Friday, August 13, 2010
Teaching Meditation to Children
Meditation has become more and more important at my church in the last few years, as our minister has become increasingly interested in it as a spiritual practice and has started a friday meditation group that has grown in numbers. But we haven't included children in the practice, until this summer. For our summer class, I offered an all-ages Meditation program, which in practice has had children 3-11 years old attend. I used the book Teaching Meditation to Children by David Fontana.
It hasn't been the easiest summer program to implement, and it's not user-friendly for inexperienced teachers. But I believe it's incredibly worthwhile. Not that I can make them meditate, because I can't. All I could make them do is sit still - and even that would be pretty hard! But that's not the point - as Fontana points out in the book, you are offering meditation to them, not forcing it on them. It has to be their choice whether or not to do it.
So what I've done is set up my classroom with a line of shelves down the middle, creating a divider. One side just has a comfortable rug on the floor. The other side has tons of fun art supplies, building blocks, books, and other "quiet" activities. In each class, I ask the kids to start each meditation, and do it as long as they can, but then they are free to stand up quietly and walk into the "quiet area" and do whatever they wish as long as they are quiet and respect those who are still meditating.
There are a couple children who jump up almost right away. That's OK. There are also many children who settle down and appear to go to sleep. That's OK. Some of the children may even be meditating - and it's all OK. I'm modeling it (as best I can while also keeping my finger on the pulse of my class - this has been a real interesting exercise for me), and I'm offering it as a gift to them.
I recommend the book - it's not written to be a curriculum, but if you are a parent, teacher, mentor, or therapist interested in doing meditation with children you will find it useful and sweet.
Full disclosure compels me to say that my children are not really meditating in the picture above. I asked them to "strike a meditation pose" and that is what they did. When they really meditate, they just lie down flat on the ground. They also love to do yoga with me in the morning, which is what we were doing on the morning I took this picture.