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Breath of Life: Life is what happens when we're busy making plans

To help children to become aware of the present moment and its wonder. To encourage children to take time to pause amidst all their activities.

by Jill Fuller

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To help children become aware of the present moment and its wonder. To encourage children to take time to pause amidst all their activities.

Preparation and materials

  • It will help to make sure that this assembly takes place in a space where children can sit comfortably.
  • If possible have some essential oils in an oil burner and a candle in a safe place.
  • Adapt the vocabulary of the assembly if necessary to suit the knowledge base of the group, e.g. use 'fresh air' for 'oxygen', 'used-up air' for 'carbon dioxide', etc.
  • It would help to have some quiet music for the Time for reflection, e.g. Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1 or something by Enya. To fit the John Lennon theme, you could play 'Julia' from the White album.


  1. Invite the children to sit in a comfortable position - one which they can maintain without wriggling for five minutes (you might choose not to mention wriggling as this will be bound to encourage exactly that!).

    Take time to establish an atmosphere of stillness and quiet, explaining to the children that on this occasion each of them will be listening and following your instructions without comparing ideas with their neighbours. Suggest that some of them may find it helpful to close their eyes in order to concentrate, or to focus their eyes on the candle. Light the candle when you are ready to begin.

  2. Explain that you are going to ask them to count their breaths. Stress that they should breathe normally in between - they do not have to wait for you to tell them to breathe!

    Invite the children to become aware of their breathing and to count to themselves slowly - five breaths in and out. A breath in and out counts as one.

  3. Invite the children to count three more breaths (in and out three times) and to be aware of the muscles in their ribs and stomach moving as they breathe.

  4. Ask them to count three more breaths, this time imagining the air entering their nose and going down their windpipe and into their lungs.

  5. Ask them to count another three breaths and this time imagine the air entering their lungs and giving oxygen to the blood vessels as they breathe in and taking carbon dioxide out of the body as they breathe out.

  6. As they listen to their own breathing, ask them to imagine their heart beating and the work of the heart in pumping the oxygenated (fresh) blood all around their body, bringing new life to each part of their body.

  7. If the children have their eyes closed, ask them to open them. Stress that our breathing and heartbeat happen every second to keep us alive, without us being aware of them, every day of our lives. It happens when we are busy and when we are still, when we are awake and when we sleep.

  8. Introduce the phrase: 'Life is what happens when we're busy making plans'. Explain that John Lennon said this. Say something about who he was, adding that in his music and poetry he often saw things in a different way from other people.

    Ask the children to think about this - are they so busy thinking about what comes next in their lives, and looking forward to things, that they forget to enjoy the present moment? Suggest that every so often they stop and think about the miracle of breathing, keeping them alive, every second of every day.


Time for reflection

Play the chosen music and invite children as they listen to identify times during the day when they might be able to be still and practise this quiet breathing, and to think about the miracle of their life as they go about their daily activities.

Dear God,
Thank you for the miracle of life;
every second of every day,
every breath brings life.
Help us not to be so busy thinking about life
that we forget to simply live it, here and now.



'New day beginning' (Come and Praise Beginning, 1)

Publication date: October 2001   (Vol.3 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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