When I go into my kid’s yoga class, I tell them meditating is the most important thing they will ever learn in their whole life. Yoga makes our bodies strong and also our minds. We work on the muscles through the poses and I ask them to show me their muscles.
“But what about this muscle that lives inside our head?” I point to my head and ask, “What is this called?”
“OUR BRAIN!” they shout out.
“Do you think this muscle that lives inside our heads is important?”
“Can your body live without your brain?”
“Can your brain live without your body?”
“No, then you would just be a head” one kid said. “Wouldn’t that be weird?”
“Do you know how we can make our brain muscle stronger? Our brain lifts weights through sitting still and being quiet.”
They looked confused. I put my hand on my forehead and say, “This part of our brain is…repeat after me…the PRE…Frontal…Cortex.” They repeat it. “This part of our brain is responsible for making us kind, more focused, this is where love comes from and being rational. Do you know what rational means?”
They say “NO!” (of course)
“Rational means the opposite of emotional.”
I go on to repeat things that I have heard my kids in Title One schools say that are emotional and the opposite of rational. They say things like, stop touching me, get your hands off of me, stop playing, don’t make me come over there. (Now mind you, my Title One school kids live in the toughest neighborhoods in St Pete, FL. There are fights constantly, gangs, drug dealers, etc. in their neighborhoods.) This parroting of lines comes directly from their immediate surroundings. They all laugh because they know they have all said these things.
I put my hand on the back of my head just above my neck and say, “The emotional part of our brain lives back here.” I bring my hand back onto my forehead. “This prefrontal cortex helps us to focus and stay calm and be kind and helps us make good choices.”
I ask, “Do you make good choices when you are mad?”
“So we make this part of our brain stronger through meditating. It makes this part of your brain bigger and stronger so it beats out the emotional part of our brain and you can make better choices. Ok so now I will teach you one way to meditate.”
We touch our fingers to our thumbs and repeat these words PEACE BEGINS WITH ME. We say it a couple of times
Then I stop to ask everyone, “What do you get when you plant a strawberry seed?”
“What do you get when you plant a blueberry seed?”
“So if you say I hate myself, I am ugly, fat or stupid, what kind of seeds do you plant in your mind?”
“Ok so if you plant the seeds of repeating PEACE BEGINS WITH ME over and over again what kind of mind do you get?”
“This is how we make our brains stronger! This is how we learn to make ourselves calm. Do you think you make good choices when you’re calm?”
“Ok so let’s do it! Let’s learn how to make our minds calm.”
We repeat PEACE BEGINS WITH ME. We say it all together out loud, then whisper and then silently in our minds. I leave them to meditate as long as they can. While they are still silent I ask them to listen to me while I ask them a few more questions.
“Now how does your mind feel?”
“Calm, peaceful, happy, sleepy.”
“Is there any anger in there?”
Most say “NO” (and if they say yes then I tell them they need to meditate longer! LOL.)
“If you did this every day, how do you think your mind would feel? What kind of garden do you want to grow in your mind?”