I had been interested in meditation for many years, so was excited when I came across the concept of Christian Meditation.
While spending a year overseas, I initially started to explore meditation from different religions. I spent a week practising meditation and tai chi at the Danokosa Buddhist Retreat Centre in Balquidder, Scotland. This only helped to reinforce my yearning for my own Christian faith.
My year away from my normal work, friends and community gave me the opportunity to explore my spirituality more deeply.
A few years later I was fortunate to attend a lecture by Fr Laurence Freeman in Townsville which re-ignited my interest in meditation. It was indeed like ‘coming home’.
From the classroom viewpoint, I had ‘meditated’ with my class, although this was relaxation and guided meditation rather than Christian Meditation. The students had enjoyed this in the past so I had positive experiences in relation to meditation.
I welcomed CEO’s (Catholic Education Office) invitation to be part of a pilot group of teachers from the Townsville and Ingham districts to trial Christian Meditation.
My class of 31 Year 7 students was energetic and noisy. Even though I myself was keen, I did have some reservations as to how a large non-volunteer group of sometimes boisterous students would cope.
It was surprising that a couple of students diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) coped quite well.
Some of my ‘good girls’ who were very anxious to please in academic situations did not perform as well. They may need the external pressure of assessment to perform, whereas other students enjoyed the quiet time without having to reflect or journal or be assessed. Many students appear to be enthusiastic.
The meditation time with students was for them. I was merely the leader and did not participate in the meditation. Students felt safer that I was observing. I wanted to ensure students were not interrupted by others while meditating.
Advice for Teachers
- Christian Meditation is prayer. It is a prayer of the heart, not prayer of the head. It may open doorways to the possibility of students deepening their relationship with God.
- Present the silence and stillness as a gift to give each other.
- Assume all students will participate.
- Prepare yourself by reading Christian Meditation - Your Daily Practice by Laurence Freeman and other CDs available by the same author.
- Seek support from local church leaders.
- Be open to the idea of meditation - don’t be fearful of what you don’t know.
- Find a teaching partner/friend for support. You can plan your meditation and support each other on the journey. Start slowly.
- It is not compulsory for teachers to be regular meditators themselves (although it is almost essential you have experienced meditation at some stage).
- Clear student’s desks and have students meditate where they are. Consider asking students to remove their shoes as part of the ritual of preparation.
- Plan to be successful. Choose a time to meditate carefully. Minimise interruptions with signs outside your door.
- Emphasise meditation is a work - students should not be too relaxed as they need to be alert.
- Start slowly with lead-in music and end the meditation with music.
- Use the mantra (ma-ra-na-tha) to focus and assist concentration.
- Be clear that after a lapse of concentration students should gently return to the mantra.
- Be careful there is no disapproval associated with meditation by tone of voice or otherwise.
- It may be necessary to shorten the meditation session in order for it to be a success. Gauge the group’s attention. Three minutes meditation is better than nothing at all.
- Send an information brochure home to parents when you start. Ensure you have Admin support.
- Realise it may take a few weeks for the class to familiarise with the experience.
Challenges to Christian Meditation
- Interruptions - phones, intercom and visitors to the classroom.
Students enjoy creating signs to hang on the door to inform visitors meditation is in progress. It may be necessary to ask the office to hold calls for 10-15 minutes.
- Other teachers, parents and students who may be sceptical.
- Realising that it may be difficult to assess student’s gains in the short term.
My class this year has embraced meditation with a positive and enthusiastic attitude.
They love the ritual of lighting the candle and putting out the signs (and taking the phone off the hook!) If we haven’t meditated for a couple of days the students ask for it. We started Christian Meditation on Day 1 of the school year with about 3 minutes and are now meditating for about 8-9 minutes (April).
I am very fortunate to be at a school (Ryan Catholic College) that supports Christian Meditation as part of the Religion programme and have a dedicated time for P-7 classes (after morning tea) for Christian Meditation. Teachers are free to use other times, but it certainly helps to have a time set aside where interruptions are minimal.
It has been encouraging to see other teachers taking up the challenge of Christian Meditation in their classrooms after staff in-service in Religious Education meetings. My advice is always to start slowly and seek support from a peer teacher. We sometimes begin our staff meetings with this simple form of prayer.
As I feel more confident, I’m more relaxed about the process and I think students are picking up on my vibe (more gentle and less anxious).