News at Tipitaka Network
Meditation for the young
by SUPAWADEE INTHAWONG, Bangkok Post, Thursday, June 12, 2008
Modern parents spend a large amount of their time at work and often have trouble spending valuable time with their children, even for religious purposes.
Most Bangkokians, in particular, go the temples only during religious holidays, perhaps for a brief ceremony related to a specific occasion or a short sermon session.
Temple visits, however, do not educate the young on the principals of Buddhism. Primary school children are typically not attracted to conventional meditation, but if the meditation is combined with activities like playing with clay or story telling, it could be fun and help the children learn to focus their attention and have a better understanding of the nature of the human mind.
The "Mind and Self Grooming Day Camp" was recently held at the Emporium Suites and is operated by the Emporium Shopping Complex and Asia Books.
"The modern world seems to be spinning faster than ever as it offers so many stimuli to a child. A study of the Buddha's teaching can provide the needed immunity to the children," said camp organiser Kanitha-viriya T Suwan or "Chompoo" of Prima Learning.
"Our camp activities include sessions of treasure hunting, 'jumping clay', yoga, story reading, as well as meditation, each of which last only 15 to 30 minutes as the children at this age do not tolerate long activities."
Chompoo has been a youth meditation instructor for more than five years at the Young Buddhists' Association of Thailand. She teaches her students to meditate without closing their eyes and use simple motions as tools to examine one's consciousness.
Sitting in the traditional meditation posture, her students repeat a four-step hand movement, a simplified version of the meditation technique of the late monk-teacher Tian Jittasupho.
The children are also trained to be aware of the nature of the mind, or in Chompoo's words "to meditate to see the ghosts within our minds".
She taught her students in an allegory that the emotions of an unstable mind are like ghosts, which are categorised as "the angry ghost, the greedy ghost and the ignorant ghost". The children are taught to watch out for the ghosts in their minds, especially when they feel anxious or agitated, and to try to "capture" the ghosts in order to put them away and return their minds to the positive stage.
"We emphasize the teachings that the children can easily apply to daily activities. If they are teased at school and feel angry, we teach them to capture the angry ghost. If they realise they are absent minded in a class, they know they will have to capture the ignorant ghost and focus on the class. The mediation technique of seeing and capturing the ghosts can be applied to any activity."
In between fun activities like yoga and clay play, the children participate in lessons of simple meditative walking with Chompoo to improve their mindfulness by practicing to focus on their walking movements.
"Some parents were not interested in meditation. But they have changed their attitudes when they saw how their kids used meditation techniques such as meditative walking in dealing with anger," said the camp organiser.
"They called me and asked how I taught their kids and how they themselves could learn meditation. They asked me to recommend a meditation school or a temple, which I consider a good thing, as when the family members share the same interest, they will create a great atmosphere within the family."
"These days more children are suffering from autism, short attention span, hyperactivity and stress."
Paiboon Lilitthammaphan, father of five-year-old Nong Pob who is the youngest camper, said he wanted to instill mindfulness and meditation practices to his son early in childhood in a hope that he would grow up to be a cool-tempered person who is capable of managing his emotions and feelings.
"I don't know what the world will be like in the future, as it is already changing very fast. I may be able to provide him the learning of new subjects but he will have to manage his mind himself," said Nong Pob's father.
"I believe the meditation practices such as the trainings of consciousness and mindfulness can build firm and beneficial foundations for one's mind. When my son is older, I might send him to a meditation class. But for now, I think he is doing great for a child at his age as he is able to participate in the camp activities all day long."
Paiboon is a software development entrepreneur. He meditates regularly and finds the practice helps with his job, which requires creativity and social skills. He said meditation also allowed him to control his emotions and focus on his work.
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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.