Meditation with Children
Meditation or Daydreaming?
A cynic might accuse children who are meditating of merely daydreaming, but if you had seen the expressions on the children’s faces and experienced what one teacher described as the “prolonged harmony” of silent community during those periods of meditation, you could only believe the children’s silent testimony to God’s real presence.
Why else would they enjoy their meditation so much? Why else would that peace stay with them? Why else would they be so eager to share their experience with their siblings and family members outside school?
The Richness of Diversity
We have just had the privilege of visiting a number of schools where they practise Christian meditation on a regular basis. These schools are very different, not only in the catchment areas they serve, but also in the pupils, teachers, parents, priests, vicars, chaplains and governors who form each school community. They are different too in the way that they have started to implement Christian Meditation and the school journey they are undertaking. But they do share certain important similarities, which contribute towards the success of introducing this beautiful prayer of the heart.
The Importance of Controlled Autonomy
The Head Teachers are united in seeing this as being at the centre of what their schools should be doing as part of their mission to develop the whole child. They are keen to encourage a school-wide consensus on why the school has adopted Christian Meditation and how it is being implemented. This can be seen in the flexibility with which schools have different times of meditation to fit in with the school curriculum and the way in which staff are given some autonomy in recognising when things are working and when they are not. However, despite the fact that they are willing to listen and modify the practice as appropriate, it is clear that certain key features are non-negotiable as regards retaining the purity of the Christian message.
Wellbeing and Happiness
These are basically happy children who are being educated in a safe and loving environment; they are eager to learn and eager to support each other on the journey. Sitting together in meditation where there is no competition, no judgement – children from all backgrounds or with special needs are equal in this genuinely inclusive practice. Some of the children come from very difficult home backgrounds; some are unduly pressured by parental expectations of academic success, but no matter what their backgrounds it seems that they can all benefit from periods of silence and stillness and all enjoy the opportunity of building a personal relationship with Jesus through silent prayer. As one person put it “the child probably knows far more than we know already and it is they who will teach us – and so we glimpse the kingdom of God”.
The Challenge to Teachers
So what about the teachers? Well, to be fair, many of them were apprehensive and many were quick to spot the possible pitfalls of timetables, children who might be naturally disruptive, the difficulties of being an effective role model for the children and so on. But the interesting thing is that these worries have proved insubstantial and very quickly the teachers have derived as many benefits from Christian Meditation as the children. One Head Teacher commented “Once one or two staff get on board and see the benefits, the jungle drums start beating and the rest of the staff are quick to jump on something that works.”
Fruits and Benefits
In the first year, over 100 schools in the UK started to adopt Christian Meditation in their schools. Of these at least a third meditate across the whole school on a daily basis and the benefits are very noticeable – not just in increased concentration, focus and aptitude for learning, but the much deeper fruits of the spirit such as joy, patience, love and self-control which are being demonstrated in the day-to-day life of the school.
What About Ofsted?
These are qualities that are highlighted in the OFSTED evaluation schedule, which states that inspectors must not only judge the quality of education provided, but must also consider the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the pupils at the school. These are things that cannot be taught in conventional lessons. Meditation allows children to get to know themselves better and in learning to do this, get to know God better too. So we give them an important life skill that will stand them in good stead as they progress through the school and into life beyond the classroom.
The School Journey: In taking these case studies and putting them together in a DVD we hope to show other schools the way in which they might benefit from introducing Christian Meditation. The DVD has case studies of nine different schools with frank and open contributions from Head Teachers, Teachers and Governors
e.g. – “If you can achieve it in this school I see no reason as to why you cannot achieve it in any school”;
comments from children on their feelings such as “You find a little place for Jesus in your heart”.
The DVD also has a section on the Christian aspects of Christian Meditation: as one priest put it “The principal difference between Christian Meditation and other forms of meditation is that Christian Meditation leads to an outreach from oneself to another”.
We are also releasing a full series of resources to support the teachers and to simplify the process of implementation.
To order these and other resources please visit the Goodnews Books website – www.goodnewsbooks.net
The Meditation with Children Leaflet is a handout we offer to schools for children to take home as part of introducing meditation with children which can be printed as a booklet. If you would like assistance with printing for an INSET, please contact the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about introducing children to meditation please contact Sue Purkis