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I Can Feel my Toes Breathe

Author(s): The Sanctuary

ISBN13: 9781847302397

ISBN10: 1847302394

Publisher: Veritas

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  • The vision of the Sanctuary is to BE STILLNESS in the world, and this book of meditations shows how young people journeying through the Sanctuary have been assisted in seeking and finding their inner sanctuary, their own unique place of stillness.

    Giving step-by-step instructions on how to conduct these stillness practices with teenagers and young people, these simple meditations promote the need for and benefits of stillness in todays world. Easy to use, they can be conducted in school, youth club, community or home settings.

  • The Sanctuary

    The Sanctuary, founded by Sr Stanislaus Kennedy in 1998, is an oasis of peace and beauty in Dublin’s inner city, a place in the midst of all the hustle and bustle where quiet and calm can be sought.

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    You learn how to do things more slowly, to think about how you do them.

    , A students reflection of his Sanctuary Journey


    To guide someone upon the way to their inner sanctuary is to give them the gift of truly being human. But it is ultimately a journey that can only be made alone. To give this gift to a young person is to see that person be equipped to walk the path of their own life as a gentle warrior who is aware of their own greatness and the blessing they bring to the world around them.

    It is to give the young person a way of living that allows them to grow and flower fully, unimpeded by, but rather learning from, the wounds that life inflicts, that we so often inflict upon ourselves and others. What more could we offer, what greater gift could be given than to lead a young person to the door of their inner sanctuary and show them that the key to it has always been in their heart, that it is only ever a breath away.

    As a person bringing meditation to young people, remember that your practice is their practice. You must believe in what you teach. You are the lived experience, you are their guide. You can only lead a group in meditation if you are comfortable with the practices and committed to the process. You learn the practices, and then you bring them to the young people and later you can discuss the practices with them.

    Although there is a great deal of scientific research to show that mindfulness/meditation activities are beneficial, the essential thing is that you believe in what you are bringing to the young people. Every activity does not have to be scientifically proven to work, but you have to see its purpose and value. We invite you to try these practices and to see the effect they have on you and the young people.

    We at the Sanctuary try to remember that when we are working with young people, we are not working with miniadults. Our meditation programmes need to be adapted to the development stage of the children with whom they are being used , one size does not fit all. So, the activities you choose, the language used and the duration of a meditation session will all depend on the development stage of the group.

    Our experience is that very often the student becomes the teacher, if only the teacher is prepared to listen. When working with young people, it is important to truly listen to them , this is especially true when using meditation. Their answers or questions may not be what you have in your head but this is their experience, their reality and their wisdom, which is often beyond their years , and yours. If a young person feels they are no longer truly being listened to they will no longer speak from the inner self which they connect to in moments of stillness.


    There is nothing more peaceful than to hold a sleeping baby in your arms. The babys body totally relaxes into you. The baby gives you their total trust to hold and support them. Their breath pulls you in as they breathe with their whole body, rising and falling; it mesmerises you.

    If you let them, the baby pulls you into the moment as with every breath their tiny body draws you in to relaxation. Very young children can teach you more about being present in the moment than you can teach them. The child in the womb is in a meditative state for nine months. We are born with an inner stillness and a sense of wonder about the world. A young child can teach you everything you want to know about being in the present moment and doing things mindfully, if you want to learn. The childs mind does not live in either the past or the future but only in the here and now.


    Meditation is not a single activity. Traditionally, people sit quietly to meditate, and some of the meditations in this book are of that kind. But you can also be mindful when walking or moving or doing tasks. At the Sanctuary, we bring inner stillness to young people in a variety of ways and using various methods, including movement, and we draw on various meditative traditions from around the world. Some of the practices described here are mindfulness activities that you might be surprised to find in a book of meditations.

    Twelve practices are described in this book, under four headings. Though they are presented separately, in reality the practices are interlinked and work together. Each practice has the same goal: to bring the young people to a moment of stillness, a sense of inner sanctuary.

    The practices described here are just a taste of what we offer in the Sanctuary for Young People programmes. These practices are meant to inspire you in your work with your class or youth group. You will find, as you work your way through them, that you develop your own style and method of presenting the meditations and activities. All of the practices here can be used with children and young people of all ages, including very young children, but of course you will need to adapt the language and activity to suit the age group.

    The first set of practices presented focus on the breath, as using the breath is basic to all meditative traditions and learning to use the breath is an essential meditative technique. You can dip in and out of these practices and use them in any order. However, we recommend that you begin with the breath practices before you go on to use the others as you like. In fact, we recommend that you use the Noticing Your Breath practice at the beginning of each meditation or activity as a means of settling and focusing the group.

    Each practice has a suggested time frame and children as young as five can do fifteen, twenty minutes at a time. But to start off, three minutes is a good recommendation. For meditation, it is best to sit in a warm, comfortable, quiet place with your back straight, supported if necessary, with the soles of your feet flat upon the ground. If possible, wear loose, warm, comfortable clothes that allow you to breathe from your tummy without restriction. Allow your hands to rest in your lap.

    Invite the young people to close their eyes, but keep your own eyes open: you need to be a point of security and safety for the group. Initially you may find that some of the young people will check to see if your eyes are open. This is not necessarily because they are distracted, but is often for reassurance. Simply meet their eyes, smile at them and they will feel safe to close their eyes again.

    If any member of the group is not comfortable closing their eyes, they can instead look down at the floor at a point about three or four feet in front of them. Dont be afraid of the giggles , it is part of human experience to have nerves or to see the ridiculous in the new.

    When you begin to meditate, especially if you are already tired or stressed, your body can slide into sleep very quickly. But your meditation practice should not be nap-time. Sleep is a completely different level of consciousness from meditation.

    If you begin meditating with something on your mind or worrying you, then your mind may choose to spend the whole time looking at the issues and shooting back and forth to worries from your past and problems you may face in the future. Try to empty your mind of worries and concerns before you start to meditate. This is a skill you learn over time with meditation practice. Be patient with yourself.
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