Meditation in the Middle
About two months ago, I starting implementing mindfulness and meditation into the middle school arena. Part of the process of becoming a meditation teacher is to complete community service where you provide guided meditations to a population of your choice. Since I was already a teacher and well aware of the crazy chaotic lifestyle we all live through each day in those schools, I decided to bring in the stillness of my practice. My two arenas were a well to do public school and an all boys school right down the road. My services included morning meditations for teachers on Mondays, and the rest of the week would focus on meditation and other mindful activities for the students. My goal: to help the population to chill out and to learn how to deal with stress.
I was quite nervous those first couple of meditations. Filled with anxiety about being resisted and filled with self judgement of whether I was doing it right. Funny how my thoughts would then become my own practice of letting go and trusting in my knowledge and allowing my intuition to be in charge.
The boys at the all boys school would come in and choose to lie down. They were very quiet and receptive to my guidance. It was becoming a really nice way to start our morning, but yet I was still unsure if what I was doing was helping them or if they were just being polite and participating because the director suggested they do so.
So I decided to open the dialogue a little bit, as suggested by my teacher. After a meditation I asked the loaded question, “How are you feeling?” And yes the can of worms opened and there were several different answers. One boy said, “I feel amazing. I feel as if a thousand pounds just got lifted from me. I feel as if I can fly!” Well that sure made me feel as if I had done my job. And then the next boy said in his honest voice, ”I had a hard time meditating today because there was this annoying bird sound the whole time!” I immediately put the blame on myself because I was the one that decided to put the forest noises in the background, figuring it would help everyone get in the mood for meditation. There was that blame and judgement voice again, that we all know so well. But then this all just led to a deeper question about being annoyed and why we get annoyed.
So why do we as humans get annoyed? Is it because the situation isn’t going the way we want it to go? Is it causing us pain? Is it triggering something from our past? Is it mirroring something in ourselves that we don’t like? Lots of questions around and none of us really had an answer. I posed one but not very confident in my response.“Why don’t you just take a deep breathe when you feel annoyed and try to turn your focus onto something else?”
Somewhat satisfied with the ending result of the morning meditation, I continued to the public school that morning to do the same with a different population. When I announced to the class that it was mindful monday, I was met with a lot of eye rolling and discouraging comments. But, I went on and continued the guided meditation trying not to focus on the giggles, the resistance, and all the goofing around. The few students who seemed to be melting into the present moment kept me going. I figured it was time to check in with my instructor and get some guidance on how to improve the meditations.
My instructor and I had a lengthy discussion about the point of meditation and how I can break it down simply to the middle school population. How do I deal with the resistance, the wiggles, the lack of by in? I had to shift my goal and purpose. It wasn't quite to help with the stress level, but I had a bigger job. I am to help these students learn how "to be". In our society we are taught how to think, do, and analyze. We are never taught how to just be and on top of this, there are so many distractions these days to keep us from just being. Look around next time you find yourself waiting in a line. How many people are on their devices? How many people look so bored or annoyed that they have to wait? How often do you reach for your phone or some other distraction? Are we afraid to feel? Or is this just such an unknown territory that we are afraid of? Having this goal in mind, just filled me with enthusiasm and a greater purpose.
My next few weeks of community service will be to teach and guide these students on how to be. Bringing them into the moment little by little, connecting be my strategies. The dialogue needs to stay open. I will pose questions, such as "Where in your body do you feel the resistance? The anxiety? The stress?" We will explore the breathe and how it can relieve those feelings, and take each moment as it comes, becoming fully present to what is. I look forward to these next few weeks, connecting more deeply with my students, and exploring the world of mindfulness with them.
I had a few more meditations with the public school kids that triggered a lot more questions in me. I was trying to understand their responses to this new thing their teacher was making them do. I found a lot of the kids wouldn’t close their eyes?