Sunday, March 6, 2011

Children & Teenagers' course: 6th March 2011

(The picture you see here is one of the games the children play during the break--to reinforce the idea of cooperation)

Today's meditation course for children and teenagers was interesting. The format was the same as in the courses we've had before but there were some differences. This was the first combined course for children and teenagers which means we had children as young as 6years to as old as 17 years of age. Normally, we take children of ages 8 years to 12 years into the children's course and teens from ages 13 to 18 yrs into the teenagers' course. As we had fewer children --14 in all, we decided to combine them into a single course.

Teaching young people to meditate has always be a challenging and interesting task for me. It is challenging as young people by nature are very curious and energetic and meditation requires one to sit cross legged on the cushion for quite some time. Its interesting to see them learn and benefit from the technique and the experience has enriched me as well.

I was quite relaxed today and very prepared to conduct the course. Meditation, after all is being in the present moment, and take whatever comes up with equanimity and calmness. Today I found myself more present, calm and equanimous than ever before.

There were 10 boys and 4 girls in todays' course. The boys, especially the younger ones of 8-9yrs were a bundle of energy, and found it difficult to sit still during the first part of the day. We have one introductory session (Anapana, during which they take the 5 precepts) and 3 sessions of Meditation for about 40 minutes each (with breaks of half an hour in-between sessions and an hour for lunch). The program culminates with a discourse by Goenkaji on the benefits of the practice and finally metta (loving-kindness) meditation. (Only Sila and Samadhi are taught to children & teenagers)

The youngest of the children was a girl of 6 years of age. This was her second course and as her mother who is a meditator comes in to help for the course, the girl participates in the course. Initially she found it difficult to sit still but after the first session settled down very well.
The boys were boisterous --especially two of them who were about 8 years of age.
Although the main instructions come from Goenkaji through video and audio CDs, I interact with the children to reinforce, summarize and also to make sure they have understood the technique of meditation.

Some children take to it very quickly. One boy said it was so relaxing to just sit and be aware of his respiration. Initially he had problems sitting still but settled down later, very well. The girls found the practice beneficial in taming a wild mind.

Generally children whose parents are meditators and practice at home, have lesser problems in settling down with the instructions during the course. Some other children are drawn to the course because they themselves find it useful and in turn ask their parents to go for a course.

I have always been asked how it works for children, given the procedural requirements of the tradition I follow. Many adults helping in the course have suggested that the content should be made more meaningful and interesting for children---something that they can relate to. Initially, I also was in-line with their thinking. But years of personal practice and teaching children in the strict format given to me, I feel the present framework is just fine. I feel as a Children's Course Teacher (CCT) I do have the freedom within the constraints of the course, to connect with children and make it meaningful to them.

Yes, sitting still is difficult---but that is what meditation is about isn't it? You want to tame a wild mind---a monkey mind...then you need to keep the body still and observe the mind to calm it down. How can anyone observe the mind? Well, by observing the breath....

So you see it all makes perfect sense. There is no real need to trivialize it, make it all fun and enjoyable to the extent that you lose the teaching, technique & practice itself!