Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Meditation With Middle Schoolers – Episode Pi Minus 3: Sending and Taking
So on Friday my 8th graders’ giant research papers were due, and this is the week that high school acceptances go out. The 8th graders are stressed to the max. When the bell rang, my Advisory students begged. “Can we meditate? PLEEEEEEEASE?”
And as I always do when they request to do mindfulness meditation, I put on my mental robes and teach them this practice that has saved me so many times.
This morning I taught them the practice of lojong, which is a Tibetan form of mindfulness that translates loosely into “sending and taking.” The idea is that you breathe in the suffering that is out there, and you breathe out the peacefulness that is needed.
I sat on the staging table at the front of the room, folded my legs, and rang the singing bowl before giving them the instruction. “Close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breath coming in and out at your nose.” I waited for them to get very still, which inevitable helps them to get very, very quiet. “Think of someone who is very precious to you,” I began, “and when you breathe in, imagine yourself breathing in their pain and suffering and anxiety.”
Being middle schoolers, they have a lot of friends who are also suffering. The silence was so profound I could hear my own pulse.
“And while you are doing this practice for someone you care about very much, I will be doing this practice up here on this table for you — breathing in your anxiety and breathing peacefulness into your lives.” I gave them some guided instruction in imagining how it feels to receive this kind of heartfulness, and in noticing how it feels to send it out.
Turns out, it is very healing.
When I gave the instruction for closing the meditation, students stayed still even after they opened their eyes. One girl exclaimed, “That was magical!” The other students all nodded.
I told them, “This practice is always available to you, and all this week I will be doing this practice and sending peacefulness energy to you — wherever you are, all the time, every day.”
I rang the bell and gave them a deep gassho (bow) out of gratitude. There are times that remind me why I teach, and no hostile or ignorant third parties can take that away. I remembered something my teacher Dr. Fred Joseph Orr always said to me, “In a contest between the imagination and the will, the imagination will always win.” And here he would pause before finishing. “ALWAYS.”