In 2005 I was very pleased to be offered an opportunity to participate in a Christian Meditation Course, which would prepare me to ‘lead’ my Year 1s into practising Christian Meditation in the classroom.
I was very keen to accept; I had often thought meditation was something I would like to do. My knowledge of meditation was limited and I had only read a small amount about Christian Meditation. After the initial meeting with the group my concern was: Could I fulfil the requirements to learn to meditate myself and then pass on the knowledge to my Year 1s?
Meditation to me was an Eastern practice and I did not fully know about the ‘Christian’ part of Christian Meditation. I found listening to Laurence Freeman’s CD Meditation Talks very helpful and the more I read about it the more interested I became. After I had completed my Christian Meditation in-service the challenge was ahead for me. How was I going to begin to teach the children to meditate?
My Year 1 class could be easily excitable and unsettled, so I initially introduced them to ‘quiet time’ immediately after big lunch - hats and lunch boxes away and heads on their desks.
When they were managing that okay I told them about meditation. I introduced it as a ‘form of prayer’ - a time when we can be close to God. It needs to be a quiet time. I showed them the recommended position - feet on floor, backs up straight, hands in laps or on knees and eyes lightly closed. I didn’t worry about shoes off, as this would have taken too long! The children stayed sitting in their chairs and they just pushed them back from their desks when meditation started.
The next step was to introduce the mantra to the children - ‘maranatha’ I explained to them that the word meant ‘come Lord’ and that if they continually said the word in their mind it would help them to stop thinking about noises around them. I told them to try to not think of anything. If thoughts came to their head, they were to go back to saying ‘maranatha’ over and over. I said to them that this would help them to be closer to God.
And so we began...
After lunch, when they were settled, I began by playing music - no words. The music was a signal for them to move their chairs back and to get ready for meditation.
Once I could see most of them were ready (some could not sit still even by end of November), I stopped the music and meditation began. The recommended time for children is one minute per age level. That meant for 5 and 6 year olds 5 - 6 minutes!
By the end of November we were up to 5 minutes but I still had a small group of children who could stay in their chairs, but couldn’t actually meditate. I just made sure that they didn’t disturb the children around them. I did this by quietly making eye contact or gently tapping them on the shoulder.
Some children were able to sit very quietly for the 5 minutes but couldn’t close their eyes. Some, by November looked very peaceful - eyes closed and body relaxed. One of the girls, towards the end of the year very excitedly told me at the end of one session that “I did it all the way through.” I think she was saying she had managed to say the mantra for the 5 minutes.
I finished the meditation time with the music - when the children heard it they opened their eyes and moved back to their desks. I didn’t meditate during class meditation - I was concerned about some of the children’s behaviour if I had my eyes closed!
Nearing the end of Term 4 I switched meditation time from after lunch to morning prayer as the children were very unsettled after lunch and I was getting frustrated with them and voicing my disappointment - which I know isn’t what meditation is about!