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Title: Meditating with Your Children
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Rank:Diamond Member

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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/17/2009 21:50 PM)
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Meditating with Your Children

Had we had enlightened parents who would have taught us how to meditate when we were children, our lives would have been so much richer; our life choices so much sounder, and so much more in line with our real talents and passions. But, alas, many of us were not so blessed. Yet we can provide this for our children.

First and foremost, it is through meditation that we can nourish in our children a sense that they are never alone, that they are always in loving company, and that they can always find an embracing feeling in their hearts. As a parent, this is, from my point of view, the most precious gift we can bestow upon our children.

As well as instilling a feeling of love and well-being in our children, meditation has many practical benefits. Meditation can help your children sleep better; develop better concentration skills, which can result in improved school performance; enhance their creativity and self image; and help them to learn how to quiet themselves and deal better with their anxieties.
In addition, teaching our children how to meditate creates a wonderful way to ignite, rekindle, and/or deepen our own practice of meditation. Because meditation helps us to relax and open up our hearts, it allow us to spend real "quality time" with our children, rekindling and/or deepening our relationship with them.

So, how can we begin to introduce this precious gift of meditation to our children? First of all, introduce meditation as a fun, joyful time for the whole family, as an opportunity to be relaxed. Creative, and spontaneous together. Second, develop a regular practice and make it a natural, integral part of the day. Set aside a specific time when the whole family can regularly meditate (such as after dinner or just before bed) and pick a quiet room where everyone can sit on chairs or pillows comfortably. Do it consistently and joyfully, starting off with just a few times a week, then gradually building up to doing it daily.

Remember, though, that in any situation, getting a child to cooperate is not always the easiest thing to do; but, as in other things, by being consistent in your own meditation practice and lovingly persistent with your child, most children will eagerly join in. If on any particular day a child is unwilling to meditate, give her/him the choice of doing another quiet activity. Eventually, you will see that they will choose to meditate, more often than not.

Note, too, that the regular daily family time for meditation can be extended to include time for sharing feelings and ideas and for ironing out problems and developing trust. After meditating, you will be surprised at how much easier it is to express oneself sensitively and openly and how much less complicated it is to find a solution to a family "problem."
What follows is a brief outlining of how to introduce meditation to children of different age groups.

For infants to 3-year-olds, the primary goal is to get them to learn how to sit still. We can do this by sitting quietly with them for a few minutes and just tuning into our breath or into them with no other distractions. By doing so, just for a few moments, we are helping them experience a quiet, peaceful time with us. Our goal here is simply to model a time of quiet for them.

Even as they get more active and pass through the "terrible twos," we can still spend a few moments with them teaching them how to be quiet. Most children can handle one or two minutes of quiet time at this age. Chanting OM, or just listening to or singing a soothing lullaby with them can be a great way to introduce quiet time to a child. My wife and I do this with our 2-year-old and he looks forward to it every night.

When your child reaches the age of 3, you can begin to introduce actual meditation exercises and even expect them to stay focused for a few minutes- even one minute is enough. The child can be taught to chant OM with you or perhaps chant the name of a religious figure. As well, he/she can be led through the following exercise: Have the child sit cross-legged or in a chair with their back comfortably erect. Have them close their eyes and breathe in and out through their nose slowly, counting to four on the in and on the out breath. Have them take about 10 breaths like this. Then have them imagine that they are safely floating on an emerald green lake in a light blue boat on a stack of cream-colored pillows. On each inhalation the boat rises slightly and on each exhalation it falls ever so gently. Have them coordinate their breathing with the image and sensation of floating in the boat. Start with a minute of this and gradually build to a few minutes. If the child is very tense on a particular day, have them first tense and release different parts of their body beginning with the face and then moving down to the toes. Then do the above meditation.

For children 6-10 years of age, more self-discipline can be expected. After some practice, they can be expected to meditate at least 5 to 10 minutes a day, but please do not force anything on them. The following concentration exercises are appropriate for children in this age group. Use what I offer as a guideline for what they can do, and then use your own creativity to come up with a variety of other fun things that your children might enjoy. Have the child concentrate on a watch or clock with a second hand and have him focus on the dial going around the clock. Instruct him not to let anything distract him-any noises, thoughts, etc. See how long he can do it. Even keep a progress chart. The same exercise can be done by looking at a candle flame, a flower, etc.

After the child has become relaxed by doing the floating in the boat exercise, have her now imagine that she is barefoot at the top of a staircase. The staircase is thickly carpeted in a color of her choice. Have her begin by putting one foot down after the other as you slowly count her down: 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Now at the bottom o f the staircase there is door. When she opens the door and walks inside, she walks inside her heart. Have her explore what it feels like to be in her heart, physically, and then, emotionally. Then have her ask her heart a question, internally - not out loud. Give her a moment or two to listen for an answer. Gradually bring her out of the meditation by having her become aware first of her feet, then her arms, and finally her head. If she would like, have her discuss her experience and feelings. With all these exercises you can play some calm background music, if you wish.

For children 11-15 years of age their minds are really beginning to develop as is their ability to truly reason and discriminate. They are capable of longer periods of concentration depending on how adjusted and emotionally balanced they are. For most, this is a very turbulent period. Spending "quality time" with them is important during this time in their lives. Try the following mediation with them. Begin by having them do the breathing and lake relaxation exercise. Then lead them in this tree meditation: Imagine you are a tree. Feel that you are deep inside the center of a tree, the tree is your body. How does it feel? (pause), now feel your roots goings deep into the earth (pause), now feel the bark as part of your body (pause), now feel the sap running through you (pause), now feel all of the branches as part of you (pause), now feel all leaves as part of you (pause), now feel the breeze gently rustling your leaves and the sun warming you (pause), now feel a bird’s nest in your branches (pause), feel all of this life running through you and around you (pause). Then slowly bring them out of the meditation as above. You can do similar exercises with the wind, water, fire, a bird, the sil, a flower, etc. This exercise can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

After this, discuss their experience with them and their feelings about it. Let the discussion be free flowing. Children older then 15 can be led in the same meditation exercises that adults do.

So, it is easy to begin to incorporate meditation into your family life. It does not take up too much time, and it gives you something to focus on in your "quality time" with your children. Be assured, meditation will deepen the trust and openness of your relationship with your children, and it will help them enormously in developing greater self-reliance, creativity, happiness, self-awareness, health, and a stronger, more positive self-image. It will also help them be more in touch with their feelings and know how to most appropriately express them. And, finally, meditating with your children will bestow these same "gifts" upon you. So, why not begin today?

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