Signs of Progress When Teaching Teens to Meditate
Posted on Monday, September 12, 2011 at 9:23 PM
A group of girls, ages 12-15, were sitting tall with their eyes gently closed, first fingers and thumbs gently pressed together. The instruction was simple: Watch the breath. As the breath comes in, note “so”. As the breath goes out, note “hum”. Mark each in breath with the sound “so” and each out breath with the sound “hum” silently to yourself. The mind will wander off many times. As soon as you notice, gently but firmly bring it back to the breath and this mantra. “So hum” is the sound of the breath and also means “I am”.
They have been given these instructions many times. Each week, we take 2 to 5 minutes to practice meditating at the end of class. We were only about a minute into it this week when one girl let out a belch and said, “Ooh, excuse me.” I was on the verge of hitting the eject button. My strategy is to chant “Om” at the first sign of any distraction so this sound brings them out of their meditation rather than some distraction from a classmate. This classmate may find it highly rewarding to be responsible for disrupting class and may do it again the next time the group is trying to meditate.
I paused for just a second; waiting for the ripple of giggles that typically follows this kind of thing. But the girls were silent. Whatever reaction the other girls had, they were able to contain it, note the distraction and come back to the breath. Even the girl who belched was able to maintain her composure, which in past classes has not been the case.
Giggles are a common reaction to much of what we do in Yoga class with teens. It’s an emotional release for them, a way to handle their discomfort. The girls in this class showed a capacity to be with what is and to keep their minds steady.
Nowhere is it listed in the ancient texts that “not dissolving into fits of giggles when belching during meditation” is a sign of progress, but in this situation it surely is.