Should Children Meditate?

Should Children Meditate? April 30, 2014

There’s an image that’s been going around Facebook and Pinterest claiming to be a quote from the Dalai Lama:

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

At first glance, this seems such a good sentiment that everyone could give a thumb’s up to, but it makes me wonder.

I wasn’t 8 when I was taught meditation, I was 13.

Where I come from, you go though classes and preparation to make sure you are ready for the responsibility of meditation. It requires a certain maturity. Because, done wrong, meditation can amplify bad things as much as it amplifies good things.

Even at age 13, I wasn’t ready for meditation.

I had experienced none of the frustrations of the world that lead people to seek out learning meditation. I had no time in my life when meditation wasn’t present as something that was done, that had to be done. It was something I watched my parents do morning and night every single day. I didn’t see how it helped them. I didn’t see how it helped me. I only wanted to learn so I could find out the “secret” mantra.

Maybe it’s good to help an 8 year old child learn to focus her mind and seek stillness within, but I’m not entirely sure that children that young need or are ready for that lesson.

Adults who love meditation (such as my husband!) may look at children and think how much it would have benefited them to know about and practice this wonderful thing when they were that young. In reality, my experience was very different (but possibly not representative of all child meditators).

Meditation to me has always been connected with a chore, something I was forced to do, something I found entirely unpleasant. I was too young to understand why my mind might need to be controlled and I didn’t have a chance to come to the discovery on my own, to realize that meditation could solve a problem for me. There was no problem for it to solve and so it was nothing but torture to sit still for 30 minutes at a time and try not to think, focus only on the mantra.

You can end up accidentally meditating on resentment.

To this day I struggle with the negative associations meditation has for me. Though it may also have benefited me in ways that I haven’t been able to observe. It’s impossible to know what I would have been like if I hadn’t been forced to do it.

My friend who learned meditation as an adult can attest that meditation can be an extremely intense and frightening experience too. It can churn through some very dark stuff buried deep in your psyche.

Does meditation actually make you non-violent? Depends how you’re doing it, I think.

So, I do think meditation is important mental work. I think it can be really good for us and move us towards samadhi, but I’m wary of introducing it to young children.

What do you think? What age is the right time to introduce medtation to a child? Maybe short meditations focused on mindfulness might be better than mantra meditation for 30 minutes at a time when children are young? Maybe allowing kids to meditate for as long or little as they like, without pressure to get to a certain amount of time would be better?

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  • Agni Ashwin

    I think children should be taught “Lila Yoga”, the Yoga of Having Fun…or maybe children should be the ones teaching that to adults.

    • Ambaa

      I like the sound of that! Do you have instructions?

  • IaMJ

    I don’t know if it is beneficial for kids to meditate but I can say one thing with certainty that kids can get into trance much easily than adults because their minds are unpolluted. on the other hand the minds of adults are polluted with jealousy, greed, lust etc. which may make meditation difficult.

    • Ambaa

      Hmmm. Intersting idea. I don’t remember my mind being less polluted back then, but I’m probably projecting my current self back to then!

      • IaMJ

        ” I don’t remember my mind being less polluted back then”

        Because, when you started you already had entered into teenage. This is the most difficult stage for managing emotions, as you start getting introduced to the worldly objects of pleasure.

  • Maya Resnikoff

    I don’t know about meditation and kids- I do know that teaching prayer to kids is a very different thing that praying as an adult. So I imagine that meditation that’s appropriate for a kid or a teen would also need to be directed differently than for an adult.

    Certainly, I can get behind the idea that mindfulness meditation might be better for a kid than mantra meditation- it’s easier for me, certainly, and doesn’t require blanking out your mind- in fact, it reminds me somewhat of a mindset that I had naturally more often when I was younger.

    But how to adapt it for kids, or what to expect? I’ve taken a whole class on the pedagogy of prayer, although it left me with maybe more questions than answers. Is there not somewhere that has something similar about meditation?

    • Ambaa

      That’s true! Prayer for children is adapted. I’ll have to think about ways the meditation I know could be adapted.

  • Sri

    Generally, learning meditation as a child will be better than starting it as an adult. The mind of a child is less distracted with worldliness and more interested in learning new things. But the problem is that when a child starts to learn meditation she may force herself too much to sit still for a long time and also try to concentrate on something forcefully.
    We should remember that while meditating, we must feel the relaxation of the mind and its comfort. Only with this relaxation and comfort we can improve further into samadhi. Forcing the body and mind is not good. Instead, we shall make them to start meditation with smaller sessions, say ‘3 to 5 minutes’ so that they can feel the comfort and relaxation. Once they get more interest in meditation they will meditate for hours. We cannot expect long hour of meditation at initial stages.

    • badtooth

      “the mind of the childis less distracted”? i think you got that backwards.

    • Ambaa

      You make great points! Forcing it is probably exactly where the problem is.

  • badtooth

    doesn’t russell simons have a book about kids meditating? or maybe it is just a book on meditation, but i know he is trying to get meditation in public schools.

    • Ambaa

      Really? I’ll have to look into that.

      • badtooth

        i thought i saw him on o’rielly pimping that but i wanted to fact check myself. so last night i googled it and there is a huffpost article on it. and that had a link to the david lynch foundation. with a video of transformations. he is appearently targeting ‘at risk’ populations with TM. is transendental meditation the same as what hindus do. i know there is a political TM party.
        anyway, if some think can calm the mind of david lynch, there must be something to it?
        those are some strange bedfellows.

        • Ambaa

          TM is the meditation I was taught. That was before I identified as Hindu. Not all Hindus do meditate. I think it’s not as popular as it is in Buddhism.

          There are indeed some strange things around TM and its movement in the west.

          • badtooth

            do you like david lynch movies?
            ever seen the series twin peaks? might have been a little before your time? looks like no one wanted to join us on our eggshells? oh well.

          • Ambaa

            Actually, I haven’t seen David Lynch movies, though the name sounds familiar. I’ll look him up!

  • bill wald

    Meditation, a fancy way of thinking about something? More valuable than taking a nap? I’m asking, not commenting. Naps do me wonders. I almost always have interesting dreams and I know I am dreaming.

    • Ambaa

      It’s actually the opposite of thinking. The aim in meditation is to clear your head as much as possible and enitrely avoid thinking. It is very challenging and, to be honest, quite boring for young children! I love naps myself and I’d take napping voer meditating. lol

  • I tihnk what it comes down to is choice. When you’re forced to do anything, it takes away something you might otherwise enjoy. Sex, eating, reading etc. but the option should be presented. It’s good for kids and adults for that matter to know stillness but like some commenters said, it could end up with a bad trip leaving a child afraid of their own mind. I didn’t discover official meditation until recently but as a child I’d do something ‘bad’ to get timeouts so that I could have a quiet corner all to my introverted self ;p

    • Ambaa

      You are quite right! Choice is such a key.

  • Kat Bo

    I think it depends on the child as much as the form I personally presumed meditation at a young age starting around 9 but I had rough childhood and I studied to learn it on my own

  • Nithya Shaktiroopananda

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  • Pratik Amin

    Nice article. Children should be taught meditation at a very young age so that in their later life when they come across any problem, they will be effectively able to face it. Found this interesting section with different meditation articles