Dharma Lessons

What's Meditation

"What's meditation?" my kids have asked me.
I reply "Sitting quietly and centering yourself."
"Boooorrrring" the kids chant in unison.

Hmmm. My explanation is definitely lacking. How does one explain mediation to children? And how does one teach children to meditate? A lot, of course, depends upon the individual child, the age of the child and so forth. I've searched for years for a good explanation for my children. I've finally found one of best explanation about meditation — not from any book on meditation, but from a children's novel, A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle (published by Bantam Doubleday Dell, copyright 1980). In the novel a young girl, Vicky, talks with her grandfather about meditation.

"Here's your dinner, Grandfather. I'm sorry if I woke you."
"You didn't wake me. I was meditating."
.… "What were you meditating about?" I asked, unfolding his napkin for him.
"You don't meditate about ." His nicest smile twinkled at me. "You just meditate. It is, you might say, practice in dying, but it is a practice to begun as early in life as possible."
"Sort of losing yourself?" I asked.
"It's much more finding than losing."

Later Vicky asks her grandfather how one meditates.

What is meditation, Grandfather? How do you do it?"
"It isn't exactly something you do."
"What, then?"
He was silent a long time, and I thought he wasn't going to answer. .... But now he said to me, and I wasn't sure whether or not he was answering me , or if he was changing the subject, " You like to go down to the cove by yourself, don't you, Vicky? And sit on the rock and look out to sea?"
"Yes, and usually at the wrong moment, when Mother or Daddy needs me to do something else."
"But you need to go to the rock and look out to sea, don't you?"
"Yes, and sometimes I think you're the only one who understands why."
"What do you do when you go to the rock?"
"I don't do anything. I sit."
"Do you think?"
"Sometimes. But those aren't the best times."
"What are the best times?"
"When I sit on the rock -- and I feel -- somehow -- part of the rock and part of the sky and part of the sea."
"And you're very aware of the rock and the sky and the sea?"
"And sometimes?"
"Sometimes it seems to go beyond that."
"And then what is it like?"
I thought for a moment. "It's hard to explain because it's beyond words. It's as though I'm out on the other side of myself." .... "And it's being part of everything, part of the rock and the sky and the sea and the wind and the rain and the sun and the stars..."
"And you, Vicky? Are you still there?"
No. Yes. How do you explain no and yes at the same time?
"I'm there -- but it's as though I'm out on the other side of myself -- I'm not in the way."
"There's your answer," Grandfather said "That's meditation."

Exercise: Take a trip to an outdoor spot such as the beach or a mountain outlook or some other place away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. Sit quietly and be aware of the surroundings. Start off with a short period of quiet the first time.

For more lessons on meditation, see the book Meditating with Children by Deborah Rozman, Phd, published by Planetary Publications, Boulder Creek California, copyright 1994.

© 1996-2013 Family Dharma Connections