DEVELOPING CONCENTRATION THROUGH THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION
A TRUE STORY FROM OUR CLASSROOM
By Kshama Kellogg
Part of every child’s experience at an Education for Life School is an intentional cultivation of important life skills.
Throughout 2nd grade, we have focused on and developed many healthy habits. Most recently, the children chose to focus on the skill of developing concentration. We discussed many ways that this skill building might take form, and each child was asked to set a daily goal that they could practice for at least one week. One of the children asked if meditation could be their personal goal. Soon, the idea had spread like wildfire and we decided to also make it a class goal. Supporting one another in our aspirations is a powerful thing. We agreed that every day during the week, we would add another minute to the length of our class meditation practice. (Thus meditating for first one minute, then two, three, four, and so on as the days continued…)
On the first day, one child asked me if he could meditate through his lunch period. I said, “sure,” but didn’t really think much of it, and he didn’t follow through with the idea.
This child asked me the very same question on the subsequent school day and on the day after that. Over the weekend, his persistent request lingered strongly in my mind. He really wanted this! So, I decided that I would consciously support his request and invite anyone who also wanted to participate to join in.
On Monday morning during circle time, I announced to the class that we would do our group meditation, but, that if people wanted to meditate longer they could do so. I would stay and meditate with them for however long they chose. Once they felt finished with their meditation practice, they were free to silently get up and begin their independent math work for the day.
As is our practice, we centered ourselves and I rang the singing bowl to start the meditation. At the completion of each minute, the bowl was again rung.
After the class goal of 4 minutes had elapsed, several students quietly left the circle and began their math practice. Several others quietly excused themselves to attend play rehearsal. (We are in the midst of our annual all school theater production season.) The rest of us continued meditating. The singing bowl continued to be rung at one minute intervals. Bong!…..Bong!….. Bong!…..
Minutes passed. The children, returning from rehearsal, resettled themselves and began meditating again. Bong!….. Bong!….. Bong!….. The mathematical practitioners continued to work with a respectful quiet. Periodically, I reminded those meditating that they were free to finish their meditation and transition to math at any time they chose. Gradually more children in the class silently made this move to mathematical thinking.
Bong!….. Bong!….. Bong!….. Minutes continued to pass in a quiet calm that our classroom has rarely known. When, finally, the last child alerted me that they were finished with the practice, the singing bowl had been rung 43 times! For 43 minutes this group of six, seven, and eight-year-olds, had supported one another in their centering practice of meditation.
As I write to you about this experience, I can feel the calm, quiet, concentrated, energy that the children cultivated during those moments. It is a feeling that they, and I, will carry in our awareness and in our hearts always.
Now, several weeks since this experience, the children continue to seek out moments of meditation throughout their days. As often as is possible, I support their aspirations. As a group, we have returned to our shorter periods of concentrated practice. However, another moment may arise in the future when the children wish to expand their concentration and willpower in a longer practice.
The beauty and the power in this story is present because this experience was inspired by the children themselves. As their teacher, I created the supportive environment where they could explore this place of inner calmness, but the inspiration came purely and joyfully through each one of them!