Yesterday I taught a bunch of five and six year old students a yoga class which I based on Jack and the Beanstalk. We acted out the entire story, from trading the cow for beans through Mom giving us an axe so we could cut down the beanstalk. In the end we were a bunch of fallen giants, lying on the floor in savasana.
The kids had so much fun! And so did I! And I got to do it six times!
After savasana with the first group of kids, we sat cross-legged in a circle. I held my hands out like a bowl and told them that I had a handful of invisible magic beans. And everyone could have one. There were oohs and aahs, and lots of questions.
Where did you get the magic beans? Oh, Jack is a friend of mine.
Where can I plant it? Anywhere you want.
What do they grow into? Anything you can think of.
Anything? Yes, anything at all.
So I gave all of the beans to the child on my right and told him to take one and pass the rest on. At the fourth or fifth person, the beans got stuck. The boy closed his hands and didn’t want to give the beans to anyone else. He sat there with his fists closed, shaking his head. He wanted to keep the invisible, magical, imaginary beans all for himself.
Everyone to his right began to protest. I want beans too! That’s not fair! Where are my beans? Give me my beans!
So I said “Don’t worry I have more”. And I passed a handful to the child on my left. She took one and passed them on, until they made it all around the circle, to the bean-hoarding boy. Then everyone held onto their bean(s), closed their eyes, and imagined where they would plant it, and what it might grow into.
With the second group of kids, I decided that I wouldn’t trust all of my magic beans to one person. I walked around to each individual child with my hands extended, and told them to take one.
One by one, they reached into my hands and pretended to remove a bean. Until one of the children used two hands and said “I took two!” And the protests began.
Hey! He took more than one! I only got one! That’s not fair! I want more beans! He should give one back! I’m taking a whole bunch!
I explained that there were an infinite number of magic beans in my hand. Enough for everyone. I said they could take more than one if they really wanted to, but that one was all they needed for the magic to happen. They all reached for more.
This happened with every group of children. Every time the beans were passed around, there was some sort of disagreement. Someone grabbed too many. Someone pushed to be first. Someone wanted more.
And each time it happened I was completely fascinated. Fascinated by the nature of the exchange. Fascinated by the human nature of the exchange.
Imagine, fighting over something that is invisible, and magical. It seems completely illogical to fight about something that isn’t real, to argue over someone else’s magical thoughts. Illogical, yes. But they are just children, after all.
It’s a good thing that we grow out of that behavior. Isn’t it?