As much as we'd love to be able to teach kids valuable lessons using the same methods that work for us, it isn't always that simple. Actually, it's rare that we can ever use the same technique for each person. That being said, we need to adapt our teaching methods to make sure our youth understand what it is we are teaching. We can do this in many different ways, including through visuals, asking questions, listening to audio recordings, and even just modeling correct behaviors. However, one of my favorite ways of teaching kids is through similes. Similes help kids create mental pictures behind the meanings of things. And one of our favorite similes that we use here in Denver at Living with SHAPE to help kids understand the concept of meditation is about a teacher watching her students at a playground.
Before sharing, here are a few benefits our children will experience through meditation.
1. Improves attention, concentration, and behavior. 2. Decrease stress levels. 3. Enhances sleep. 4. Reduces heart rate and blood pressure. 5. More feeling of calmness and relaxation.
So, what is the simile you can use to help kids learn how to meditate in a way they will understand?
Meditating is about slowing down your mind, not attaching to your thoughts, and achieving a mentally clear and calm state of mind. For us here at Living with SHAPE, we describe the idea of meditation as something similar to a teacher watching her students as recess. A teacher has to watch all of her students at the same time without just focusing on one child in order to assure everyone’s safety. If she or he were to just focus on one child, they could lose sight of another child who just got hurt. Each kid running around the playground can represent a thought in our mind. The same way a teacher cannot just only watch one child during recess, you cannot attach to one thought only. If you attach yourself to one thought, you can get lost in your own mind. Let go of your thoughts and allow each thought to roam around like the many children on a playground. It’s also important to remember, that just as the teacher lets go of one child running across the playground, immediately there is another child that she must avoid watching sprint across the grass. Same with our thoughts. Once one thought passes, another one is just behind it. The teacher must continue to let the students run through her line of sight while never becoming attached to only one, to ensure she/he is safely monitoring all the students.
As we meditate, we must continue to let our thoughts run through our minds while never becoming attached to one. The teacher knows, that in due time, the students will eventually get tired, stop running across the playground and start to slow down. The same thing happens with our thoughts. As you accept your thoughts and let them run wild through your mind, eventually they will become tired too, and the number of thoughts you have will slow down. And as your thoughts slow down, so does your breathing and your heart rate. You begin to relax. Those subtle changes of relaxing with your thoughts help you feel better and ultimately think better. The power of meditation is not that you control your thoughts, it’s that you accept all of your thoughts. Not giving more power to one thought over the other. Just as all students are equally important, all of your thoughts are equally important. It's just allowing them to sit freely together as you gain a calmness and understanding of them.