It is spreading like a viral gossip story, but it is actually serious. Meditation instead of detention for children. Sounds awesome, but there is certainly something wrong with the idea if we do not look at a very important aspect. What type of meditation? In a family where two children can have exactly the same rules and schedules, they most definitely will turn out to be different. Why? Well, each and every one of us have different value systems driving us through life. Even when we meet someone who we think is exactly like us because they like the same things, share the same hobbies and enjoy the same activities, it still does not mean that they see life the same as we do. When we dig wide and deep enough into their frame of reference, eventually we will find the differences.
So, what type of meditation will work for the children? What will the goal be? Will they just sit and breathe? Will they do walking meditation? The answer is simple but the execution is a bit more complex.
Children should learn to meditate according to their own value systems. Yes, they do have their own. It is the job of the person leading the meditation session to take some time and find out what that value system is according to the little one’s outlook on life. Let us take a simple example with a profound impact. If you ask any person what colour relaxation would be, you will be amazed that there will be different colours for different people to represent relaxation. The association made with relaxation will also be different for different people because of their value systems. Some may not even associate the feeling with a colour! With children, their idea of relaxation may not even be associated with the word relaxation. They may call it their ‘nice feeling’, ‘awesome’, or ‘squishy’. We will never know if we do not ask and investigate. The danger is that the whole ‘meditation instead of detention’ protocol can backfire if we are trying to mould the child into a set structure that goes against their value system. So, how to do it?
Body awareness! Not just from the child, but also the person who is observing the child. If body language makes up most of our communication arsenal, then we all have the ability to recognize the signs of a relaxed yet focused body. Imagine the difference between a person who is in a deep sleep and one who is just daydreaming and you will get an idea of the difference between total relaxation and relaxed focus. The latter is a good state for meditation, the former not at all. There are a few tricks to keep the meditation session in that level of relaxed focus. The most important one is to have someone guide the session. Put a child in a room and tell them to sit still while you leave and come back fifteen minutes later….that will never work. Now, let that child sit still. Start painting with words a picture in their mind that communicates to their value system. With your words, let them be guided back to that relaxed focus state and see how much of those fifteen minutes were productive.
Meditation is a great tool for kids, but it can be even more beneficial if we apply the principals of working within their frame of reference.