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?