Buddhist meditation is there to restore peace and balance in today’s hectic world – even for children. Often one or both parents work full time and the kids live in the middle of a constant juggling act. They are involved in so many activities, at home, at school, and in after-school programs, that they seem to have no spare time. Older kids, too, can be seriously over-extended and suffer from stress related to all their in-school activities, sports and after-school events.
Then there are those kids who face difficult personal issues. They may feel like they don’t have enough friends. They may feel that people are targeting them as “losers”. They may even be experiencing real bullying. Their feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt can become an ongoing issue that keeps them from feeling any type of achievement. There has to be a way to lower their stress level.
There is Buddhist meditation. While many people think meditation is just for adults, such practices may provide a way for kids to deal with the stress they face on a daily basis. Daily Buddhist Meditation can help children overcome stress and find some balance in their lives while at the same time sharpening their concentration. Many non-Buddhists around the world have taken up the practice of meditation in order to reduce their anxiety.
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is an international religion originally founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who lived in Nepal in South Asia approximately between 566 to 480 B.C. The founder of Buddhism originally led a very profligate life, based on his elevated social class. However, he began to realize that all existence ended in suffering and death and he changed completely. He became a monk, leaving his wasteful life behind. After years of living in poverty, he had an epiphany and became the Buddha, or “the Enlightened One.”
Buddha discovered Four Noble Truths:
- Suffering exists.
- There is a cause for suffering.
- There is an end to suffering.
- There is a path, known as the Noble Eightfold Path, to end suffering.
The Eightfold Path is divided into 3 sections:
- The necessity for good moral conduct;
- The use of meditation and mental development; and
- Development of wisdom and insight, through mindfulness and concentration.
Buddhist teaching is known as the Dharma. As Buddha himself said, “I teach on suffering and the way to end it.”
Buddhist Meditation in the Modern World
The Western world has adapted meditation as a good method of encouraging relaxation. Though Buddhist practice is complicated, meditation is simple and can easily be taught to children of all ages. Guided Buddhist meditation tips are available from a number of websites. Using these guided meditations and online videos, Buddhist meditation can be taught to children easily. Besides, by teaching them how to meditate, the parent can also benefit from this great relaxation technique.
The journal Psychology Today offers “5 Meditation Tips for Beginners” with graphs that show the results of continuing practice. The Mindfulness Meditation Institute describes meditation techniques, and has handy free downloads that will help beginners. Even U. S. News and World Report has published an article on Mindful Meditation which includes suggestions for walking meditation and gratitude exercises.
Various Types of Buddhist Meditation
Theravada Buddhism, which is generally agreed to contain the earliest teachings of Buddha, is generally prominent throughout Southeast Asia. This type of Buddhism places emphasis on individual enlightenment. According to the Website Access to Insight, Theravada Buddhism involves using mindfulness of breathing to develop tranquility (samatha) and insight (vipassana), also known as “clear-seeing.”
Vipassana meditation is a method of achieving insight by understanding the true nature of reality. In this meditation, it’s important to pay close attention to the physical sensations of the body. By fixing the mind on your breath, you can learn to let go of stress and eventually learn to feel a sense peace and goodwill.
Tibetan Buddhist meditation was practiced by Tibetan monks who lived simple, almost austere lives. Their practice of meditation was identified as a method of healing. Rather than using the term “mindfulness,” the Tibetans refer to this as “abiding in peace of mind.” They refer to their meditation practice as Shi-né. “An image of a candle flame, flickering in the breeze, is compared to our mind, tossed around by conflicting emotions. “Shi-né practice is like putting a glass chimney around the candle, letting it burn steadily and clearly”. The monks also believe in using prayer wheels and incense as a supplement to their meditation practice.
Zen Buddhism is a practice that began in China and focuses on enlightenment. According to followers of Zen, all people have the ability within them to achieve enlightenment as the original Buddha did, but their path to enlightenment has been clouded by modern society and problems. The way to overcome this is through rigorous meditation and through helping others. Usually, this path to enlightenment is guided by a Zen Master.
This type of meditation might be familiar to many westerners because practitioners are often shown sitting in a cross-legged position known as the lotus position, while observing their breath below the naval. Zen Buddhist meditation involves allowing thoughts to enter and leave the mind at will. They are noticed and then let go, so that a state of relaxation and release is achieved.
How to Learn Meditation
If you want to learn to meditate, it’s a good idea to either attend a class until you get the “hang” of it, or try guided meditation via the Internet. The Learning Meditation website has an assortment of guided meditations, including such offerings as Quick Getaway and Reducing Stress. There is even a section that includes Buddhist Meditation Music. Most important, they have a Children’s Meditation Series. You can listen to the meditations for free, and then purchase them if you’d like to own a copy.
A View on Buddhism has 58 different types of meditations available. These meditations are grouped into various categories including Increasing Positive Emotions and Reducing Delusions/Harmful Emotions. They also have a comprehensive article on How to Meditate which includes information on how to overcome distractions.
Another informative website with the same name is a non-profit that provides solid information on getting started with the practice. How to Meditate has videos from Buddhist monks that explain Buddhist meditation techniques. The site is geared specifically to beginners, covering breathing, posture, and loving kindness meditation. The site is created by practitioners of Kadampa Buddhism, a type of Buddhism geared to helping modern people achieve enlightenment.
Teaching Meditation to Your Children
Children love to participate in activities with their parents. Learn to meditate yourself, and then introduce the activity to your child. Make sure that, for young children, you keep the session short and simple. Don’t worry if they are easily distracted – this is just the beginning of their training. You want to introduce them to the practice without making it a negative experience. When they seem to be unfocused or preoccupied, remind them to attend to their breathing in a gentle way. You want the experience of learning meditation to be fun and enjoyable, not an exercise in frustration.
Older kids and teenagers may enjoy learning meditation on their own. Direct them to some of the links in this article and encourage them to meditate with you the first few times, just to see if they like it. Remind them that Buddhist meditation is a great way to lower their stress levels, to deal with peer problems and to increase their ability to concentrate. The Belief Net website has some great meditation tips for beginners.
Meditation is a great way to relieve stress, one that can be practiced by kids, teens and adults. Mindfulness techniques have been proven through the ages to be a significant method of increasing mental and physical well-being. As the practices of Buddhist meditation become adopted by the Western world, you’ll see more and more organizations becoming involved in these techniques. Helping your children learn them will benefit them throughout their lives.