I started using meditation in schools in 2004/2005 when I was a young teacher on a working holiday in England. I had been casual (supply) teaching for quite a while when I was asked to take on a job teaching year two. As I got to know these gorgeous children I got to know what their home lives were like too. The stories they told me were vastly different from how I grew up and I was often shocked by the things some of these children told me.
To give you some background the school was in a low socio-economic area where lots of refugees were housed, most (around 80%) of the children had English as a second language and many of the children were living in quite crowded conditions e.g. sleeping in bed with their parents because they only had one bed/bedroom. One particular child came to school asking to sit on a chair because he had a stiff neck from sleeping on the stairs all night. I verified this with his Mum after school who told me her brother’s family (who had just gained refugee status) were staying while waiting for government housing and there was nowhere else left for him to sleep.
At this school I saw children living in really hard conditions. I taught children who were arriving from war torn countries that were so traumatised that they did not speak, I taught children whose parents took away their mattresses as punishment and I taught children who moved around from school to school because their parents were in the army or gypsies. All this said, they were all wonderful children and teaching them has certainly shaped my life for the better.
So I think it is fair to say, these kids that I was teaching were under a fair bit of stress in one form or another. Some of them had diagnosed problems such as ADHD and in extreme cases anxiety was recognised and diagnosed. But most of these kids just put on a happy face and got on with it. After one particular incident, which I won’t mention here, I set the intention to find a way to help them.
A few weeks later I attended an “Education Conference” where teachers could go to gather ideas and see what was new. During my browsing I came across a children’s meditation book. Being someone who meditated myself for spiritual purposes I decided to give it a try with my class.
The following Monday after lunch I told the class that they were going to meditate. Many of them made “Ohhhh /Ahhhh” sounds and giggled, some said ”My mum meditates” and some crossed their legs and closed their eyes and started to comically “Om”! (This I have learned is the usual reaction to telling all aged children that they are about to meditate for the first time!) So off we went on a journey into their imaginations and 5 minutes peace and quiet!
Now I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much, and what I got changed my teaching style forever. The class laid perfectly still, no one touched anyone or fidgeted until I told them it was time to come back. They slowly opened their eyes and sat up and no one said anything (which was highly unusual indeed!)
So, I asked them what it was like, loads of hands shot up and we actually spent a half an hour discussing the visualisations that the children had had. I was fascinated with the differences between what they saw whilst listening to exactly the same thing. One child even told me he saw a “Giant yellow person, standing in light. It looked like an angel. It made me feel safe.” Now let me assure you the guided visualisation I was reading was not about angels!
My amazement continued through the afternoon as my “rowdy” class spent the afternoon in peace, being kind, working quietly and asking me to play them quiet music as they worked. Attention spans seemed longer and focus (especially in some individuals) was certainly extended. I was honestly dumbfounded.
Needless to say I continued to use guided imagery with this group of children, I started off doing it weekly. They would literally beg me to give them a meditation if we had a spare 5 minutes! I started making up my own visualisations for them too, and they loved it!
Since then I have had many amazing experiences using meditation with children and was blessed when I met Susan upon returning to Australia. She became my meditation teacher and I attended her classes every week for two years, where I truly learned (after meditating on my own for almost 10 years) the depth of what meditation can bring to your life.
At some stage we came up with the idea of starting a kid’s meditation class together and from that point on Rainbowcrystal Connection gained a life of its own! We embarked on creating a resource that could be easily and meaningfully embedded into the school day. We slaved over curriculum and over how to make it as easy to use as possible, understanding that most teachers wouldn’t have as much expertise in the area as we did.
I am honoured and blessed to be able to work with children. The children that I have taught have made me laugh and smile every day and I thank them for that, it has kept me going through many a “rough patch”.
I believe though that our kids are in trouble; that children EVERYWHERE are suffering with stress and anxiety regardless of, race, religion or locality. Many children that I have taught here in Sydney are suffering the same forms of anxiety that I saw in the UK, with kids that had every reason to be stressed. Our world is changing, childhood depression, ADD/ADHD, bullying and even suicide rates are growing at an alarming rate and I am scared for the future of our kids.
Thankfully schools are looking at “well being” as a major focus now and this really gives me hope. So if you are a teacher, principal or even a parent, please browse our web site, come along to one of our free seminars, look at our products and learn about the benefits that meditation can have with children.
“Calm still minds create, calm still children.”