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Meditation and Children, Part 3: The Breath

Even young children can learn the basics of meditation. It is an excellent way to prepare your child to learn any subject. You will likely find that after a short session, your child will feel so alert and open to learning, that he can soak up anything he is exposed to, like a lotus blossom absorbing sun and water.
06/02/2016 12:32pm ET | Updated June 3, 2017
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Man and Girl Meditating

As promised in my last post about meditation and children, here is the next step in preparing your child to meditate.

Even young children can learn the basics of meditation. It is an excellent way to prepare your child to learn any subject. You will likely find that after a short session, your child will feel so alert and open to learning, that he can soak up anything he is exposed to, like a lotus blossom absorbing sun and water.

Meditating can also teach your child how to diffuse tension and gain control over his body and mind. Once he learns the basics as a child, he will be able to continue using this tool as he gets older. The skills will come in handy when he finds himself facing any stressful situation, from a kid who grabs a toy to a teacher who poses a challenging question.

Both you and your child may find that situations that once called for a "time out" will be more effectively resolved by a "time in" -- a session of meditation.

Those who meditate recognize that the most important element is the breath. Therefore, the next step is the breath.

THE NEXT STEP: THE BREATH

As your child becomes familiar with the Progressive Body Relaxation exercise and can do this first step in meditation more rapidly, you can progress to the next step: deeper focus on the breath.

1. Help your child focus on his breathing. Breathe in--doesn't it feel cool? Breathe out -- doesn't it feel warm?

2. Continue to focus on the breath. As the body automatically breathes in and out, he will notice his tummy moving up and down in sync with his breathing, not his chest. Explain that he should be thinking and focusing only on his breath: how it feels coming in, and going out. If he starts thinking about anything else (as all of us tend to do - it is a phenomenon called "the monkey mind"), he should just go back to focusing and feeling only the sensation of the warmth and coolness of his breath as he breathes in and out. If there is a big crash or a truck passing by or a fly buzzing in the room, explain that the sound may be distracting for a bit. That is all right. Just say "Hi" to the noise. Then return to his breath, the repetition of his natural breathing in and out. Soon thoughts of other things will fall away and a feeling of peaceful concentration will return.

3. Ask your child to do a body check again. Are your toes tense? Are your shoulders tense? Explain to your child that if any body part gets tense, he should relax it again as he did in the beginning.

4. Go back to repeating the focus of the in and out movement of his breath. Keep the mind steady and focused.

5. As the session ends, tell your child to slowly open his eyes. Encourage him to move very slowly as he comes to a standing position. Ask him not to speak or make any sudden movements but to feel how quiet his body is. Make sure to leave enough time between meditation and the next activity so your child can savor this peaceful feeling as he moves into the rest of his day.

Remember, meditation is not going to sleep. But afterwards, your child will certainly feel quite refreshed and alert.

In the next part of this blog series, I will discuss how to move into seated meditation with older children, and discuss what is known as "The Monkey Mind" in meditation.