Meditation in schools
Imagine if we’d all been taught to meditate in our formative years. Gemma advocates for the many benefits of meditation as a core component of the school curriculum.
In 1990, my father was diagnosed with cancer. Something deep within told me I needed to find a new path. A path that would lead to contemplation, resilience, and acceptance of what was to come. The first answer came when I read Ian Gawler’s book, You can conquer cancer. It gave me a semblance of hope, but most importantly it lead me to meditation. That year, I completed my first meditation course in Clifton Hill; Transcendental Meditation.
My father died in 1992 but from his passing came what I call my rebirth. TM became my way of coping, of finding peace, and most importantly it helped me understand how beneficial meditation could be for the girls I was teaching.
In 1992, the idea of meditation in schools was considered quite radical because it was not the norm. However, armed with my tape player and Roger Eno’s Dust at dawn, I witnessed my year eight class delighting in the opportunity to be quiet and still for a portion of the last period of the day. As a secondary school teacher, I saw, and still see, the benefits of giving my students space in the stillness that meditation creates. In 2014, I became a qualified meditation teacher, in order to further accentuate the importance of this simple but highly effective practice in schools.
The vital gift of meditation for young minds
For the well-being of young people, it’s time to make meditation a key feature of the school curriculum. This could better address mental health issues, reduce stress and bring a sense of peace and stability to students’ everyday lives.
Last year I attended a meditation workshop for teachers. It highlighted the importance of making meditation something that students practise daily in order for there to be major benefits. There is a growing need to help students find ways of bringing stillness and silence into their overly hectic lives. Many educators – principals, teachers and counsellors, in both primary and secondary schools, are becoming increasingly aware and more open to the benefits of introducing meditation into the curriculum and classroom. As young people get older, they lose connection to the present moment. Their day is driven by outside influences, including social media, the demands of school work, and the activities they are involved in after their school day has finished. These things keep them in a constant state of doing, giving them less time for just being. They dwell in a constant state of flux rather than flow.
Duty of care
C.S. Lewis wrote, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.” In a world where children have a schedule for almost everything, perhaps it is within our duty of care to bring meditation and stillness into their lives. Any form of meditation we can offer is a gift. Christian Meditation, Smiling Mind Meditation, Transcendental Meditation or mindfulness activities – all or any of these have a place within the curriculum. Meditation gives students a well-earned rest from the ‘monkey mind’ so they can function more effectively and with clarity. It gives them more stability and enhances their creativity.
Benefits to students
One of the best things that I have witnessed is how meditation assists students find their natural rhythm. This has a domino effect in helping them regain control over their often turbulent emotions. Meditation assists students learn about the mind, emotions, reactions, and responses. It makes perfect sense to introduce meditation in primary school. Then for it to continue into senior school – a time when they will be challenged by the grind of exams, tests, and what life throws their way. The benefits of meditation come in many forms including psychological, spiritual, physical, and emotional. I can vouch for this, not just because of studies and statistics, but from 25 years of observation and practice. What I look forward to most is the time when meditation in schools is as securely embedded in the curriculum as maths, reading, and writing.
I do not know who wrote these words but I will finish with them: “Meditation should be taught in all schools. Being able to manage one’s mind is just as important as learning to cram it with information.”