By Aparna Jacob January 2003 Short attention spans won’t allow children to meditate? Right, if you go by the most misunderstood definition of meditation. But meditation can also be fun for kids, while allowing them to reap its benefits of increased confidence, concentration and creativity Breathing Techniques for Kids Just breathe in and out evenly. Listen to the breath. Take a walk breathing in and out; swinging arms back and forth. Desk Meditation in classroom requires not more than three minutes: Sitting with your back straight in the chair, facing forward, close your eyes. Breathe easily counting both in and out breaths till 50 counts or another even number. Lata Mudaliar’s maths class boasted the largest number of whiz kids. While anathema ensued each morning with other teachers trying to get their classes to settle down, in our teacher Mudaliar’s, it was a time of quiet and repose. “Sssshh! Pin-drop silence,” the deep timbre of her voice would bid. We would sit still, eyes closed and breathing deep until nerves and thoughts were stilled alike. When we heard the metallic whisper of the dropped pin, it was time to open our eyes. Now alert and receptive, we were ready for anything, even trigonometry. The world is opening its eyes to what Mudaliar had known all along—the efficacy of meditation in sharpening concentration, awareness, creativity and memory. Through meditation children discover being at ease with their self, gain self-esteem and learn to utilize their potential. The theory is that the brainwaves become synchronized during meditation, assisting learning and creativity. Meditation was an essential even in the Vedic system of education. Anuradha and Aditi from the Delhi-based Gnostic Centre explain: “Meditation is the focusing of thoughts, energies and consciousness.” Dr S.C. Sethi, a pediatrician from the Vipassana Centre, Delhi, further reasons: “Breathing has a direct relation with the state of one’s mind. For instance, observe the different breathing patterns in a sobbing child and a happy one. Thus, by controlling the rhythm of breathing, one can control the state of mind.” Dr Sethi, who has been teaching meditation to children for six years now, explains that once you learn to control the mind, focusing and concentrating are natural progressions. One can stop the mind from wandering, confidence is boosted, self-love increases, managing emotions becomes easy and one’s latent creative potential is awakened. Childhood is no longer insulated from stress. The academic pressure to perform is mounting. Peer groups where bullying is rife, broken homes and bombardment of violence from the media ensure that children are seldom at peace. Not surprisingly, a considerable body of research has traced the seeds of stress-related diseases such as heart problems, high blood pressure and steep cholesterol levels, to childhood. Hence, more urgent the need to initiate children into meditative practices, aver David Fontana and Ingrid Slack, authors of Teaching Meditation to Children. The two psychologists believe: “The more we can help children be at peace with their bodies, the better chance we have of helping them avoid these killers in later life.” Meditation for children, however, is a concept that is still in its infancy. “Meditation,” defines Geeta Chandra of Moonbeam Spiritual Centre who conducts ‘value creation classes’ for children, “is a state of peace within. If that comes from laughing, fine. Chanting,fine. These are just ways to initiate people on to the path.” Chandra’s classes start with laughter meditation where kids shout and laugh hard. This is followed by soothing music where children are asked to visualize love and light pouring down on them. This creative visualization encourages them to imagine beautiful beings or places that can provide pleasure and inspiration. Anuradha and Aditi base these images on things from the real world to enable kids to relate better. “For instance, they could look up to Superman for his strength, courage and honesty. These qualities are woven into the images we give them,” explains Anuradha. Twelve and 13 year olds are encouraged to envision themselves five to seven years hence. A contemplative length of time can help them to retrieve forgotten dreams, or visualise the kind of person they would like to be. Punita Roy of the Karmic Research Centre tries the same with younger children: “They are asked to imagine a clown. The children shriek with delight as they fly with the clown and have incredible adventures.” At Art Excel, part of Art of Living (AOL) school of spirituality, children are taught stress and emotion management through breathing techniques like Bhastrika. The children’s kriya or happy breath technique, a version of AOL’s Sudarshan Kriya, the teachers claim, helps children eliminate toxins through breath, combat shallow breathing, improve immunity and balance the endocrine system. Improved memory, better concentration, observation, creativity and emotional intelligence are other benefits. Art Excel believes that children need not be taught anything new. It enhances what kids are naturally endowed with. Art Excel teacher Serita Kakar says: “When kids meditate, they build on the positive aspects inherent in them—spontaneity, joy and responsiveness.” Fears and bullies are often discussed in these sessions. Geeta and Puneeta encourage children to send positive energy and messages to those they dislike or fear. Often new friendships are forged. Geeta calls it the ‘ripple’ effect—when you send something positive, you gain something positive. Geeta describes these as attempts to put children in touch with their spiritual selves: “If spirituality provides the anchor for their lives, they grow into strong individuals. By God we mean inner strength and innate energy.” Those working with children unanimously voice that children are much more receptive to meditation than adults are. They open up naturally to meditation as one has to pierce through fewer layers of fear and conditioning. Meditation for children, however, is a concept that is still in its infancy. “Meditation,” defines Geeta Chandra of Moonbeam Spiritual Centre who conducts ‘value creation classes’ for children, “is a state of peace within. If that comes from laughing, fine. Chanting, fine. These are just ways to initiate people on to the path.” Chandra’s classes
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