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Are schools ready for meditation in the classroom?

Emerging Light
Emerging Light
G. Buckley

“Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can’t sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds.” Knowing the demands of the 21st century require a new approach to education to fully prepare and engage students, it seems as though progressive school administrators in San Francisco, California have decided to try a different approach in the academic environment, meditation.

According to Superintendent Carranza, “Our new accountability standards, which we’re developing in tandem with the other big California districts, emphasizes the importance of social-emotional factors in improving kid’s lives, not just academics. That’s where Quiet Time can have a major impact.”

The Quiet Time program is a practical, evidence-based approach aimed at reducing stress and dramatically improving academic performance, student wellness and the overall school environment.

Quiet Time provides students with two 15-minute periods of Transcendental Meditation each day to help balance their lives and improve their readiness to learn.

Why, you may wonder, is meditation being hailed as an impressive and noteworthy response in an academic environment? “In low-income urban schools, traumatic stress is a reality for millions of children who grow up in an oppressive climate of poverty, violence, and fear. This stress impedes learning and undermines physical and mental health.”

Considering that schools are microcosmic representations of society, the following statistics are not surprising, but remain alarming:

  • 25% of teenagers suffer from anxiety disorders
  • One in four high school students has been offered, sold or given illegal drugs on school property
  • One in three children are either overweight or obese
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers

Teachers are well aware that it is extremely difficult to teach a child who carries the weight of an unpredictable home and urban environment into the classroom. Meditation makes perfect sense as a beginning remedy to re-connect children with what society inevitably seems to pull them away from…themselves.

According to Lorin Roche, meditation is actually instinctive and natural. “The word meditation is just a name we give to the situation where we give the nervous system, the brain and senses a chance to tune themselves up. Meditation is giving total permission for the nervous system to do its healing thing. And since this is an innate thing, the body and brain are very good at it. People are naturally good at meditation, like cats are naturally good at hunting mice.”

Seeing that meditation is instinctive and natural, “When you meditate the mind-body system instinctively enters a deep state of safety and relaxation, and then replays portions of what is stressing you -- so that you can learn new, more elegant, more adaptive, more powerful responses.” This practice eventually yields a calmer individual, who is not constantly feeling as though she is in “fight or flight” mode which is characteristic in most urban environments.

The educational environment will not grow from taking action we've always taken. Growth requires new action, a new attitude and a new way of thinking. In acknowledgement of this we are reminded of possibility, we are reminded that change requires the courage to try something new, to try something different and to remember, “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.” ~Thích Nhất Hạnh