Children can benefit greatly from meditation, and as they grow older they appreciate more the privilege of having some time to wholly focus on the present and disengaging from thoughts about everything else.
Children over the age of nine start to have more awareness of their thoughts, and that’s when we can start exploring meditations which involve being aware of your mind and changing your thoughts, or meditations where you put your thoughts aside and go deep within.
Here are a few meditations for pre-teens and teens you can explore:
1. Thought Hunter
Sit still with your eyes closed, and count slowly from 1 to 10. If any thought comes into your mind, immediately go back to 1. Watch for even the smallest thought. It is a practice of sincerity between you and yourself, so even the smallest thought, even a sound, even the thought “I’m already at number 3”… you need to go back to 1.
This exercise helps us become more aware of our thoughts. The thoughts we are not aware of are the ones that make us feel what we feel and want what we want and push us into actions we might not have done with more conscious thought.
The first step in being able to change our thoughts and redirect where our life is heading is to be aware of those small quiet thoughts. One to two minutes of this exercise is more than enough.
2. Counting Meditation
Sit or lie on your back and count slowly in your mind from 100 to 1; counting backward requires more concentration and will help you stay more focused. Try not to think about other things and just stay with the numbers. If you lose your count, start again from 100. If you reached 1, stay in silence for a few more moments.
This is a great exercise for developing concentration, and if you can focus enough just to reach 1 without getting distracted, you will have a beautiful and very relaxing inward experience. Try and see for yourself!
3. Counting Your Thoughts
Give each child a pile of cotton balls or pom-poms. You can use any small object but it is easier with ones that don’t make much noise when you move them.
Measure one minute, and ask the children to watch their mind with heightened awareness for that time period, moving one pom-pom to the side for each thought that passes through their mind.
At the end of the minute, count your thoughts. Repeat a few times, trying to have fewer thoughts at every round.
You’ll be surprised to discover that all thoughts tend to run away and disappear when you consciously watch them in this way.
4. Closing the Senses (Yoni Mudra)
We also call this Monster Meditation because of how you look when you put your hands on your face as described below.
Sit up tall (most children find it most comfortable to sit with their knees tucked to their chest because they can then rest their elbows on their knees) or lie down on your back and cover your sense organs with your fingers in the following way:
Place your thumbs in your ears so that you won’t be able to hear anything, place your index fingers gently on your eyelids, place the middle fingers on your nose, the next set of fingers above your lips, and your little fingers under your lips.
Keep your elbows down and shoulders relaxed. Start breathing deeply, deep enough so that you’ll hear your breath very loudly inside your head. After about ten deep breaths, gradually make your breath so quiet and unnoticeable that you don’t hear it any more.
Now, start listening to sounds by your right ear, and as you listen, bring your attention to subtler and subtler sounds. Sounds that are hiding under the sounds that you already hear… go deeper and deeper within in this way.
Stay here for another few minutes before releasing your hands. When done, keep your eyes closed and enjoy the affect of this wonderful exercise for a few more gentle breaths.
5. Breath Meditation
Sit up tall and close your eyes. Begin breathing deep enough that you can hear your breath. Feel how the breath moves your body, and notice the flow of the breath through your nostrils, in and out of your body. Try to feel the contact of the air with the inside your nose, or how the air touches your upper lip.
Now gradually make the breath much gentler and let it flow naturally but keep listening to its sound. Try not to listen to your thoughts; listen only to your breath.
Whenever you find yourself thinking of other things, come back to your breath.
You can practice the same meditation listening to your heartbeat by bringing your full attention to it in a similar manner.
6. Sitting Still Together
Sit back to back with a friend, backs and heads touching. Feel each other breathing through your backs. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, coordinating the rhythm of your breath. Sit as still as you can, just for a few moments, as you listen to the sound of the breath or to silence.
Help each other focus and go within by not moving a muscle.
Now, try to feel how, with your breath, you connect to your friend and to the whole universe. We constantly breathe each other’s air and we nourish each other in this way. We inhale oxygen and exhale more carbon dioxide; and the flowers, grass and trees breathe in carbon dioxide and in return exhale more oxygen for us.
We all support each other and we are all interconnected. Life is so full of magic!
7. Dreams Do Come True
Writing down your goals and dreams is a great way to start making them come true! It helps you to be mindful with your ideas and intentions and start focusing on them.
Give the children a piece of paper with a large circle in the middle and ask the children to draw or write about things they want to happen in the middle of the circle. Then ask them to draw or write about the thing that they don’t want in the outer circle.
Allow the children plenty of time for this exercise, it can really ignite their imagination and they’ll need time for thought and time for completion.
When their circle of dreams is complete, it can be hung in a special place so that we can revisit our dreams often. After a few weeks or months you can reflect on what has come true, and maybe update your dreams and goals a bit if you want to.
8. Compassion Meditation
This meditation can be very challenging at times, and I make sure to mention that forgiveness and sending love to people that have harmed us is more of a healing process for ourselves, rather than finding a reason or giving an excuse for the wrongs that have been done.
Sit comfortably or lie on your back with eyes closed. Breathe deeply and bring your attention to your heart, directing your breath there. Now, inside your heart, see an image of yourself. See yourself happy, healthy, rich… see yourself realizing all of your dreams and having everything you ever wanted for yourself.
Start repeating the mantra “May I enjoy happiness.” Keep repeating this in your mind for about a minute.
Repeat the same process with someone you love the most, a good friend, a parent, a stranger, an annoying person, all beings… and keep repeating this mantra “May my beloved [!use!] enjoy happiness.”
Let your heart open and reach out to them, invite them within yourself and wish them all of the happiness you would wish for yourself and even more. We all want to be happy, and we all deserve to be happy; even “annoying people” are sure to be transformed with happiness and love.
There is nothing stronger than love.
9. Meditation On the Sky
Close your eyes and visualize inner silence, inner joy, and peace as the clear blue sky.
In this clear blue sky, clouds of thoughts pass by. But whether there are clouds or not, the sky is always there. Clouds come and clouds go, but the clear blue sky remains unchanged. In the same way, clouds of thoughts pass through the sky of our mind.
Whether there are thoughts or not, this inner peace and joy is always here. Thoughts, worries, and emotions come and go, but something always stays. Something exists inside us that existed before thoughts came, and will continue after they disappear. So when you look within, don’t look at the clouds, look much deeper; look at the clear blue sky.
While you listen within for the next moment or two, don’t listen to the passing thoughts, listen much more deeply; listen beyond the thoughts to this inner silence. Every time you find yourself following the thoughts again, turn your attention back within and dive deeper into silence.
10. Silent Walk
This is a walking meditation, but you can apply the same principles to any activity. We’ll put all the thoughts about what has happened or what will happen aside and we’ll try to be present. We won’t let our body be in one place and our mind in another place; we’ll try to connect them and be in the here and now.
As we start walking around the room (or outside is even better), we’ll pay attention to each and every step, we’ll feel the connection between our feet and the earth, we’ll take deep breaths and smell the nature around us, we’ll feel the wind caressing our skin, we’ll listen to the songs of the birds or to the sound of our breath, we’ll look around and really notice all the little details of the beautiful world we live in.
We’ll be totally present with ourselves, with each other, and with the world around us. All other thoughts can wait. Try it! There is so much joy in this practice!
An Important Note
Meditation is not good for everyone. Nothing is good for everyone…
Children who have been through severe trauma or have deep psychological issues should not close their eyes and go within. Within might not be a nice place for them. More active practices would be better to start with. You can slowly progress from there when they are ready.
There is a lot more to explore about meditation. Never stop learning new things, and please share here if you have any other meditation that have worked for you or your young family members or friends.