On a bright yet cool Sunday morning, I was having an amazing time with a group of bright and energetic kids from 9 to 12 years old. The students from the Young Legends Academy had woken up early and were excited to learn about the lost art of listening.
Sitting on the lush green carpet of grass, they were able to differentiate the sounds of various birds; the chirping of a cricket, the sniffing of a dog, a branch falling in the distance, leaves crackling under their feet, and even a whisper. It was a revelation to me how quickly these young minds could grasp and assimilate new knowledge. Then we moved on to practice the first level of meditation.
They learned to shift their focus from the outside noise and thoughts to the bright yellow candle flame. The gist of my instructions was, "Close your eyes and visualize the candle flame. Don’t try to concentrate. Every time your mind wanders, bring your mind back to the candle flame. “Each child had a unique experience. What astounded me was that they took to meditation so naturally. They were receptive, curious, willing, and able to understand and experience meditation.
Ability of Kids
They had reached a state where adults normally take months to achieve. For thousands of years, adults have benefited from the practice of meditation. I have personally enjoyed meditation, experiencing serenity and sanity during troubled times. When interacting with children, I always wondered, "Would meditation help children, and how early to start?" I did a little bit of research and came up with some astounding answers, which gave me the confidence to teach listening and meditation to children.
What does the research say about meditation?
The findings of my research were gratifying. The monk, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (YMR), a renowned meditation practitioner and teacher, began meditating at age 9. Scientific tests have confirmed that this Buddhist monk, who is 41 years old, has a brain that looks like it is just 33 years old. Years of meditation had shaved off 8 years from his age. Additionally, MRI scans and other studies showed his brain reached a state of maturity much earlier than most people his age.
In a nutshell, mediation helps children increase their attention span, focus, classroom participation, and even compassion. Profound benefits included lower levels of stress, self-control, and overall well-being. Buddhists have known this for centuries and started teaching meditation at the early age of seven.
What do I believe?
I’m more than convinced that meditation should be a part of every child’s daily practice. It would be a huge step if our schools could incorporate this. Yet I’m doubtful whether schools that are focused more on bookish knowledge will be able to contribute to this essential life skill.
The relevance of Mark Twain’s wisdom stands out bitterly: I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Can the widespread practice of meditation make the world a more peaceful place? If you believe in the principle of the Butterfly Effect, then meditation can even stop a Third World War.
The message from one of the most compassionate souls of our generation, the Dalai Lama, is more than compelling. "If every 8-year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation."
As parents, it is our responsibility to instill in our children the ancient practices of meditation and mindfulness to help them face the conflicts and challenges of the 21st century with confidence, clarity, and compassion.