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I can’t believe it had never occurred to me to try. I suppose I assumed there was no way that four boys would sit quietly and not fidget madly through a ten minute meditation. But after what we experienced this week, it's crazy we hadn’t done it sooner.
I’ve known about the benefits of meditation for years. I also know it’s no longer the sole domain of hippies and healers; the benefits of meditation are widespread and practised by many- from top business execs to suburban soccer mums.
If I’m honest, the real reason I hadn’t incorporated meditation into my routine is because I’ve been making excuses. I’m too busy, it takes too much time, I don’t have the right kind of space. But mainly… I thought it would be too hard.
I was so wrong. As it happened, I was taken through a guided meditation recently and it was as soothing as drifting off to sleep. Except that instead of leaving me tired, it left me with more energy than if I'd gotten ten hours. I found myself instantly addicted. Like when you first get your licence, and all you want to do is drive.
Naturally, I wanted to share the experience with the boys. I did some reading and discovered that as little as 5-10 minutes of meditation can have a significant and lasting impact on the emotional and mental state of a child.
I decided to give it a shot, but I knew I’d have to be careful in how I ‘sold’ the concept to the boys. I had to make the concept cool and relevant in order for them to want to participate. I wanted them to really engage and not just sit there with their eyes closed, wondering if they were early recruits to their mother’s new cult.
So I started by explaining to them that meditation was actually a type of mental programming, and I drew an analogy from the familiar world of video games in order to make it simpler.
Me (all casual): “So, hey... what do you do before starting that car racing game?”
Boys (half bored): “Um, you have to go into the settings areas and choose your stuff”.
Me (still so casual): “Like what stuff?”
Boys (in danger of losing interest): “I dunno. You pick the car you want, the stuff you want to kit it out with. You pick the track you want to go on. Manual, auto… just stuff”.
Me (feeling smug and ready to make my point): “But why does it matter what stuff you pick?”
Boys (like I’m stupid): “’Cause. To decide what kind of game you want to play”.
Exactly. Thank you, almighty Xbox.
From here it was easy to explain to the boys that meditation is like going into our own mental settings and choosing what kind of game you want to play that day. Instead of sputtering out the door like a rusty Datsun, stressing and shouting at everyone to remember their shoes… what if we rolled out the door in a mental Lamborghini?
I had participants. And so without too much fanfare, we sat down together on Monday morning for ten minutes (nobody died by waking up ten minutes earlier) and I led the boys through a guided meditation with the help of a little background music. To my surprise, they all went the distance. Even the dog came and sat down with us to soak up all the zen.
The impact of those ten minutes was tangible as we walked out of the house a little later, calmly and without stress. I don’t know if it was my imagination, but the positive effect seemed to even carry on into the evening. I can only imagine what such a skill- of mindfulness and stillness- could offer them throughout their lives.
The next morning, it wouldn’t be me who would call the boys to our second session. It was my second son- the rat bag of the pack- who sat on the rug and called out:
“So are we going to do the settings things again?”
I was a little chuffed. And we haven't missed a day.