Meditation ~moving into the mainstream.
So I’m coming into meditation a little late in life. The funny thing is that I grew up Quaker, so I was introduced to it as practice when I was very young ~until I left my home state of Vermont and Quaker organization at age 22. And while I watched my mother and her community use meditative practice as a cornerstone of their religion, I never did it outside of Quaker meetings when I had to do so.
Then on my own I never meditated ~ once I went out into the Big Old Busy World. I skipped my college graduation and moved to New York City, where the pace matched my own. FAST.
I think back now, and goodness, could I have used meditation! I was so impulsive and emotional and all over the place in my 20s, as some people are. I feel like I barely remember ever sitting down quietly. Or doing much of anything quietly. My 20s were LOUD. And times are even louder and busier for our young people today.
Now that I am not running around like a chicken with its head cut off ~or at least far less often ~ I’ve been learning to meditate. And I feel its benefits in a way that moves me to spread the word. I feel like I represent lots of people who did not take to meditation early on, who think they are too restless or it is too new age-y or just not of enough value to force such regimen.
I don’t believe in having regrets in life, but I know that I wish I had adopted the practice of meditation when I was much younger. My three partners-in-this-magical-work and I all agree ~ the earlier in life that you learn how to consistently meditate, the better.
So let’s address the proverbial elephant in the room. Or should I say the vast herd of elephants the rooms of our minds at any given time. The Voices: Of judgment, of decision making, of regrets, of doubts, of bravado, of temptation, of confidence, I’m sure you can fill in your own! Voices that do not seem to need sleep or food or even accurate information to keep running their mouths all day, every day, relentlessly. Noise gleaned in some way from the outside world and then magnified, distorted, reinforced, rejected, you name it ~ in your own inner narrative.
Chaos outside and loudness within ~ how is one supposed to rise above the incessant din?
I am still a big fan of following your emotions, trusting your instincts, etc. but I have learned that my emotions are not as infallible as I used to like to believe. My beliefs and thoughts cannot necessarily be counted on to be wholly accurate either. AT ALL. And don’t even get me started about my inclinations or rationale behind my guilty pleasures. Like the saying, “it is hard to see the forest through the trees” implies, often when we are in the thick of our emotions, we are not seeing the big picture with great clarity, only the part that is at that moment right in front of us.
Not to mention that our mind can play inadvertent tricks on us. As my favorite author, Joan Didion said, “Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember.” Our own agendas and perceptions fill in gaps and create the narrative that we can hold so fiercely to, even when it does not serve us well ~ and sometimes when it is not even close to accurate.
Meditation allows us to free ourselves from this attachment to our narratives, the endless stories we tell ourselves, the proximity to our thoughts. We can step back and become a neutral observer and Pause long enough to at least start to see the forest through the trees.
Our young people don’t have his-stories and her-stories that are as long running and firmly rooted as ours, but as you know, their lives and concerns are just as important to them as ours are to us. So if we can give them these tools for self-reflection, for quieting the chaos around them, for learning to take the pause and respond in situations instead of react, we will be setting them up for a lifetime of more positive connections, with themselves and with everyone they encounter.
As the Dalai Lama said, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
I want our young people to thrive and to get truly connected, to their wholeness and the collective world at large, whose borders are metaphorically shrinking all the time. Our children need these tools at least as much as they need to learn grammar and math skills, subjects we teach them for years and years.
Now that I get to be an adult, watching from my vantage point as an educator, as children fall into meditation, as they ask to do it, as I can see it giving them peace in their busy worlds, I know I am in the right place, with the right mission. All of my years of teaching have been incredibly gratifying, but I know that this is a niche that is so untapped and so very very very needed. To be changing the world, one mindful meditating kid at a time.
P.S. Please also remember the wise timeless words, “Monkey see, monkey do.” Meditate yourself. Talk to young people about it. Model it. If you are new to it, I suggest Insight Timer or other guided apps, which help keep you on track in terms of consistency and in my humble opinion which keep you reminded that we are all trying to figure this life thing out. You can choose to do as short as a 1 minute meditation or long sessions. You can choose your topic to suit how you are feeling. You can track your progress and have a visual of how many days you are keeping up with it.
And our own Connie Clotworthy has a beautiful one you may listen to. Go to:
https://insighttimer.com/Ceejay/guided-meditations/beginners-meditation for her introductory session and then you can browse and see what else you like. I use it daily! I am getting “better” at meditating on my own as well, but this is definitely another way to keep me enjoyably engaged in my meditation practice. I hope that you begin your meditation journey today and show the young people to see things a new way.