finish."
With this, I can see their little chests rise as they inhale and smiles spread when they hear the yelp of one of the camp dogs or the nervous wailing of Benji the donkey. To finish, I bring the children to a semi circle in an Aspen grove and have them lay in the grass with their eyes still closed. After a couple rounds of meditative breathing, they open their eyes slowly. The look on almost every child's face is nearly indescribable. It is like watching a birth or someone waking from an otherworldly dream. Even if as soon as their eyes are open they begin to stab each other with sharpened lollipops, the few minutes of watching their eyelashes flutter peacefully under the Aspen shade is worth everything.