When a child goes to school there is a lot that we teach them.
At first, we want them to learn to master reading, writing, and some basic arithmetic. Later, as their analytical skills develop we give them other areas; maybe geography, history, economics and social studies.
Depending on the school they go to, they may also be exposed to more creative activities such as art and music.
These skills, while useful, aren't what we would call hard life skills. In fact, most of them aren't very useful once we enter the 'real world.' This is particularly relevant given that the world is changing so rapidly.
But there is one skill that we could teach our children that would help them in all areas of their lives.
It would help them develop more emotional intelligence, cognitive acuity, compassion, and confidence.
This skill would strengthen their immune systems, increase their willpower and improve their ability to make difficult decisions under pressure. All in all, it would make them happier individuals and allow them to better deal with the stresses of technology and modern life.
So what is it?
Meditation is the antidote to the aspects of modernity that have become pathological.
This pathology is manifesting itself as an inability to look at ourselves openly and honestly. We are conditioned to look for distractions in the form of social media, movies, Netflix, and junk food.
As human beings, it is natural that we should fall into the trap of listening to our ego, but what modern society unfortunately does is amplify that voice. We're seeing a few ways in which children are being impacted by this change.
But meditation can help us solve alleviate these issues whilst at the same time allowing us to develop some of our greatest human strengths.
Here are 5 reasons we need to introduce meditation to schools:
It can help reduce symptoms of ADHD and Autism.
The causes of Autism are highly contested. However, the one thing that is clear is that autism is a stress response. Meditation can increase children's resilience to stress and offer relief when it comes to the symptoms of autism.
With regards to ADHD, diagnoses have skyrocketed in recent years and it serves everyone involved to look for a solution that doesn't involve prescription medication. A number of studies, including on out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), found that only 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation training was incredibly beneficial to both adolescents and adults suffering from ADHD.
Imagine how much 8 years could help!
For those that don't suffer from ADHD, meditation is also hugely beneficial to general concentration.
It can combat Depression and Anxiety.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of studies demonstrating the benefits of meditation on depression and anxiety. Goyal & Singh et al. for example, studied the effects of mindfulness meditation on 3515 participants, adding to the increasing body of evidence that it can decrease depression and anxiety.
This is a particular problem amongst young people these days who have to deal with novel issues such as cyber-bullying and body image issues related to social media exposure.
It improves creativity
Schools and educational programs have been widely accused of diminishing creativity, so any effort to stimulate it would be beneficial.
One study that looked at 5 measures of creativity saw a significant increase in those that meditated over a 6-month period.
It improves emotional intelligence and compassion
We now know that both emotional intelligence and compassion aren't inherent traits, they're skills that need to be developed and nurtured over time. Studies have shown that meditation can play a fundamental role in this process, improving our emotional intelligence and expanding our capacity for compassion.
It improves learning
This probably seems like the most obvious benefit for schools to consider. A study at George Mason University looked at students who attended a lecture after meditating and found that even with a short meditation they were able to retain the information better. Meditation also serves as an accurate predictor of who will pass and fail.
If meditation became part of the school curriculum it could have deep benefits not just for our children but for the future of our planet.
Some of the most profound benefits of the practice only come after a very long-term practice of 20 or more years. Some studies have found super fast cognitive functioning, the ability to repress the startle response, the slowing down of neurodegenerative diseases
However, children who start at 6 years old can have 12 years meditation experience before they leave school. This means by the time they enter the workforce and start having influence in positions of authority, they already have a degree of emotional maturity usually reserved for someone far beyond their years.