It’s Easy When We K-I-S-S
Meditation for Beginners
I looked around at the roomful of teenagers with their sullen, sulky, belligerent faces and my stomach did a somersault. Why on earth did I think I could teach a bunch of so-called “delinquent” 14-17 year-old teenagers how to meditate? I had done my preparation but nothing prepared me for this feeling of intimidation concerning what I was about to do.
After all, meditation is itself a subject that can intimidate people. They think they don’t know how to meditate, or how to fit it into their already bulging schedules. So, in this potentially hostile environment, I had my work cut out for me trying to convince these kids of the value and benefit of meditation and provide recommendations on how to begin the practice.
I took a breath, sent out a silent vibration of love to each one…and changed tactics. We were just going to KISS -Keep It Simple Sweetheart!
To set the context for beginning mediation I started by asking the group what sort of things they do that engage and absorb them? Trying to be funny, someone quipped, “I smoke pot!” I remained unfazed, and when the laughter had subsided I used the unexpected answer to make my point.
“Do you know you can get that same high you get from smoking pot without ever rolling a joint?” I asked. “So let’s try something together…Close your eyes, straighten yourself up in your seat so you’re not slouching, and put you hand on your belly,” I instructed.
There was a lot of shuffling and body language that screamed ‘I don’t want to do this, it’s stupid!’ Nevertheless, I persevered.
“Without changing anything, just notice your breath as it flows in and out of your nose. Feel how your tummy pushes your hand away as you breathe in and how your tummy pulls your hand back as you breathe out. You may not notice anything at first. Just stick with it. Now see how far you can push your hand against your tummy without straining.
“What are you’re thinking right now? ‘I don’t want to this’ or, ‘I’ve never done anything like this before’ or, ‘what’s for lunch today?’ It doesn’t matter. Just notice the thought and then bring your attention back to the breath, effortlessly allowing your hand to move back and forth as you gently breathe in and out.
“Every time you realize that your mind has wandered to something else, instead of getting mad at yourself or frustrated that you’re ‘not doing it right’ just take a deep breath and start again…from the beginning… following the breath with the movement of your hand. Relax and breathe. The deeper your breath the more relaxed you’ll feel; and those thoughts in your mind that were running in a hundred different directions will soon start to hush up”.
I stopped speaking and became a silent witness to the serenity descending on the faces of these “troubled” teens. They suddenly looked so much calmer, softer, and angst-free. I was amazed too at how quickly the atmosphere in the classroom had changed, going from tense and aggressive to clear, highly-charged, calm energy.
In that moment one could almost hear stillness and silence bounding toward each of them with the question: “Did you leave a space for me?” and each teen heart answering “yes, come on in, I’ve been expecting you and I’ve made room for you.”
After about ten minutes of this simple breathing practice I invited the group to open their eyes and share their experience. They used words like ‘chilled out’, ‘quiet’, and ‘peaceful’ to describe what this, unwitting, introduction to meditation had felt like.
I asked the teenagers if they’d be willing to try this at home – especially when feeling angry, stressed, annoyed or overwhelmed. Yes, they agreed that they would practice what one described as going into the ‘Chill-Out Zone’ as a way to calm down.
And in that moment I felt hopeful. If these somewhat reluctant teens could begin to meditate that quickly anyone could! To start, all they would have to do is find a comfortable seating position, follow the flow of the breath with their hand on their tummy, and when their thoughts wandered bring the focus back to the rhythm of the breath. Most importantly…no matter how it feels as though nothing much is happening…they would have to keep practicing, even if just for a few minutes each day. At the end of the day all a beginner to meditation would have to do is K-I-S-S!
“Just as a loaf of bread needs air in order to rise, we need empty spaces in our lives; times when we can withdraw from the world.” ~ Thomas Moore