Meditation can take many forms, and goes by many names. What is common to all forms is that you aim to focus the mind, the breathing, the energy, all on one point. It is a process that allows you to feel relaxed even as you intensify your concentration. Meditation is one of the highest forms of self-discipline, enabling you to use free will and choice to harness the power of the ego to work productively.
Students of meditation find that it can enhance all aspects of life, especially learning. In one study of Australian high school students (1) using meditation and visualization, the students improved their test scores by as much as 20 percent in one semester.
In this University of Tasmania, Australia study, Harry Stanton and other researchers took children who had the same test scores during one semester and separated them into three groups. They taught Group 1 a visualization and relaxation technique (the clenched-fist technique) along with self-hypnosis (which is, itself, another relaxation technique). Group 2 learned the relaxation technique without hypnosis. Group 3 learned no new relaxation techniques.
When tests were given to each group the next semester, Group 1 scored 20% higher than it had done before; Group 2 scored 10 % higher; Group 3 showed no change.
MEDITATION BASICS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
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 also teaches children how to defuse tension and gain control over their body and mind. Once they learn the basics as a child, they will be able to continue using this tool as they get older. The skills will come in handy when they find themselves 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.
TIPS FOR THE FIRST SESSSION
Here are some basic tips to keep in mind.
1. You might first introduce meditation instead of nap time if your child, like so many children, views naps as a source of angst and tears, rather than rest. Though meditation is not sleep, it does create a relaxed state that will make your child feel good. When done correctly and consistently, the relaxation is deeper than sleep. In 30 minutes of alpha meditation, you can reach the same depth of rest that it takes four hours to reach in your sleep cycle at night.
2. Keep the session short: start with five minutes, and build from there to 10 or 20 minutes, two times a day.
3. Find a quiet place, free of all distractions. You may want to play music in the background that will help slow your child's breathing.
4. Have your child lie down on his back. The spine should be straight, but the body should not be stiff or rigid.
5. Cover him with a light blanket as body temperature drops during meditation.
6. Relax the entire body, from head to toes, by running through the Progressive
In next week's blog, I will teach you how to go through the Progressive Relaxation Exercise step-by-step.
(1) This study was published in Contemporary Educational Psychology 13, 309-315 in 1988.