The mind is an amazing thing and doesn’t seem to ever get a rest – even during sleep. The body gets recharged during those dark and quiet hours of the night, but young minds could use a bit of focus and concentration to help improve memory and understanding. That is where meditation comes in. And, meditation is not just for Buddhist monks and health gurus – it is starting to be recognized by educators and parents as a way to improve brain function and the young developing mind.
Meditation has been around for quite some time, with the first references as far back as 5000 years ago. Buddhists and Hindus are considered the original groups that tapped into the power of meditation and helped spread its popularity across cultures and continents. Many think of chanting, swaying, and odd behaviors when imagining meditating, but do not understand that even sitting quietly for a short amount of time helps focus the mind and encourage memory. Even The Beatles spent some time with the holistic healing concepts of meditation, helping to bring the idea of meditation into the mainstream of modern America.
Benefits of Meditation
Research has proven that meditation aids the brain in multiple ways. Not only does meditation promote self-discipline and inner awareness, it also affects the brain. The University of Wisconsin discovered mental experiences achieved during meditation creates brain activity in the left-prefrontal cortex, creating inner coordination and concentration in the brain. The prefrontal cortex takes information from all the five senses to help make decisions and create strong memories. Through mediation, the brain builds better memory, understanding and comprehension. And, just like playing golf or practicing the piano, you get better the more you do it.
A recent study found meditation encouraged blood flow to the brain, improving memory in adults with specific memory problems. Participants spent 12 minutes daily for eight weeks practicing Kirtan Kriya mediation, a form of meditation that involves sitting and chanting. Results found participants had improved memory abilities and that mild memory problems were deterred from progressing to a more severe state. And it is not just older folks benefiting from meditation.
The active child benefits from meditating to calm the mind so it can focus and build memory. Schools are getting involved in using meditation for better success in the classroom and resolving conflict. Private schools, such as Yoga Works in Laguna Beach, California, offer classes to youngsters on how to meditate positively and use meditation to assist with stress relief and thrive in academics. According to ParentingOC, studies published in the Journal of Applied School Psychology find meditating beneficial to students as young as first grade. Meditation before school or at the end of the day helps the child focus and concentrate on concepts and situations he may be working through or wanting to remember. Being taught meditation concepts early in life offer the child the ability to have a life-long skill to build brain function and retention.
Not only does meditation encourage memory and healthy brain function, but also traditional meditation concepts encourage mindfulness. Children in inner-city schools in Oakland started their days with the striking of a Tibetan singing bowl to encourage mindful awareness. During an eight-week classroom experiment, children were lead through meditation practices to induce inner-awareness, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Kids were less stressed and more open minded when dealing with frustrating situations. The children found they had knowledge of how to solve problems within themselves, leading to better self-esteem and understanding of others.
Practicing Meditation with Kids
Whether in the classroom or at home, a meditation routine can easily be started that will encourage learning, relaxation, focus and clarity. Children as young as three can practice meditation, but expect sessions to last only a couple of minutes. Finding a quiet spot is the first step and set a schedule so that the child knows when meditation time takes place. Once everyone is ready, try:
-Ringing bell meditation: Have the child sit in a crossed-leg position with his eyes closed. Ask the child to focus on using his sense of hearing to listen for a bell and the whole sound it creates. Then, gently ring a bell and, once the sound of the bell has finished, invite the child to open his eyes and discuss the sound the bell made, encouraging active listening. After practicing listening to the bell for several meditation sessions, lead the child through active listening for sounds he hears around him while sitting in silence.
-Breathing to the beat: Deep breathing helps relax the body and circulate blood and energy. Select music that is calm and has a slow regular beat and invite the child to sit in a crossed-leg position with eyes closed. Now, invite him to slowly breathe deeply to the beat while concentrating on the movements his body makes while inhaling and exhaling. Once the song is over, discuss with the child how his body feels. He can use the technique to calm or focus his body without the music by closing his eyes and counting five deep breaths in a quiet corner.
-Directed imagination: Use directed discussion to help lead the child through imagining working through issues or situations – or for general relaxation. Invite the child to find a comfortable spot sitting with his eyes closed. After he has taken a minute to breathe deeply and relax, guide him through directed imagination by asking him to imagine walking on the beach or sitting in the sun. Then, once the child is calm, he can be lead through imagining dealing with challenging situations, like memorizing skills for an upcoming test or dealing with a bully at school.
Meditation not only builds the brain and aides in relaxation, but also encourages the young child’s imagination and development. Spending time focusing on meditation is an opportunity to help a child learn to focus and build memory skills as well as to enjoy some quality time together.
*My wee tot is a bit young yet for meditating, but we do have lots of fun running, laughing, and attempting yoga together. This is an article I originally wrote for Funderstanding.com, a great site with a wealth of information for educators, students, and parents – go check them out!