Preparing to Meditate
Although the practice of meditation is often associated with Eastern philosophy and religion, we are all born with the innate ability to meditate. Even if we don’t know it, we all experience its calming effects when we are completely absorbed in a particular activity - for example, while listening to music. At such times, we feel content, peaceful and at one with the world.
It's a good idea to be fully prepared before meditation. Your child should wear warm, loose clothing and should wash his hands and face before beginning in order to cleanse himself symbolically of his everyday activities. Then choose a quiet place where interruptions are unlikely, turn off any phones, and dim any lights. When all the practical preparations have been completed, he can relax and get comfortable.
Begin by teaching your child a relaxation exercise. This is important as it helps your child focus on the here and now, moving out of his thoughts. Lie on the floor alongside your child and ask him to begin by breathing deeply for at least a minute.
Count out the in and out breaths, so that there are at least four deep inhales and four deep exhales at a time. Then ask your child to clench and then relax each part of his body in turn. Guide him so that he starts by pointing and then relaxing his feet, lifting and then relaxing each leg, clenching and relaxing each fist, lifting each arm, gently turning the head left and right until the whole body has been relaxed in turn.
Now ask your child to concentrate on each part of his body in turn once more, but this time sending a message of deep relaxation and stillness to every muscle. Ask your child to breathe deeply once more, taking a deep breath through his nostrils, imagining the air coming deep into his skull and then the same breath moving down his spine to his tailbone. Then asking him to imagine the breath returning back up the spine, back through the skull and out through his nostrils again. Continue this exercise (a breathing meditation known as “Shining Skull’’) guiding your child through the in breath and out breath.
The quality of a meditation session is more important than its length, and the more regularly we practice, the greater the benefits we enjoy. Try to get your child to meditate at the same time in the same place each day. Bedtime is the best for most children as they can go to sleep straight afterward. Naturally, the length of time that they are able to sit for will vary from child to child, but they will soon get an idea of what is appropriate by how it makes them feel.
If you’re guiding your child’s meditation, speak in a slow, relaxed voice, pausing from time to time to let your words sink in, so that he can conjure up the scene as vividly as possible. It's important to let him know that it's natural for his mind to wander and that, if this happens, all he has to do is bring his attention back to his body.
Beautiful White Horse Meditation
This meditation is inspired by the story of the same name, and can help calm your child when he or she is highly stressed.
Close your eyes and take some deep breaths in and out. Picture yourself in a forest. Enormous trees tower above you and ferns rise up on either side of the path you’re walking along. It’s very calm and peaceful here. All you can hear is the sound of the rustling leaves and the call of birds.
You're breathing very slowly and deeply now. Sunlight dapples the path and you find that you’re trotting gently along it. You look down at your feet and you see that they are hooves. You nod your head and you discover you have a flowing white mane. You realize you're a beautiful white horse.
You’re perfectly safe and happy. Through the power of your mind you’re able to make yourself calm. You're completely at peace with everything around you, and you feel so calm and relaxed now that you lie down and have a rest in a clearing.
You lie down on the ground and you realize you’re no longer a horse but yourself once more. You’re calm and relaxed just as you were when you were a horse, you’re in control of your mind and you know that your mind is strong and powerful. You get up now and walk back along the path, back to where the forest ends, back home once more, carrying the knowledge of the strength and calmness of your mind with you.
Crossing the River Meditation
This meditation is inspired by the story “Ester and Lucky', and can help your child discover the rewards of helping others.
Close your eyes and take some deep breaths in and out. Picture yourself walking through a tropical jungle. You look down and see that you have huge grey feet, then you notice something swishing in front of you and realize it's your trunk. You’re an enormous and powerful elephant.
You come to a village beside a great river. The river is in flood — it’s flowing fast and you can see the remains of a bridge that has been washed away. You see a young woman crying and you ask her what the matter is. She tells you that, because the bridge has washed away, she cant get back to her family.
You tell her not to worry and ask her to climb onto your back, because you can safely carry her across. You slowly wade into the river. You can feel the current pulling against your legs, but you’re very strong and brave and carefully and calmly you make your way across the river to the bank on the other side.
Your legs are aching, but the woman hugs you and tells you what a kind elephant you are, and the feeling of great joy this gives you rises up powerfully through your entire body.
You start to walk back along the jungle path home and you are no longer an elephant now, but a child. Your heart is rich remembering the feeling of happiness.
Magic Moonlight Tree Meditation
This meditation is based on the tree featured in the story of the same name. It’s also inspired by the Buddhist meditation known as metta bhavana or “the development of loving kindness”, and will help your child discover the rewards of compassion.
Close your eyes and take some deep breaths in and out. It’s nighttime and you’re standing beneath the most beautiful tree you have ever seen. Its leaves are a vivid blue and shaped like stars and from its branches hang shiny silver-coloured fruits. You pick one of the fruits from the branches. It smells more delicious than mangoes, peaches or strawberries, and you take another deep breath to inhale its scent once more.
As you gaze up at the tree you can see that brightly coloured pieces of cloth have been tied to the branches and that a message is printed on each piece of cloth. You can’t quite reach the pieces of cloth so you climb up a lower branch of the tree until you’re sitting safely and comfortably. You carefully untie the piece of cloth and read the message. It says: “May you be well, may you be happy.”
You close your eyes and breathe deeply as you think about the message. You sense a deep warmth in your chest like a golden sun, and you can feel its radiance spreading out around you along all the branches of the tree to the very tips of the leaves.
You re-tie the cloth to the tree branch and climb a little higher up amongst the branches until you find another message. This time the message says: “May your best friend be well, may your best friend be happy.”
You picture your best friend in your mind's eye and focus all your attention on him or her. You breathe deeply and the same golden radiance you felt before now spreads out to encircle your friend so that he or she is smiling back at you.
You climb still higher in the tree and read the next message. This time the message says: “May the person you like least be well, may he or she be happy.’”
The image of this person comes before you and he or she is smiling too. You realize that this is a person you care about and you’re glad that he or she is happy and well.
You reach the highest point of the tree and the final message. It reads: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy.”
You look around you and see the deep, dense forest lying beneath you. All of the trees are rich with beautiful silver fruits that shine in the moonlight. You breathe deeply taking in the wonderful fragrance of the fruit hanging from every branch. You’re glad to see so much beauty before you for every living thing to share.
Then you carefully climb back down the tree until you’re safely on the ground once more.