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If Every Primary-aged Child is Taught Meditation, Violence will be Eliminated from the World

Primary School Child Meditating
The Dala Lama says, "If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation." With this in mind, how can meditation be implemented in schools and the primary classroom?

The Dalai Lama has given us countless quotes to reflect on, but among the most striking is the suggestion that children can create a more peaceful society just by sitting and turning their attention inward.

Across societies, the world over and since the beginning of human history, one of the most important priorities alongside eating and shelter is educating our children. We teach them how to function in society, how to become independent, how to add and subtract, speak, the history of their people, the shape of the land, and how to shape their future. Among those teachings are often good manners, right over wrong, and we often tell them to be patient. But rarely do we teach them techniques to practise that patience, or even less so how to work on their mind inwardly.

Meditation can create a kinder, happier self. It is free, accessible at a breath and in almost any environment, and contrary to how it might look, it is perhaps one of the most selfless and least selfish things one can possibly do. Beyond calming and helping the self, as your practice grows, it enables you to be better to others and to have a more positive, less negative effect on others around you. You become less reactionary, more understanding, and – disarmingly – smile more. It is a perfect subject for the classroom and to teach our pupils.

Thankfully it is more accessible. What was taught thousands of years ago, beginning in Asia, is now available on countless websites, in books and in common parlance – “You need to be more mindful.” But while it is all around us, it remains hard to know where to start, and the drop-off rate is unfortunately high. People think they are failing because they’re not meditating correctly or because they’re not very good at it. While an easy fix when you know how perhaps this can be daunting for a teacher to understand how to access in a way that will open children not just to the benefits of the practice but how to generate a sustainable meditation practice themselves – and thereby increase their success in life and how they cope in life.

You can start with a know-how website, book, YouTube channel or a little of your knowledge. It is easy when you know how, not just the preserve of experts, authors or meditation gurus. Still, once educators find the right resources or information that works for them, it will give them the tools and expertise to help integrate meditation teaching into the classroom. As you read this, you can directly support the children you teach on this topic. It can even be taught and practised just before the start of a lesson and applies to all ages and year groups, and would be perfect for primary school ages, especially in EYFS, KS1 and KS2. In the meantime, here is a step-by-step guide to getting you started for this particular age phase:

1) Tell your pupils to sit somewhere that’s comfortable for them. Perhaps on the carpet, on a chair, or they can even lie down.

2) If it helps to calm the children before beginning to meditate, start by putting on calming music and turn it off once the meditation begins.

3) Set a maximum time limit. If your pupils are just beginning to learn to meditate, it can help to choose a short time, such as a minute to two, depending on their age and distraction levels. The time can be extended as the children continue to practise meditation.

4) Tell them to breathe normally through their nose, with their mouths closed. The children’s eyes can be open or closed. Ask them to follow and focus on the sensation of their breath as it goes in and as it goes out, such as moving in and out of their nostrils or on the rise and fall of their stomachs.

5) Inevitably, their attention will leave their breath, and their minds will wander. Remind the children that no matter their feelings or thoughts, they just return their attention to their breath again. And again.

6) Tell the children to be kind to their wandering minds if it happens. They shouldn’t judge themselves too much or obsess over the content of the thoughts they find themselves lost in. They just need to come back to their breath again.

7) When the time comes to a close, tell the children to open their eyes if they had them closed. Ask them to take a moment to notice any sounds in the environment. Ask them to notice how their bodies, thoughts and emotions feel at that moment. See what their responses are and discuss any positive experiences.

And that’s the practice! Teachers should be aware that the children’s goal of meditation is not to shut off their minds, neither is judging their meditative process. Simply focus on their breath.

Meditation is becoming more common in schools, but hopefully, it will move from even less of a sideshow to something more familiar. It would make a massive difference if meditation were addressed in primary classrooms, even on the whole school curriculum, for just 10 minutes per day. Perhaps if we do what we can together, little by little, we will have stronger, more patient, kinder children who can access peace and stillness in an increasingly turbulent world – and perhaps even little by little, as we teach more children to meditate well as one of their core practices, then as we turn on the TV, the world will seem that little more peaceful.

As yoga shares the same fundamentals as meditation, you may want to check our yoga resource for primary learners to help you get your class meditating.

If you liked this article, you might want to read about how therapy dogs are a great educational tool in primary schools.

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