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MEDITATION FOR CHILDREN.
Why teach a child to meditate when it seems in the very nature of a child to run around, make a lot of noise and be playful?
It seems to look at this question we have to examine what our definition of meditation is and secondly what is the motivation of the parent for wanting a child to meditate.
To most adults meditation is seen as sitting still in a lotus position and being very quiet. You meditate to help you feel relaxed and cope with stress. You use your mind to visualize a pleasant environment or try to create a more positive self-image or use imagery to change some undesirable physical or environmental situation.
It is usually with this concept in mind that adults feel that meditation would be good for their child to help them cope with school work, self confidences and mood swings.
One other strong motivation is that the parents themselves have used some form of meditation and therefore wish their child to do the same because they enjoy the experience and feel the benefits of being relaxed.
Before examining these established forms of meditation against the approach used in this book I feel that we can all agree on one fundamental point which comes out of the question, WHY DO CHILDREN NEED TO MEDITATE? They should not be stressed at such a young age. Well the fact is that most children today are suffering from stress.
With the modern way of living, pollution and social problems our modern children are not coping at all. The number of health problems that children now suffer is increasing at an alarming rate. Asthma, allergies, poor concentration and learning difficulties, stomach problems, headaches, and lowered immunity to infectious disease are all increasing.
Any observant and caring parent is only to well aware of the stress that is on their children.
It is these factors that are motivating parents and generating a need for children to be exposed to the true and appropriate field of meditation.
What do we mean by true meditation and what is the appropriate approach for young chidden?
The word meditation means to be mindful. To be aware of what you are doing is a meditative quality of being. The mind is quiet but alert and attentive. For children this brings abut some very important factors. They are the basis of the approach in this book. They must be made very clear right from the beginning so as not to mix them with the current methods of showing children how to relax.
Number one YOU CANNOT MAKE A CHILD MEDITATE OR RELAX. YOU CAN ONLY CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THIS QUALITY OF BEING COMES ABOUT NATURALLY. The environment creates a potential within which a child can come into contact with their own inner quietness.
Number two. NO VISUALISATION TECHNIQUES ARE USED OR INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN; which tell a child what should happen or what they must do to get results. To use visualization is to use the very tool that every adult spends the rest of their life trying to quieten. That is their mind. If your aim is to stimulate self esteem, imagination and make the body feel relaxed, than you should call what you do the stimulation of mental exercises. For that is what you are doing. That is not meditation.
A child must come upon their own inner quietness by themselves. You can only ask them to express their experience as to what takes place for them. Not according to what is right or wrong with the adult’s framework.
You must acknowledge the child as he/she is. Everything that they say is right for them.
Ideally we wish to join the child in the state as they are at any moment by bringing a quality of attentiveness to that meeting. This is truly bringing a meditative quality to whatever is happening.
The major difference between the current forms of relaxation and this approach is that when you use the mind to create a peaceful state, this feeling is usually temporary and dependant on the practice of a technique. It is aimed to stimulate the imaginative qualities of the mind and therefore give control to ones thoughts which make up our ego which in turn we use to control our environment.
The non instructional approach allows a quality of peacefulness that exists within each child ( or any other human being for that matter) to permeate their being. This then brings about quality of alertness, energy and quality of mind that is open, clear and not confused by its own constant chatter.
So let us look at how we can create an environment that is fun, has movement and ends in deep quietness. All of which make up the very nature of a child.
CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT.
The environment in which we choose to expose a child to meditation is very important. Naturally when it is indoors we must take care to make it as lovely as possible so that everyone feels comfortable.
The size of the room will depend on the number of children you have in your group or family. The room must be large enough to allow running around and jumping without anyone hurting themselves on furniture.
It must have good light and good ventilation. It must have curtains so that in the last section of the meditation the room can be made dark. If possible eliminate any outside noises that may cause distractions in the quiet time.
Taking time to create this atmosphere is very important. In fact if the children join in with you it can itself be a nice connecting experience. It is just as important as what will follow.
It must contain some familiar items that the children can relate to. Eg a poster, soft toy’s and pillows.
Plants in the corners look nice and can add to the overall look. Scatter cushions around the edge of the room.
Good quality incense lit before the start is lovely. Choose a scent that is soft so that it is just a faint smell in the room when your start. Some children react to a room full of smoke and strong scent especially while they are running around.
Candle and flowers are a very important part of the program.
They are a wonderful source for attentiveness. When the room is dark the light from candles creates a deep softness to a room. Flowers speak for themselves. Again getting the children to help you pick them from the garden before you start can be another source of making them aware of being meditative.
Needless to say you have to be very careful with the candles. Children seem to find great delight in putting their fingers into the flames and burning the flowers.
I have noticed over the years that if you use the same room for your meditation every time the children come into it they become aware of the respectful energy that gathers in a room that is used for silence.
Music makes the world go round. It is doubly true for children. Music has a flow to it. Therefore, the choice of music is very important.
It is also very difficult to choose amongst the thousands of recordings available. What we will do is to give you an idea as to what is suitable for this type of approach.
The best sort of music is what I call heart music. The sound has a circular motion and most important does not create images in the mind. For example many of the new age type of music creates a drifting feeling and conjures up the images of being at the beach or in forest with all the sounds of nature that re within the music.
Good quality music eg classical pieces generally do not create mental images but stimulate the feeling of being quiet.
In the examples that I give in this book there are three sections that require different flows of music. One, which is, fast and up beat. A second which is mellow but still give the feeling of slow dancing, and the third section which is slow, deep and circular in nature.
Here are some examples for each section.
FAST – UPBEAT.
This type of music is bouncy, fast and believe it or not aerobic in nature. Play it up loud. It makes the children want to run around, jump up and down, clap hands, make some noise.
It is used to burn off energy. This section should last between five to ten minutes.
Music like the Irish gig is excellent. They are running and circular in nature
MIDDLE – MELLOW.
Play this section turned down much lower. Low enough so that they can hear your voice as you speak in a normal tone.
Gently flowing pieces, which create a flowing feeling. Like a rhythm that the wind or sea would have, without actually hearing the sound of the sea or wind. So the feeling is created in the child and gives them the opportunity to respond to the feeling instead of the mental image.
SLOW – DEEP AND CIRCULAR.
Soft circular patterns of sound. Classical and oriental flute are great. The music is more background now. But it still creates the mood of a quiet and safe environment. The sound is pure feeling not imagery at all.
Flute sounds and hollow woodwind instruments are great. You can ask them to listen to the end of the sound of the flute as it comes to an end. This leads them into a quiet state.
Some examples are; Japanese shakuhachi music. Land of enchantment by Deuter. Timeless motion by Daniel Koblalka. Enya – Shepherds moon. Essence of a candle.
Overall you have to pick your own music. Do it with great care. It has a powerful effect on the atmosphere and energy of the room. Picked with sensitivity the music allows you to be more with the children and to be able to talk freely.
With all of these examples be open and flexible within these frameworks. Choose some pieces that you like ( as long as they go with the general flavor of these meditations).
In the fast upbeat section see if there is a particular song that your child likes and incorporate it into the sequence.
It takes time to get a nice tape together but it is worth all the effort. Copying each piece onto one tape saves you stopping during the session to change the music. It gives a nice flow to the group.
If you don’t put all your music on one tape then use the famous “FREEZE” to give yourself time to change the music.
ACTIVITIES WITHIN A ONE HOUR PERIOD
These suggested activities can be used in any way you like to suit your own particular circumstances.
They are more for the quieter section of the three phases.
The three phases, Fast – Mellow – Slow, are excellent for children aged between four and a half and nine or ten. This obviously depends on the child and their nature.
For older children you may like to do some fast upbeat and then go more into the slower activities. We will break up these two age groups and give activities for each.
For ages five to ten.
FAST – UPBEAT.
Jump up and down on the spot. Kick your legs. Jump holding your body tightly. Jump up and down like a limp rag. Jump and spin in a circle. Clap your hands, make a loud noise. (See who can shout the loudest ). Run as fast as you can on the spot. Shake your body to the sound of the music.
Now run and skip around the room to the tune of the music. Do a funny dance, make shouting noises. Go around and around the room.
In the active part you can call a sudden freeze. Ask them to become aware of how their body feels. Feel your feet touching the carpet. Become aware of their breathing. During a freeze fall down on the ground. Don’t move and be as still as a mouse.
Then jump up suddenly when the music starts again.
Really make them work hard at putting a lot of energy into this part of the activity. It allows them to burn of any excess energy.
Dance with shy children. Hold their hands bringing them into the energy of the music.
Doing silly things yourself helps to loosen up self conscious children.
MIDDLE – MELLOW.
At this stage as the music slows down the movements become much slower. Closing the curtains creates a much softer atmosphere.
Doing movements like standing on the spot and waving your hands in the air like a tree. Move your body slowly as you can to the tune of the music. Allow your body to move to the music. Try doing it with your eye’s open and then with your eye’s closed. Feel how each is different. Move in a slow circle to the tune of the music.
Generally the mood of the music dictates the style and flow of the movements. This allows them to catch their breath and to get back to being more in contact with their bodies.
The end stage is to slowly come together in a big circle around a candle and flowers to begin the slow section where the meditative sequences being.
All of these exercises can be used and varied according to the mood of the children. Sometimes they will be able to hold their attention longer than other times. A good sign to change activities is restlessness. Speak softly but clearly. Go around the room and join in by assisting them with what they are doing.
Allow your top eyelid to fall and come to rest on your bottom eyelid. Very gently. Open your eyes and let your sight come to rest on the flowers in front of you. Allow the flowers to show you how beautiful they are.
Pick up a flower and hold it up close to your eyes and look at the flower. See what it is trying to show you. All of its colours. Feel it in your hand. Touching your skin. Does it have a smell. Put the flower back and allow your eye’s to close and see if you can still feel the flowers presence still in you hand. Can you still sense it in your nose?
Words like – allow your eye’s to look upon. Let your eye’s fall upon the flowers. Listen through your ears. Allow the sound to come to you. Give attention, energy and alertness to your ears and they will hear much more.
Let your body be very still. Listen to every sound that you can hear around you. How much can you hear? Allow your eye’s to close and listen to the sound of your own body. To your breathing and heartbeat. Does your body make sounds as you move on the floor?
Sit on a cushion. Back straight and look into the flame of the candle in the center of the circle. Close your eyes to the count of ten and see if you can still see the flame in your mind.
Sit very still and listen to the music. Pick out one piece and see if you can just listen to its sound only. Eg a flute.
Listening to the music very slowly rock back and forth. Just feel your body rocking very slowly. Back and forth. Just feel your body rocking very slowly. Back and forth. You can try a gentle circular motion as well but do only one of each in a session.
Lay down on the floor with your head toward the center of the candle and breath in and out slowly. th in and out slowly. Feel your tummy raising up and down. Breath in and out through your nose. Feel the movement of the air in your nose. Just feel the air moving in and out.
Stretch your body out as tightly as possible ( squeeze it very tightly) and then let go. Do this two or three times.
Pick something to look at. Now stare as hard as you can at it. Really hard. Then close your eye’s. Now allow your eye’s to open and just look at it. See how it feels different.
Having flowers and a dish or candleholder with room to put flowers around is a great favorite for children. While they are doing breathing or sitting still put the candleholder and a pile of flowers next to it. At the end of an exercise say, “Now very quietly and as slowly as your body will go lets sit next to our partner and make a beautiful flower arrangement.
At the beginning of the class put children into pairs so that when they hear you say go and sit next to your partner there will be no confusion.
Another good idea is to actually do some of the exercises before you start so that they have an idea of what is necessary. Pick one pair to do the demonstration while the others watch and then they can do it as well. This time can also be a nice time to cultivate attentiveness and it can be fun.
One which is really nice is to ask someone to show how to dance with lots of energy (really well) and a dance which is slack, where you are not really interested in doing it.
Mirroring - Sitting facing your partner, knees touching. Bring your hands up in front of each other and touch palms. One person is the leader. The leader moves their hands in any direction they like. As slowly as possible. The other person has to follow. As slowly as possible. Do this with the eye’s closed for a time and then with the eye’s open, looking directly into each others eye’s
Massage – This is really nice. You can try many variations. Sitting behind their partner with palms one on top of the other massage between the shoulder blades in a circular motion. Massage the shoulders and neck and stoke the back of the head. Try lying on the floor. Massaging their partner’s head, feeling the hair. Touching as softly as possible. Try with the eye’s open for a time and then with them closed.
Massage each other’s hand. Feel each part of their skin and nails. When doing the massage only on of the partners is doing the massage while the other closes their eye’s and feels what is happening. This is their part of the meditation to become aware of how it feels to receive a massage.
There are many variations of this that you can try for yourself. Go by the mood of the room. Emphasize doing this very gently, softly and that the child must deep their attention on their hands. Use words like; be aware of how it feels to touch so softly. Feel through the tips of your fingers. Feel the warmth of your hands on the skin of your partner.
Looking into each other’s eye’s – sit facing your partner. Hold hands if you wish. (This helps them to make a stronger connection) Allow your eye’s to open and look into the very center of your partner’s eye’s. While doing this see if it is possible to not let your eye’s wonder around the room. Do this to the count of ten. This is a very deep connecting exercise. Often after the group we would sit with the children and do this with them. It is amazing how focused they can be for such a short period of time. It gives them the experience of feeling calm while focused without being self conscious. Asking them what took place with them reveals some interesting observations.
Helping the other partner to relax – Suggest that they try and make their partner relax any way they feel is nice.
Use calming and leading words during the session like –
Allow your tip eyelid to fall down on to the bottom eyelid.
Allow yourself too …
See if it is possible too …
See how slowly your body walks, moves etc
Sit quietly. Eye’s closed and be aware of as many sounds that you can hear in the room. How many can you hear at the same time?
Lay on the floor. Feel the carpet contacting your body. Can you feel the whole of your body touching the floor?
Lying on the floor, put your hands on your chest. Over your heart. Feel the heat of your hands on your chest. Focus on the heat.
Sit quietly. Eye’s closed and become aware of all the sounds that you can hear inside your body. Your breathing, heart beat, stomach noise and thoughts. Don’t try to change anything you hear just listen to the sounds.
Go into the garden and pick flowers together and bring them inside and quietly make a flower arrangement.
Become aware of particular instruments in the music and see if you can focus your attention on just this sound. Then if you can listen to all of the instruments at the same time.
At the beginning you can ask all the children present to make up a meditation that they feel is relaxing. Either one to do on their own or with their partner. What do they like to do that makes them feel good? Do whatever they want and actively encourage them to explain what to do and how it makes them feel?
Here is an example of a sequence that was used in a class to music: Aerobics (tight dancing and then loose dancing) We used terms like slack or excellent. Shaking the body, jumping high on the spot. Locomotion by Kilie Manogue, Irish Jig. Yes to the river. (Swing the arms like a tree) Sitting in a circle looking toward a candle. Listen to the music. Look at the candle. Lay down and breathe slowly and feel your tummy going up and down. Flower arrangement. Lying on the floor with a partner. Squeeze hands, face and toes. Body massage to the head, hair and face. Toes touching. (bring awareness to the toes). Running fingers in the carpet. Massage your partner’s hand. Sitting swinging to the music. Helping your partner to relax. Looking into each other’s eye’s. Mirroring. Stretching the body in a circle and looking at the flowers and candle.
CHILDREN’S MEDITATION. 10 – 14 YEARS OF AGE.
With older children you have a wonderful opportunity to be able to talk with them. The quality of the language must at all time be asking in nature. Never judging what they come up with as the right or wrong observation. The questions must encourage them to become aware of what is actually happening and at the same time cultivating their own energy for observation. This leads them to become human beings free to observe what is actually happening within themselves without outside help.
None of this work is intellectual. It is not directed at giving the children tools with which to self analyze themselves. It is based solely on the art of attentiveness and observation. Which is not a movement in thinking, intellectualizing or the use of imagination.
Here are examples of the questions that can give you the feeling for encouraging a child’s observation of their own inner state.
Sitting still to start with.
Close eyes. What do your see? Images, colour?
What you are looking at is the movement of the mind.
What are you sitting in? A body.
Are you the body? Are you the mind?
Are these separate from you. How can you tell me what you are seeing and experiencing if you are just a mind or just a body?
Sitting watching movements in your mind and body without touching them.
Can you feel a space inside yourself that is silent (no noise)
Can you hear silence?
Be aware of and feel your whole body at once.
Breathing; Eyes looking at the back of your eyelids, feeling your heart area; looking through the eyes at objects in the room or outside. Listening through the ears to the sounds in the room or outside.
AT HOME: Simple attentiveness questions to ask. What are you ding this very moment. How is your body? What is it doing? Has it a rushed feeling or is it tense, quiet or what is happening? What are you thinking? Do you think in pictures, black or white, still or moving? What is your mind doing? Do these images have anything to do with what is actually happening in front of you now?
Question; IF I HIT YOUR THUMB WITH A HAMMER. WHERE DO YOU FEEL THE PAIN? THE CHILDS RESPONSE WITHIN AN ACUTAL GROUP WE WERE TAKING WAS “ IN YOUR MIND. YOU FEEL IT IN YOUR THUMB BUT YOUR MIND TELLS YOU IT HURTS’!
Again you can vary the routine. It could be just a casual conversation with a group of children or a formal gathering. In a gathering you can start with music of you like or you can start with just sitting. Asking the children what they feel like doing is a good way to start.
Bring eye awareness to everything. Emphasize vision. Eg, stare hard at an object for a minute. Then just look at it by allowing your eyes to open and your vision to fall on what you see. Be aware of how it feels different. Look at the thoughts in your mind. Don’t try to change anything, just observe them as if they are something separate to you.
When using music or sounds ask them to listen and observe how their minds create images and thought when it hears these sounds. This is a wonderful observation in teaching them the art of seeing how their mind actually works. Its movement and how it begins to judge and categorizes everything that it sees and hears.
You can still use activities like flower arranging, the candle and massage. But the emphasis is on observation, listening and the sharing of what is observed without interfering with what is seen by analysis or by using mental techniques to alter any feelings or thoughts.
BRING A MEDITATIVE QUALITY TO DAILY ACTIVITIES
Every moment brings the opportunity to bring attentiveness to what is happening or to what you are doing.
Here are situations that can used as a lesson in silence and a source of being attentive.
SETTING THE TABLE: HOW BEAUTIFULLY AND SLOWLY CAN WE SET THE TABLE. PICK SOME FLOWERS FOR THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE. MAYBE SET A CANDLE IN THE MIDDLE. CREATE A LOVELY ENVIRONMENT TO EAT IN.
PREPARING THE MEAL. DRAW THE CHILDS ATTENTION TO THE TEXTURE OF THE FOOD. HOW MANY COLOURS DO THEY SEE IN THE VEGETABLES? HOW MANY SMELLS IN THE KITCHEN.
IN THE GARDEN. SLOWLY WALKING AROUND TOUCHING LEAVES, LOOKING AT INSECTS, LOOKING UP AT THE CLOUDS, LAYING ON THE GRASS, SITTING NEXT TO A TREE. BRING ALL YOUR SENSE TO EVERYINTING THAT YOU TOUCH. ASK THEM TO DESCRIBE WHAT THEY ARE EXERIENCING.
FIXING THE CAR. FEEL THE GREASE AND DIRT. LAY ON THE GROUND WHILE YOU WORK. SEE HOW DIFFERENT PARTS MAKE THE WHOLE AND HOW EACH PART MAKES THE WHOLE CAR RUN.
GO ON A BUSH WALK. MAKE IT DIFFERENT TO WHAT USUALLY HAPPENS BY MAKING IT A SILENT ONE. NO TALKING. SIT ON A ROCK NEXT TO A RIVER. LISTEN TO THE BIRDS. LOOK AT ALL THE DIFFERENT COLOURS AND THE WAY THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH THE BUSH. LISTEN TO YOUR OWN BODY NOISES, LIKE THE SOUND OF YOUR FEET AS YOU WALK; LISTEN TO YOU’RE BREATHING. FOR OLDER CHILDREN YOU CAN GO A LITTLE DEEPER BY ASKING THEM TO WATCH HOW THEIR MINDS LABLE THE THINGS THEY SEE OR HEAR IN THE BUSH. HOW OFTEN THE NEED TO TALK ARISES WITH THEM.
WHEN YOU ARE ATTENTIVE TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING WITH A CHILD YOU IMPART THE ENERGY OF ATTENTIVENESS TO THE CHILD. EVEN IF THEY ARE NOT AWARE OF IT.
Using our daily activities is the greatest opportunity to cultivate the great art of meditation. Looking and listening.
Of all things that are of most concern to parents is the fact that their children don’t pay attention or listen to what is being said. How do you foster these qualities in a child without direct instruction?
LANGUAGE IS VERY IMPORTANT. Us the words like, look through your eyes at. Listen through your ears. These words give more emphasis to the act of actually looking and listening themselves rather than to what you look at or are listening too. It is why we have lost the art of listening and observing. We are caught in the trap of giving more attention to the content of what we see and hear rather than to the energy of how we look and listen.
For older children you can make them aware of the difference simply by saying; Listen through you ears to what I am saying. Now listen to the sound of my voice.
IN THE CLASSROOM FOR TEACHERS
Only in a state of truly loving children for what they are can a teacher begin to communicate the true essence of being meditative.
To merely pass on a technique to get a result eg feeling relaxed, calm or experience images is the wrong understanding of connecting a child with their own inner silence.
If your aim is to stimulate self esteem, stimulate imagination and make the body relax, than you should call what you do the stimulation of mental exercises. For that is what you are doing. This is not meditation
Meditation is having a mind that is absolutely quiet.
Observing what is taking place within oneself and outside of oneself. Without any motivation to change what is observed.
With this clearly in mind, a teacher has the most invaluable opportunity to bring into the classroom a period of time which will bring a new quality to a child. A child mind which is open, quiet and alert can use the knowledge it gets from school in the most intelligent way.
Here are some ideas which you can start to incorporate into your class.
YOUNG CHILDREN- FIVE TO NINE YEARS.
Sit in a circle. Hold hands and sit quietly. Turn and massage the person sitting in front of you. (As described earlier).
Lying on the floor. Breathing exercises as well as a lot of the partner exercises described earlier. Listening to all the sounds that they can hear. Listen to the noises of the other classes if you can hear them. Let them give descriptions of what they see when their eyes are closed. Pick an object and focus only on it for the count of ten. Increase the length of time as you go along. Again ask them what would be a nice way to help someone else meditate.
Put some nice soft classical music on. If possible this is always desirable even when doing formal schoolwork.
If possible, outside activities are wonderful. Sitting under a tree. Lying on the grass and looking up into the blue of the sky. Listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. All of these are exercises in observation and listening.
For older children the act of observing objects in detail (the smaller the better) enhances their observation of objects in wholeness and in relation to other objects.
The most desirable time to do meditative work is straight after lunch break. They will have burned of energy during lunch time and it is the beginning of the restful part of the day.
Naturally there are difficulties that have to be contended with in a large classroom of small children. It is much easier with older children whom with you can have more formal communication and feedback.
Class structuring now has it limitations in your opportunities to create a quiet time. This may not be in agreement with your fellow teachers. If you teach in a composite classroom short walks into the bush or to the nearest park is the best alternative. Ultimately a compromise with your fellow teacher is the best solution.
Some experiences from teachers who are using this approach in their classroom were that the children were quieter, easier to communicate with. More confident and alert.
A good idea is also to call your session relaxation time. Due to religious beliefs and preconceived ideas the word meditation causes reaction in a lot of people.
DIFFICULT SITUATIONS AND CHILDREN
One of the greatest motivations to teach a child to meditate is to alter the child’s behavior in some way. From noisy to quieter. From inattentive to being more attentive. From moody, lacking in self esteem to being more happier and self confident etc.
It is this wish on the parents or teachers behalf that causes the most difficulty in getting a true meditative communication with a child.
There are some golden rules; YOU CANNOT MAKE A CHILD MEDITATE. YOU CAN ONLY BE WITH A CHILD AS THEY ARE AT THAT MOMENT. ONLY WHEN YOUR DESIRE TO CHANGE THE CHILDS BEHAVIOUR IN SOME WAY IS ABSENT CAY BEGIN TO TRULY BRING A MEDITATIVE QUALTIY TO YOUR MEETING. YOU MUST BE MEDITATIVE AND ATTENTIVE YOURSELF IF YOU WISH TO IMPART THIS TO ANY CHILD.
With this clearly in mind any situation can then become a source of focus, which cultivate the energy of attentiveness and quiet awareness.
Today with so much junk food, television and family conflicts the number of overactive and inattentive children are everywhere. To try and make these type of children sit still and focus appears to be impossible. Yet on the other hand these very children who cannot concentrate at school or pay attention to you when you speak to them can sit in front of the TV or play games happily for hours. It seems the key is not that they cannot focus but how they are instructed to do things and what interests them. An interested child can focus as long as it wants to.
With this in mind our awareness goes to what the child is interested in and using this time to join in with them ( if they are in agreement ) to foster the fact that they are actively paying attention to what they are doing. When you join in with them like this it allows the energy of attentiveness to grow and in time this will move into other areas of activity.
To try and make a child do a meditation because it is time to do so will only create a negative reaction and frustration for you.
Mediation is not just sitting still with your eyes closed and being quiet. It can also be active. This insight the allows you the opportunity to join in and make it meaningful.
Another point to bear in mind is the length of time we should be meditative. Again it is the quality of our attentiveness that is important and not the length of time. If a child is truly focused for two minutes than that is just fine. No better than if it happens to be for ten minutes. When doing any meditation, especially in a group, if some of the children seem to be not paying attention but looking around the room at what everyone else is doing, within reason let it happen. This is especially so for very little children. Some children learn more through observing what is happening rather than actually do it. But when on their own they practice it in their own way. There is a difference between attentive looking and distracted disinterest.
It is very difficult for children who come from noisy, stressful home environments to suddenly be quiet. It is usually so far from their familiar surroundings that it is not within their range of experiences. Even though it is latent deep within them. With this in mind, as a parent, the creation of a quieter and more peaceful home environment is essential. Quiet times without the TV on, soft relaxing music in the background and a neat tidy and colourful atmosphere are very important.
Hypocrisy abounds today. As a parent and role model telling a child to be quiet, talk softly and pay attention to what they are doing is in direct conflict if you yourself are noisy, yell instructions and don’t give direct eye contact when you talk to them.
Difficulties can also arise as a child gets older when a parent interested in meditation themselves wants their child to do the same. “I’m not interest in doing it”. “This is my life and I’ll do what I want”. “That your thing into mine”. Are all common reactions if a parent is trying to suggestively force their child to meditate or relax.
Respect the child and work with their own nature in the light that their way of looking at their world may be different from yours.
Illness and imbalances in a child’s energy system can lead to all sorts of behavioral problems. To try and relax a child whose nervous system is being continually aggravated by bad food, poisonous environment and physiological deficiencies is starting at the wrong end of the stick. Deal with the imbalances with natural therapies and take responsibility for the environment that you have created as best you can.
Work with and not forcing in a direction to change behavior is the key. True attentiveness is none directional. You go with what is happening (with the child) and not try to force it into a state that it is not. This way meets very little resistance.
Attentiveness (meditation) takes place from the eyes. The energy of sight (insight) aligns the heart and mind together. Saying to a child look through your eyes at ….. Aligns both energetic and physiological processes. With these words in your language you help the child bring a energy to their sight. A process of change take place without them being aware of it. The result is a natural tendency to look at and listen to what they see and hear with more energy and interest.
Sometimes in groups there may be a child that is intentionally being disruptive. A gentle sharing like, “Over there is the corner for being silly. Here we are doing this. So it is up to you”. Being firm and following through with what you say is most important for the child as well as for the rest of the group.
Restless children are best always sat next to by the adult.
Your presence helps to stabilize their uneasy energy. Don’t tell them off but guide them through what is happening.
With shy and very timid children allow them to sit in a corner and just watch what everyone is doing. Usually they don’t want to participate in the running around segment. When the activities quieten down gently lead them back to join in. A adult sitting with them (if this is possible) really helps.
Most importantly, don’t look for results – children are not going to change over night. The changes may be subtle and may not manifest for months. Patience, consistency and love are required on your part and above all, be sure of your own motivation and expectations.
Some children may not react will if they sense you are playing a “game of meditation” that you want them to participate in.
FINAL WORD- ENJOY, RELAX AND GO WITH THE FLOW.
Once again be open and spontaneous. Go with the mood of the room. How the children are at the particular time. Don’t set rigid rules as to what they should do.
Something that you may not have thought of may come to you while you in the middle of a segment. Just go with what feels right to do.
There is no length of time for each section or activity. A good guideline is if they are quiet and content then let it continue. If after a few minutes there are signs of getting fidgety then stop and change to something else
There have been times when we have had groups where we have done three activities in half an hour. Others times there have been ten different ones in fifteen minutes. You just cannot be sure.
Enjoy what happens. It is not like being in a classroom where you have to get it right.
You are only providing an environment within a loose framework. The framework allows a child to give expression within it, but do not be influenced by the framework or routine itself.
These times are a sharing between two people. Not adult and child or children.
By their nature children won’t be held down to a routine easily. Especially when the emphasis of that routine is on having fun.
Being spontaneous in their nature they will say what they like at any time. Don’t be surprised when you hear some of the following pearls of wisdom -
How was that for you? God that was boring!
When you closed your eyes what did you see? The future. How do you know it was the future? Because they had funny hats on.
- Nothing, it was black
- Happy and warm
How do you feel from the meditation? Like going to sleep – Nothing – Heavy – Relaxed – Light like a feather.
I’m always thinking. Even as you talk to me I am thinking of something else.
Let you body relax. Lie as quietly as possible. “She keeps touching me.”
The room was quiet. The lights dim and twenty children were contemplating their candles. Next minute, a little head turns and eyes wide open; “Mum didn’t give me any money. I’ll pay you next week”.
Most importantly, love your child. It is in love that a child becomes aware of its own goodness and peacefulness.