Meditation, one of the fundamental components of Buddhist praxis, is gaining popular awareness around the world. In the past few decades, journalists and researchers have reported that the benefits of meditation are applicable to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, across all walks of life and professions around the world. Better decision-making, health benefits, concentration and stress reduction are some of the significant benefits that are convincing people to meditate. Along with traditional monastics and laypeople, children are also being encouraged to become regular meditators. A consensus is growing that properly taught meditation, along with the Buddhist teachings, helps children to cultivate positive thinking, creativity, and morality.
A Buddhist monk guides school children to meditate. Photo taken from www.theguardian.com
In various parts of Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the three major Theravada countries, children participate in meditation sessions guided by Buddhist monks and lay masters. A BBC report in 2013 reports that one million children took part in a meditation session at Phra Dhammakaya in Bangkok. In countries and regions where Mahayana Buddhism is practiced, children are also taught meditation by monks and lay teachers. For example, many sessions of meditation for children have been conducted at Wang Fat Ching She and Plum Village in Hong Kong. The number of children participating in these sessions is on the rise.
Children in meditation session at Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand. Photo taken from www.dmc.tv
Amanda Machado reports in The Atlantic that meditation can help students to lessen their stress and grow in compassion. Growing up with less stress helps children to concentrate on their studies, while compassion helps them to become more empathetic and kind. Mary MacVean of The Los Angeles Times has reported that hundreds of schools in California are developing mindful meditation programs. She further writes: “Mindfulness is said to help with focus, attention, calming the emotions and school performance. These are factors that lead children to perform well in their studies.”
According to a report by Rebecca Hardy in the UK’s The Independent, it is suggested that meditation also makes it easy for parents to take care of children with “monkey minds”. The Art of Living (www.artofliving.org) provides five reasons for why children should meditate:
· To prepare for the challenges of puberty
· To harness the monkey mind
· To de-stress for academic success
· To support healthy emotional development
· To reach their full potential
These reports and research findings suggest that meditation is not only for adults, but has the potential to help every individual, perform better in their daily lives, irrespective of their age and professions.