By Swami Shivananda
Meditation, if taught at a young age, can greatly enhance a child’s life. Through meditation, you become firmly grounded in the self, allowing for greater confidence and a true sense of self to shine through. Most children face a great amount of stress as they are called to perform physically, academically, and socially in school, not to mention what goes on outside of school with parents and society asking them to behave and achieve a certain level in order to be “successful.” All this conditioning without a sense of self will make any child stressed and feel overwhelmed in this world.
Children have a tremendously powerful imagination, much greater than adults. To help them focus and tap this inner resource, we can give them opportunities to practice guided meditation. If a child is five or younger, have him or her lie down with eyes closed. If they are older than five, then they can sit comfortably on a chair or cross-legged on the ground.
1) Ask them to close their eyes, and begin by taking deep breaths, relaxing the body on the exhale. Always bring the attention to the breath when starting meditation as it plants you firmly in the here and now. “Now, imagine yourself sitting in a spaceship, ready to take off. With the eyes still closed, see and feel the buttons and dials. Now, the spaceship starts with a little jolt, feel the jolt… you are now speeding away in your spaceship into the sky… be aware of all that is around you as you climb higher into space….”
Be as descriptive and colorful as possible in your suggestions. The idea here is to get them to really see and feel whatever suggestion is given. Eventually, they will be able to do this on their own. This is a great tool to use when they would like to achieve anything – if they can see and feel it in their mind’s eye, then they can achieve it.
Meditation for Relaxation
With all the stress and distractions of the day, it’s important for children to have a good night’s sleep. In sleep, the body and mind are repaired and rejuvenated; therefore, the quality of sleep is more important than the amount. This meditation technique is great before bedtime.
Relaxation for the body
Ask the child to lie down and relax… turning their attention toward the breath, inhale and exhale… now bring the attention to different parts of the body… with each inhalation, focus the child’s attention on a specific area of the body, and with each exhalation, release the tension there, relaxing the muscles. The suggestion can go something like this… “Inhale, bring your attention to the feet… tense the feet… tense… tense… now, exhale and relax.” Move through the whole body this way, starting at the feet and ending at the head.
As we consciously scan through our body, we are amazed at how much tension we actually hold. Over time, this builds up and can cause chronic pain; in fact, if left unchecked, it can develop into something more serious
Relaxation for the mind
Have the child lie down and relax, bringing the attention to the breath… inhale and exhale… “Now, imagine yourself in a wide open field of whatever makes you smile – it could be bubbles, clouds, balloons, anything! Now, whatever it is that you are imagining, call one of them over to you with your mind… see it as it settles in front of you, awaiting your command… now, place inside it a worry of yours, a thought or whatever it is that is burdening your mind… place it there away from you?don’t look at the thought, just settle it on the cloud or inside the bubble and send it away… keep doing this until you are free of all worrisome thoughts… your mind now calm and peaceful….”
This is a great technique to use every night for children and adults, both. Our minds carry so much. It’s amazing how much unnecessary stress we burden our minds with. The mind is a powerful tool when calm and focused. With this technique, we can unburden the mind before sleep so that the mind can rest and recuperate, becoming refreshed and focused by the next morning.
As your child grows, be aware that what’s taught early on becomes the foundation for how they live. If you can make meditation a way of life rather than just a technique, you’ll find that your child will inherently know how to tackle life’s ups and downs, handle emotions, embrace change and live life to its fullest.