Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some Reflections

The past few weeks have gone by so fast! There has been a richness of experience and fulfillment---I feel so grateful for these experiences.

My earlier blog was on the children's courses conducted in GIIS Balestier campus. Last week, I conducted Statistics examination at my University on the 10th of May and in the midst of marking papers, I also conducted 2 more courses, one each on 11th and 12th of May at the GIIS Queenstown campus for Grade 6 children. 13th and 14th were fully devoted to marking and consolidating the final results for the University.

On 14th night (Saturday) I boarded the 10pm bus to Kuantan and reached there at 4 am on the 15th. I was there to co-conduct the Tamil children's course with Mr. Santhana Gopalan. Although he asked me to conduct the course, I chose to play a supportive role instead as I felt that his Tamil was better than mine. While I do speak fluent Tamil, public speaking in Tamil still makes me nervous and I make mistakes or search for appropriate words.

Its been a very rewarding experience so far. Its interesting to interact with children of different backgrounds. It also helps me on my path, I become more clear about what I am teaching and in my expectations of the children.

Generally girls are able to sit still better than boys, though a few boys grasp the technique very well. In GIIS the children were more responsive and asked for a proper explanation on why they were asked to meditate. In Kuantan, children were in comparison more compliant, though a few of them could not sit well and were restless.

In the small group interaction in GIIS, one girl asked me---do you really think this works? Why should we be asked to meditate? What has observing the breath got to do with anything?
I asked her: Has it ever happened that your mom asked you to run an errand for her and you forgot what she said? Or you misplace somethings? She said : Yes---I always keep forgetting a lot of things.. Then I asked: What do you think happens on those occasions? She said: Umm...my mind goes off somewhere else or my friend calls me out and I am busy talking to her and I forget what my mom told me.
I said: Yes, precisely, your mind goes off somewhere else and then you remember it very late and then..?
She said: I get scolded by my mom and she says I am always so forgetful!
I said: So you see what we do here in meditation, is to train your mind to stay in one place by focusing it on the breath... Ofcourse the mind wanders away sometimes, so we patiently bring it back to the breath. This constant practice helps to keep the mind more often in one place. The mind becomes more concentrated and less distracted by what others say when you are running an errand for your mom.
She said later: Oh now I get what you say....it makes sense to me now. Thank you!

Some children do find it difficult to sit, some take time to sit well. I found that explaining to them what was happening helped them to sit better. For instance, I would explain that all our lives we are slaves to our bodies--the mind listens only to the body---the body likes/dislikes something--the mind follows it by taking an appropriate action. So now--who do you think is the master? The body! Now we are changing the habit pattern of the mind. When the body becomes restless--we ask the mind to continue watching the breath and not abandon this to listen to what the body says. So now who is in control? The mind!

This way we start strengthening the mind and since this is changing the old habit pattern it is difficult to do so at first. With practice alone, the mind becomes the master---then you begin to engage in actions that are beneficial to oneself as well as others.

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