Getting a room of children all quiet and still at the same time is almost impossible. However, each week during Micah Kids, a program for second through fifth graders, we take a few minutes to connect to our breathing and bodies through the practice of meditation. We use a simple practice that we call Pebble Meditation, which was created by Thich Nhat Hanh to help children meditate.
Each child receives a small pebble and settles into a favorite mediation position. As the children quiet their bodies and connect with their breathing, I guide them through a visualization that calls to mind an element of nature and a quality that each of those elements embodies. Then we focus on that image and idea as we connect to our breathing in a minute or two of silence.
Actually, the room is never truly silent. There is calming music playing. Children rustle as they shift positions, and sometimes there are even quiet whispers or laughter. Silence is not the goal of our mediation. Children’s brains are wired to learn — to seek input and make connections. The goal of our mediation is connection — connection with ourselves, connection with nature, and connection with God. In 1 Samuel 3, we read the story of the boy Samuel hearing God’s voice. Samuel is lying down in the temple where the ark of God is. I have always thought Samuel is sleeping, but what if he is lying down (a favorite meditation position for many of the children in my group) to pray or meditate. Not a far-fetched idea since he is training to be a priest. Yet, even Samuel has a hard time sitting still. The moment that he hears God’s voice he jumps up and runs around trying to figure out what is going on. He does this several times before Eli, his teacher and the head priest, suggests that he stay still when he hears God’s voice. Then, Samuel is able to make a connection with God.
I don’t know if the children ever achieve the goal of our meditation when we are together on Wednesday nights. I hear from parents that some children talk about the meditation time and even use the practice at home. I do know that we all need to be encouraged to find a place and a time to sit quietly, to connect to our breathing and our bodies, and make space for a connection with God.