I completely surprised myself today by teaching a roomful of teens to meditate. To say they were resistant and not thrilled to participate is an understatement. I felt my inner teenager cry "we won't be liked if we make them meditate!" I quickly validated but reassured her that sharing this practice was more important than my old co-dependent need to be accepted. If I could change just one young student's life with this short 10 minute guided meditation, then not being liked will have been worth it.
I did some light stretching with them at first to get the wiggles out. Yoga was initially invented as a means to prepare the body to sit for long periods of time so I always think it's important to begin by warming up as well as getting the mind and body in synch with one another. Once I felt they were ready, I had them sit spread out in the amphitheater seats so they wouldn't distract each other. I had them put their feet flat on the floor, either cup their hands in their laps or place them on the tops of their thighs. I pulled up three nature scenes they could look at and listen to and let them pick one to project on to the wall. I turned out the lights, turned the volume up, and gave them the option to sit with their eyes open and observe the nature scene or close their eyes.
The first 5 out of our 15 minute meditation were rough. 3/4ths of the class were squirming, fidgeting, and resisting. The energy in the room felt as though it were at a level 8/10. They gave me attitude, they tried to lay down across the seats, they attempted to get their friend's attention by throwing water bottles, the list goes on. Each time I firmly reminded them to please sit up and come back, just like the practice teachers us.
I began the meditation by having them observe and get curious about sensations in their bodies: what felt tight, sore, loose, open? Body scanning from the tip of their toes to the crown of their head. I brought their attention to their breath, noticing how the breath felt in their body. Finally, I asked them to notice the way their mind felt, specifically becoming aware of their thoughts. Did they feel light, heavy, jumbled? I reminded them they were simply noticing, not placing any judgement on these sensations.
By now, 1/2 of the class had settled. The energy in the room felt as though it were about a 5/10. Every couple of sentences, I would remind them to breathe: inhale through the nose, exhale sigh it out. I shared the analogy of our minds being a muddy glass of water and the longer we let that glass sit the more the mud settles to the bottom and the clear water rises to the top. This clarity enables us to see more clearly; we become less reactive, less judgmental, more aware of our needs, more willing to choose empathy over fear...
I finished their mediation by having them place one hand on their heart, the other on their stomach and asked them to pay themselves 3 compliments. By this point, all but two students had settled, the energy in the room was at a level 2/10, one could hear a pin drop.
After, when I asked them to describe what they noticed, they said they felt more calm, aware. One girl bravely shared that she was very resistant at first but once she accepted there was nothing about this she could change, she "bought into it" and felt so peaceful after. I thanked her for her honesty and mentioned we always have the choice to resist what is or accept, and the latter brings us so much freedom.
I was proud of myself for leading this transformative experience but most importantly, was proud of these young souls who "bought into" the practice. Our work for the duration of class was more focused, productive, and collaborative. If everyone could learn meditation at a young age, I firmly believe the world would be a better place.
Do you want to encourage your teen to learn to meditate? I'd love to share with them! Being a teenager can be hard and with the advent of social media, it's made it even harder! We can mitigate the challenges during this period of their lives together. Let's connect.