Thursday, December 27, 2012

children & meditation (originally posted 8/18/12)

Teaching meditation to children presents some unique challenges and very few of them have to do with the kids themselves. It can be a process of revealing the depth that one has, as an adult, adopted rationalization and delusion as a means of defining worth. Adults seek out meditation to return to a more "truthful and authentic" experience of life, but then regress into a very inauthentic process when they try to define why children should learn to meditate.

Look at any program for children's meditation and they will be talking about how it will help them relax, focus, deal with emotions and handle such issues as anxiety, ADHD/ADD, set goals, learn self-discipline and so on. It is a wonderful way to do all that and clinically proven to be successful however, that in itself reveals the flaw of the approach. Children do not acquire stress and environmental disorder except from the projection and expectation placed on them by adults. The stress, the lack of focus, even the ADHD/ADD - these are adult problems that children receive.

Meditation programs for children would do well to stop trying to answer adult concerns and instead strive to provide tools for children to deal with their appropriate age developmental experiences in the same way that good meditation programs for adults do. Meditation is not a prescription or antidote to ills; it is not a means of achieving a goal - it is simply a set of tools. Like a hammer and nails, it can either be a means to create a strong house or, a means to send you to the emergency room to be bandaged. What meditation can do for you or for your child will depend on the approach of the teacher and program. If the teacher or program sees it as a way to "fix" or produce a "productive child" then you will be going to the ER. Meditation programs like that have adopted adult problems and imposed them on children.

Children need meditation because we do not live in a world in which they are allowed to grow and experiment and gain experience. We expect and demand mini-adults who will understand cause, effect and priorities. We create meditation programs that are designed to deal with the incompatibility of the adult experience with children's actions and as a result, teach children that they are not "right."

Children are "right," just as they are and even if they have identifiable medical or or social problems. Meditation can help them to form small nests of safety in which they can explore what scares them or what they are curious about at an age appropriate level. Good meditation programs can give back to kids the ability to be kids, who are well aware they are not innocent but inexperienced and want the room to be able to ask questions, to explore and to just sit and absorb life. A good program has little demand on form and more emphasis on creating an environment of attention and exploration.

The role of the mediation teacher, in this instance, is not so much in passing on learning, but in discovering what they can learn. Like working with an adult, a meditation teacher listens more than they talk because our culture is no longer supportive of communication. In order to be heard many people, adults and children, feel like they have to shout. Meditation environments can reintroduce the concept of someone having "worth just because you breathe." A teacher who puts active listening first is going to hear you and your child and be responsive.

Be mindful in choosing or encouraging a child to learn meditation that you are not doing so because of the issues you would be better off addressing yourself. If your issues are affecting a child, no amount of time that child spends in meditation is going to help them as much as you helping yourself. Children are like barometers and reflect our adult states.

For children, the most common result of a period of mediation is the comment "that was fun!" Good meditation is an adventure for children; with proper guidance, it can become wisdom. Pick a program and a teacher that promotes exploration for a child and is less about meeting goals. After all, one has goals for a child but that comes from your life. A child needs to start on the path to critical thinking and a willingness to explore early to avoid what so many of us seek meditation for as a fix later.

1 comment:


    Why not check out my class' website about Meditation, Mindfulness & Buddhism

    It is a website FOR children BY children.

    Please post this address anywhere you think it could be seen and useful! Many thanks!!

    If you left a comment you would make some children well happy.