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