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Raising Children with Spirit
by Susan Dermond

One-pointed Concentration






In the last column I described a way to do healing prayers with children after the relaxation of a warm bath and a foot massage. This month we’ll help our children (and ourselves) have an experience of focused, one-pointed concentration. Until we can become silent inside we cannot experience “the peace that passeth understanding.” Helping children experience that inner silence is the first step to meditation and deep prayer.

You will need a chime, an especially beautiful, resonant bell, or a singing bowl. A bowl is the best, but I use a small chime (which can be purchased for less than $20.00) because it is portable. You will also need a candle and a spot which is quiet and meditative. If you have an altar of your own, that will be ideal.

Bedtime might be a time for this if you and your child are relaxed and calm, but not too tired. Mornings are also a great time for spiritual practices. Try a week-end morning when no one is in a hurry to be anywhere and before children have gotten very outward with friends or other activities.

You can use music to set the stage, to create the receptive moment to share the “pearl” of one-pointed concentration. Play uplifting, relaxing music. Selections that work well are Spectrum Suite by Steven Halpern, Derek Bell’s Mystic Harp, or practically any Mozart.

Now real aloud a story or picture book that you know from experience is calming for your child. Ask her if she would like to try an experiment. If she agrees, tell her you are going to “test” her ability to concentrate. She will close her eyes and you will ring the chime or make the bowl sing. She is to listen to the sound intently and at the very moment that the sound disappears from her ear raise her finger. If you are doing this with more than one child, explain that it is not about who can hear it the longest, but about paying attention to your own hearing and being aware enough to discern that exact moment that the sound stops.

Tell the children that it is a challenge and not to worry if they forget to pay attention the first time; you can do it again! Try a sample ring so you both know what to expect. Then the child closes eyes. It helps a great deal to sit upright; an attentive posture encourages attention! Ring the bell (you can play too; see if your child raises her finger at the same time the sound disappears from your ears; generally the senses of children are more keen than ours!).

Do the experiment as many times as the child wants to. You can explain that that experience of complete, focus on one thing is called one-pointed concentration, and the ability to do that is the beginning of meditiation. But don’t talk too much! The experience is what this activity is all about; too much talk takes away from it.  If he enjoyed the experience, point out that he will probably like the feeling of meditation as well!

After a couple of times trying of focusing sound, try focusing on light. Have the child stare at the candle and then close his eyes and see how long he can keep “seeing” the candle in his mind’s eye. If he enjoys this challenge, you can explain that most religions regard light as one of the manifestations of the divine. This is why angels have halos, and why Moses saw God in the burning bush and why the Bhagavad Gita says in the fifth Chapter:  Splendid and clear shines manifest the Truth/As if a Sun of Wisdom sprang to shed/Its beams of light.

Sometimes children who do not like more inward activities such as guided visualization will enjoy this one because of the challenge aspect to it. How long can you hear the sound of the bell? Can you listen the entire time with eyes shut? Show me.

However, not to worry if you child doesn’t respond; in future columns I will describe activities that will work with almost every child.