A series of new studies have recently come out touting the benefits of teaching kids to meditate.
Well stop right there: allow me to say with utmost humility -- here stands the expert.
My sister Mallika and I learned to meditate when we were about four and seven years old respectively (she's older). This was early on in my father's discovery phase of the transcendental meditation movement. Contrary to popular belief, he was not always the go-to-Guru that many now see him as. He was in fact a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, cantankerous by-the-book old school physician who ironically had little faith in the ways of alternative medicine and stress relieving techniques like meditation. On somewhat of a lark he discovered a TM Center in Cambridge Mass not far from where we lived and he worked and figured he may as well give the hippie delight a try.
And so began our regular attendance to group meditations and lectures down at the TM Center on Mass. Ave where, while our parents meditated endlessly, Mallika and I (and numerous other kids of recently recruited meditators -- my dad has always had an instinct for starting movements himself) were forced to entertain ourselves in spartanly furnished rooms that smelled of broccoli and tofu.
Soon enough, we too were brought into the (meditation) circle. It started with my father offering us a dollar for every minute we were able to stay completely silent. Mallika, of course, was a natural at it and she quickly amassed a great fortune. I, on the other hand, struggled greatly with such discipline, though I did eventually discover numerous loopholes -- as in while I couldn't say anything, I was not barred from making noise with other parts of my body, nor did it mean I couldn't watch TV while "meditating."
This forced my father to up the ante, which he needed to do anyway (Mallika was already into triple figures by this time). So came a more traditional sitting technique for meditation. Staying still, ideally in lotus position -- yeah, right -- with eyes closed repeating a "secret sound" or "word of wisdom." My rambunctiousness had settled down some by now (I think I was about 8) and meditation had its own appeal -- my father told me that by meditating, I could eventually gain superpowers and end up like Superman or Batman. Hello!
Gradually it became clear that perhaps x-ray vision, spinning the world backwards on its axis, and other such magnificent tricks may require lifetimes of focused meditation. And yet, there were in fact more attainable quests. In 1986, when I was 11 years old, I intensified my meditations all through the summer, which seemed to be working as my team the Red Sox streaked through the regular season and then pulled off a miracle in the playoffs to reach the World Series. Then came Game 6 against the Mets. Bill Buckner, Mookie, (unsung goat Bob Stanley) etc., etc. The benefits of meditation became largely questionable and took a major hit as far as I was concerned. I was jaded.
I got back on the plan in subsequent years, probably because by then heavy D was climbing the ranks of the TM Movement and had become somewhat of a star in cultural circles where all of a sudden things like yoga were gaining momentum and trendy appeal. It was around that time that I was taught "advanced meditation techniques" during an intense series of group instructions back in those broccoli and tofu smelling rooms at the Cambridge TM Center. I think I can confidently claim to be the only teenager at the time who went directly from JV Football practice with a bunch of testosterone fueled teammates to hanging with born-again vedantists who boldly believed that if we could just get something like 7000 people meditating at the same time, we could create world peace.
I'm not kidding. Now 16 years old, I went to DC for a two-week meditation course where we meditated like nine hours a day, and then when we weren't eating broccoli and tofu, talked about it for like another nine hours. I was the youngest by about six years, I believe. One guy described his feeling after a week of the course as if he were having a neverending orgasm.
"Yeah, totally," I agreed, not really having any idea what he was talking about.
The course culminated with our learning the "flying sutra," which basically was a sound that triggered spontaneous hopping -- branded levitation. You know, the whole "awakening the kundalini" etc. At the time, it seemed some sort of miracle and I was really proud of myself for achieving such a feat. Over time, it became questionable what the real benefit was in being able to hop around a foam covered room with dozens of others...