The Meditation Process: Formative Years

I am often asked about how to teach children to meditate. Most parents do not like my first question, “How often do your children see you meditate?”

Personally, I feel that so much of what people are taught about spirituality is external. It is easy to forget that we are spiritual beings having physical experiences. Life is not the other way around. With this in mind, I find it simpler to teach a child to meditate than an adult. Let us not forget what Yoda said about Luke before agreeing to train him, “He is too old.” (Star Wars reference, just in case you missed it.)

I first began to observe the silence when I was about 3 or 4 years old. My father would tell me to be still, generally I would try. By the time I was 8, my mother began to teach me about meditation. She bought a children’s meditation cassette tape with a dolphin on the case. Sometimes it was a struggle, but eventually meditation became like second nature to me.

In addition to the cues from my parents, as a child I was still young enough to feel a strong connection to God. Therefor it was not too difficult to find my way back to inner-peace and stillness. Most individuals forget this awareness as they grow older. I was also able to draw on a number of past lives when I had mastered meditation. Even if you are the parent of a soul new to meditation, you can still teach them this invaluable skill.

  1. Meditate While Pregnant: I recommend that a mother meditate as often as she can throughout her pregnancy. There will never be another time when you are that physically close to your child. Take advantage of that opportunity. Your baby will notice the shift in your body and become accustomed to the energy of meditating.
  2. Keep It Up: As a parent of 2, I understand how chaotic it can be once a newborn baby arrives. Continue to meditate with your infant. I found feedings a good time to meditate while holding my daughter.
  3. The Terrible Two’s/Three’s/Four’s/Etc.: These are the “baby step” years. Encourage your child to sit still for a few moments; seconds at first and then increase as they grow older. Do not ask them to think about anything, just have them still their body. (I do not recommend using time-out as a punishment because it can create a negative attitude towards sitting still, but do what is best for your child.) Also use this time to talk to your child about their dreams. Meditation and dreams go hand in hand.
  4. They’re Finally in School: Go easy on yourself, if your kid is not meditating on clouds by now, you are still doing great! Keep up the dream work, this does include daydreams. Find other sources for your child to learn about meditation. Perhaps at church or through yoga. During this time, I waited for my daughter to approach me about meditation. I explained my thoughts about it to her and I listened to how she understood the process. Occasionally she will join me in meditation.
  5. Lead by Example: Children mimic behavior. If your child does not see you meditating, then how is she suppose to know that meditation is important? (I will write about keeping up spiritual practices with a growing family in another blog.) Take the time to meditate. My children know my meditation chair and understand that I appreciate their quietness while I am in it.

Once your child has taken an interest in mediation, allow her to create her own spiritual practice. Meditation is about recognizing your connection to an infinite source. It is not about meditation chairs, mudras, incense or music. Observe and listen to your child about their needs. Encourage their development and accept that it will probably be different from your own. These steps will give your child the tools to grow up appreciating the benefits of meditation.

Toasting Marshmallows: An Insight to Meditation

The other night my family was enjoying a cookout in our backyard. My two children love to roast marshmallows over the dying coals. Being that they are still young, the joyful experience of roasting marshmallows can be stressful.

My daughter was feeling disappointed that she was unable to create a perfectly toasted marshmallow. It would either burn or not toast enough. After eating at least three marshmallows covered in ash, I decided to assist my daughter.

First, I told my daughter to be mindful of the grill and to not burn herself. Then I informed her to focus on where she would like to toast the marshmallow. I guided her hand to hold the skewer at a certain point. I turned to her and told her to center herself. It was as I tapped her heart center and told her to be calm and still, that I realized how this was similar to meditation.

I was eight years old when meditation became a part of my life. Until then my father was always telling me to, “Be still!”

That early training helped me as I grew older. And by older I mean nineteen, when I attended my first meditation and dream study retreat in Wisconsin with John Van Auken.

To this day meditation remains a part of my life. Being a student of meditation practically all of my life has allowed me to experience many different styles and techniques. As with many teachings, there is an underlying theme to meditation regardless of the source.

Meditation requires preparation. Honor thyself and the creative forces by saying a prayer or other form of protection. Just as the coals are hot and require caution, there are unseen forces which deserve recognition. Follow this with an intention for the meditation. Where do you want to toast your marshmallow? Then go within yourself, be still, be silent and ascend. Sit with your marshmallow as it cooks.

Only you will know when it is time for your meditation to end. Just as some people prefer well done marshmallows to lightly toasted ones, meditation is personal. On some days I could sit in the silence for hours, others I only need a short time to reconnect with a higher force.

The next time you find yourself being hypnotized by the flames of a fire or the burning embers of coals, think about going within before you toast that marshmallow. Sit with yourself, be calm, be still.