It is now the 2nd term of 2nd grade on school hill with a high energy, loving group of kids. The first term was spent working toward expanding the bubble of the self to include the rest of the class. Being Dwapara (energy conscious) kids, they roll and flow in the energy of the collective consciousness, but have not yet had the leap in awareness to direct it purposefully as a group. Right before Christmas, it was obvious we were ready to begin this next step of our journey together. Over the school vacation, I thought that I would begin looking for ways to introduce meditation.
Completely independent of my thoughts on meditation, I had put up the “Tower of Will Power” at school on Monday, the first day of the new term. On the tower (which is an old rotating greeting card display case from the village grocery market), we posted different group and individual goals, including one for me, of course. During the feeling years (age 7-12), the emphasis will be on growing awareness of will, what it feels like to use that “muscle,” as a group and as an individual. One student, with a lot of restless, talkative energy, announced out of the blue that he wanted to meditate for 5 minutes a day—and surprised me by promptly doing so and taping his written goal to the tower. Of course, we have been practicing relaxation, stillness, and focusing the first term of school, but my intuition told me then, that it wasn’t the right time to introduce “meditation.” The students’ group magnetism just wasn’t quite ready to introduce something like this with great chances for valuable absorption.
Seeing this inspiring turn of events, as well as an obvious change in this young boy’s energy, and himself being a magnetic personality with leadership potential, I seized the opportunity to support him while using his enthusiasm to help magnetize an experience for the other students. Each morning, it was just in the flow to meditate for 5 minutes after our morning exercises. Everyone was into it, no complaints to be heard. The students were free to stop at any time, but to remain quiet out of respect for the others. Just sitting in silence with your classmates is by itself a lovely experience.
One day we even meditated before giving a student with a birthday her blessing. We are accustomed to sending good energy by rubbing our hands together and sending three AUMs. The same young boy had his eyes shut and continued to sit still in meditation during the blessing. The other students noticed. “Why’s he not doing the blessing?” asked one student who is always attentive to others’ behavior. I gave him a wink to just let his friend be. Afterwards, the young meditator was commenting aloud, “That was so weird! I was meditating when you guys gave her the blessings and it felt like I was getting the blessing!” I did not comment, other to say thank you for sharing, being careful, not to pollute the children’s perceptions by showing my approval or disapproval. He had obviously had just had an experience of feeling energy.
I noticed that I was able to refer back to our meditation time during various times of the school day. As several especially squirmy and talkative students became “self-scientists,” including the most restless of all (that day), the young meditator, I challenged them to tune into what their bodies and mouths were doing. What did it feel like when measured against the calmness of meditation and silence? I did not say one is better, I just invited them to discover it. It is just so much more valuable and lasting when change and understanding comes from a person’s own desire to grow than the blind following of orders—even though the former may take time.
Well, as it turns out, all this meditation business led to some moments of wholeness for the group.
The first was that the children decided one day that they wanted a calmer lunchtime. I responded saying that every year I try to support this, but when I see the children aren’t ready to take on the responsibility of committing to respect and harmony, then I have to become a nag, which I refuse to do. I call this, the “Master/Slave” set-up. Upon understanding my predicament, the children unanimously decided that they wanted a “family-style calm lunch” with a tablecloth, plates, etc.—and everyone would have a job to make it happen. There would even be a calmness manager with a bell. When the bell is rung, everyone agreed to be quiet until the sound of the bell could no longer be heard. One child suggested that we have a silent meditation before eating.
So I let the kids go for it and it was the calmest lunch we ever had. The bell wasn’t even needed. The children had conversations and everyone ate more slowly. Everyone noticed the difference. Lunch had previously been one of the most challenging times of the day energetically for me, and now, they realized, for them too. I told them if they kept it up for a week, we’d cook a meal together next.
The second synchronicity came in this way: I was pondering on Thursday night what my class might present for the Martin Luther King, Jr. all-school celebration on Monday. A few ideas floated around my brain since we had been talking about commitment, freedom, and the civil rights movement. However, my life interfered with home and parenting duties, so I decided to ask the kids the next day at school. I did have a passing thought—something along the lines of, “It would be neat if we just meditated since we’ve already been practicing it.”
At school, the next morning, I was continuing the theme of commitment, which was part of our learning about will power, with some physical postures and affirmations. Following this, we flowed into our five-minute meditation and then on to work time. The feeling of harmony and joyful expectation was palpable as we made the transition. A couple of hours later, after snack and recess, we regrouped and listened to Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. One of the students aptly commented, “…so that we can hear what his voice sounded like.” I am always deeply touched by his voice—a voice filled with the conviction of faith and commitment to the divine truths.
We were also looking an illustration of a sit-in at a diner where some people were pouring ketchup on the heads of the non-violent protesters. It is so tragic and yet also hopeful. It shows the very worst and the very best of human consciousness. One student mentioned that the men and women doing the sit-in looked like they were meditating (and promptly imitated the facial expressions and body postures shown in the picture). To fight that meanness, Doctor King inspired people to rise above it by holding on to the truth that love and kindness must be protected no matter what. Doctor King taught people passive resistance—to not fight back with fists, but “to stand serene amidst the crash of breaking worlds*,” I commented. “You can learn to do this too.”
Finally, we got to the part where I needed to ask the students what they would like to present— if they had any ideas. (Thank goodness! Time was running short. I was a little apprehensive since we had to share something for the next school day and rehearsing always take energy and time.) The first thing out of someone’s mouth was, “We could meditate!” Everyone chimed in with enthusiasm. I quietly asked the class, what they thought meditation has to do with Dr. King?
One student said, “I feel calm when I meditate. Those people had to stay calm, not to fight back.”
And another said, “I want the world to have more peace and less hate.”
“Love is inside you,” said a third student. “When I meditate, I can see what’s inside.”
So, it was agreed, without too much talking and zero complaints, even though each of the students was on his or her own level with meditation. Experience would be the best teacher. I don’t think we’ve ever meditated as a whole entire school before. In our class, we like experiments. This will be a great experiment! (UPDATE: Photo below is us at MLK Day Celebration)
Looking back at the week, I saw how just even a little bit of meditation goes a long way.
From an Education for Life perspective, does it mean that we will continue to meditate every day from now on? Perhaps we will, perhaps we won’t, as I wouldn’t want to kill the enthusiasm with over-emphasis on will for ones so young, but this experience will lead us into other experiences of awareness and focused energy, and silence, that will feed us with inspiration, joy, shared experience, and a growing connection within.
*Ananda Yoga affirmation
For more information on bringing meditation to your home or classroom there is a class called Focusing Activities for Children: Building Blocks for Meditation, being offered this summer at The Expanding Light retreat at Ananda Village in Nevada City, California.