When we think of a meditation class we generally think of a group of adults sitting quietly. But is it possible to make meditation accessible even to young children? Bodhipaksa has been taking lessons from Lisa Desmond’s book, Baby Buddhas, and finds that he’s learned, or perhaps relearned, a new language.
I taught my first meditation course almost 20 years ago now, and yet I’d feel at a loss teaching meditation to children because my entire experience of acting as a meditation guide has been with adults.
True, when I was the director of a Buddhist Center in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, we’d sometimes have groups of schoolkids as young as 11 or 12 come for visits, and I successfully taught them a stripped-down version of the mindfulness of breathing practice. But in essence I treated them as young adults. Incidentally, that worked for most of the girls, who were generally pretty mature and who got a lot out of the short sessions of meditation we did, but for many of the boys a five minute period where everyone had their eyes closed was too invaluable an opportunity for mischief to be overlooked. Clearly, my grown-up style of teaching didn’t appeal to those below a certain level of maturity. How would I have fared with a class of five-year-olds? To be honest, I think I wouldn’t have tried meditating with them at all.
In essence I simply would have no idea where to begin teaching pre-school age children how to meditate. I just don’t speak the language. And that’s a shame, since I have a daughter who’s now almost 15 months old and who’s growing up rapidly. At some stage I’ll want to teach her how to work with her mind. Thankfully, I now have some tools available, thanks to Lisa Desmond’s excellent book, Baby Buddhas.
Desmond understands children. She understands how they learn (“The children will mimic you — the way you speak, how you breathe, how you sit and hold your head, how you fold your hands — so be a good model”). She understands the importance of ritual and reverence (“Store your sacred items on your altar and let the children know that they may not play with them — these objects are not toys”). She understands children’s sensitivities (“Do not comment on the way the children breathe”). She respects and trusts the adults who may attempt to teach meditation to pre-schoolers (“Trust your intuition”).
- Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Young Children
- “Buddha at Bedtime,” by Dharmachari Nagaraja
- “Mishan’s Garden,” by James Vollbracht & Janet Brooke
- “When the Anger Ogre Visits,” by Andrée Salom
- “Goodnight Love: A Bedtime Meditation Story”
All these gems, by the way, are from just one two-page chapter of Baby Buddhas. Those two pages (five and six) contain so much practical wisdom that reading those alone will give you at least half of what you need to know in order to start teaching meditation to children. The other half consists of the specific meditation techniques that she outlines. The “third half” (if you will allow me such an indulgence) is experience and the learning that comes with experience. And that is something no book can give you, although this book will help you to take the plunge and gain such experience.
Baby Buddhas is laid out in a very attractive style, with some delightful photographic illustrations of children (and adults) joyfully meditating, and with some practical illustrations of useful equipment and how to use it.
The instructions are clear, and could be followed by any interested adult and not just by an experienced meditation teacher. Each meditation includes a list of materials, suggestions for evocative and useful terms that can be used, suggested uses for that particular meditation, and space for noting your own creative ideas. There then follows a step-by-step guide to the meditation that covers everything from how to arrange the cushions, to a suggested script that includes not just the words that one might say (“We are going to sit with our legs crossed, our backs straight, and our heads held high”) but also stage directions (“Long exaggerated breath in, long exaggerated breath out”).
The meditation exercises covered include the “Sunshine Meditation” (a simple form of metta bhavana, or lovingkindness meditation), an “OM Meditation,” a “Cleansing Breath Meditation, a walking meditation, and several others. Also included are two meditations for adults — one a way for adults to honor each other and to understand that we all wish to raise our children to be at peace, and another for sending love to a child in a time of need.
I can’t imagine a better book on meditation for children of pre-school age. Desmond’s book achieves the goal of teaching meditation in a language that young children can understand — a language, moreover, that I am pleased to find that I recognize and resonate with.
Hello, As a teacher for many years and a teacher of pre-school children for 5 of those many years I am very excited to hear about this book. I worked with my pupils using visualisations and breathing exercises to help with relaxation and to introduce the concept of meditation to the children without going too deeply into full-blown meditation sessions. The children loved these exercises, and were always calmed and relaxed by them. I left teaching four years ago and retrained as a holistic therapist, working with adults with autism. I am involved in using aspects of meditation in my work. I have been leaning towards further combining my teaching experience with my work as a holistic therapist, and am looking forward to reading this book as a result.
Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
I’d love to hear how you get on with the book, Emma. I’m looking forward to when my own daughter is old enough for me to use it with her. At the moment she’s only 15 months and a bit young for meditation.
All the best,
Why can’t I find this book for sale online?
Did you try Amazon.com? I just looked and it’s available on sale there (although only second hand).
Yeah, at an outrageous price. Is it out of print?
If it’s not available new, I guess that means it’s out of print. Perhaps the high price suggests that the meditating parent market thinks the book is a valuable commodity. But there are always libraries if you don’t want to shell out $45.
My husband has wanted to get this book for his daughter since she was conceived (she is now 4 years of age) and I wanted to get it for him for a Christmas present but the only places i can find it have it for $60.00-$140.00… Insane prices… Is there anyone who can email me with information on how to obtain a copy of this book for a reasonable price? I would really appreciate it and I know my husband would as well.. Thank you so much!! Mary
[…] also have a rare copy of a book called Baby Buddhas, by Lisa Desmond. It’s sadly out of print, but when I reviewed it I was impressed at the way […]
This article is fabulous. I am a teacher of meditation and LOVE working with kids. I actually have a meditation teacher training, feel free to check out out at HeatherChauvin[dot]com