I’m going to take some time away from technology for this post. And that’s saying something! I’m big on technology, but I’m also big on ‘balance’.
I think we all know that there is something beneficial about meditation for adults and children. Few would be able to deny that an investment of a few minutes in meditation has calming and centring effects. But how can this really work in a school?
I recently attended an evening of professional learning on meditation in schools. What did I take away from this? Meditation can be simple and yet it is powerful. Meditation can take many forms and everyone has their own spin on it. You can have scripture lead meditation, imagery lead meditation and chanting meditation. There are teachers who are very good at these forms of meditation and have had great returns from trying these. But the form that I am most interested in is Silent meditation. Time to ‘just be’. Some schools call it ‘Quiet Time’. Have a look at this video of how a school has been transformed because of Quiet Time…
Nothing can take the place of silence and time to ‘just be’ – not to take anything away from scripture based meditation or meditating via ‘walkthrough imagery’. There’s a place for those. But being silent and spending time with your own thoughts has some irreplaceable benefits. And despite it’s simplicity, it can be very difficult. It can probably be more difficult for adults because we have learnt to remain busy. We tend to be critical of freeing ourselves to just stop.
Even though the process of Silent meditation is simple, it’s a hard one to learn. But we need it, and our students need it. Like I said, I’m big on technology but I also think it’s important to ‘switch off’, to re-charge ourselves. Is that an oxymoron?… Well you know what I mean! There is so much going on in our lives and so many things we are juggling at once. So many things we are monitoring. So many devices that are keeping us informed. So many ways to communicate and keep in touch. Our students have a lot going on too. If mum and dad are busy, that flows onto the children. So many activities to be involved in, in and out of the school. Not to mention TV, game consoles, mobile devices…
And where does God fit into all of this? Silent meditation can the conduit to prayerful thoughts. But it’s not forced. Allowing oneself to ‘just be’ can be the perfect channel.
And just like any other area of the curriculum, it needs to be learnt. We don’t expect it to be a perfect 10 minutes of Zen from the beginning. Meditation has to be practised and nurtured. The teachers who spoke the other night suggested to start small, say, a minute. And gradually build it as the students become more comfortable with the silence. It can take months, the schools attested but there are tangible benefits. The research has shown that it is not only beneficial during those quiet minutes of a meditation session, but has lasting effects on the rest of the day (mentioned in the above video).
So what is the process? Begin by taking your students through the posture. Quiet Time does not mean we are drifting off into sleep. Our posture needs to be supported in an upright sitting position. Small children can sit cross legged on the floor in a circle. Older children can sit in their chairs, both feet flat footed on the floor, hands resting on their thighs, head straight. Eyes are closed. The teacher can bring awareness to breathing and being mindful of our posture. It can be helpful to address the fact that you are going to hear sounds from the hallway, weather or electronic noises. We are not expected to avoid hearing them – just to acknowledge them briefly and not to dwell on them. You can use a bell or ‘singing bowl’ or chimes to start and end the period of silence. The teacher does not read anything or try to put images into the student’s head. That’s the beauty of it – do nothing!
The professional learning last week was punctuated by a quote from the Dalai Lama. “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” It would be lovely to test him out on this proposal!