It seems that the mind of the average American child receives ample training from earliest infancy on how to move in an extroversial direction, meaning that the flow of mind is directed outwardly, through the senses and into the physical objects in the environment. With the help of the motor organs, the child is constantly engaged in the exploration of this environment. The objects are recreated in the internal mental sphere with increasing accuracy and dexterity, until they can virtually be seen, heard, tasted, touched or even smelled at the mere thought of them. This tendency is further nurtured by a society that thrives on the maximum consumption of a maximum number of consumers.
The young child progresses from distinguishing edible from non-edible, to circle from square, to b from d in ever increasing sophistication, getting adult praise and encouragement all along the way. In fact, the term “intelligent” has been traditionally bestowed upon those who can distinguish most accurately, although the latest research indicates that intelligence is expressed in many other ways as well.
The problem with all of this is that it is a very one-sided and unbalanced approach to life. People become overly materialistic, suffer mental illnesses in excessive numbers, lose their sense of well-being, and fall victim to stress if there is no balance. As a complement, introversial movement of mind should also be taught to youngsters.
The ability to center oneself, to find a place where one is mentally content, and to withdraw from the storm of the senses is becoming increasingly rare. Such laudable virtues as deep concentration, reflection and patience are seen in smaller doses and less frequency in the average classroom. Children increasingly fall prey to advertising slogans, repeating them externally and internally, endlessly desiring objects for fulfillment. Attention spans are on the decline, while irritability and impulsivity are on the rise.
By tracing thoughts to their originating point, you can find peace, reexamine your choices, regain control of tendencies that may have been controlling you, and achieve a sense of purpose and balance. “Quiet Time” or Meditation is just such an exercise.
Quiet Time has three stages:
Exercise, Singing, Silent Meditation
The first step, exercises are Yoga postures and breathing, designed to still the mind and make the body more flexible and relaxed.
The second step, singing has an additional soothing quality. It also has the effect of taking one’s attention away from the surroundings, preparing one for step three. The singing starts loud and ends very softly. The songs invoke universal themes of oneness, kinship, joy of nature, love, and peace.
The third step is a simple process of concentration that involves withdrawing one’s attention away from the surroundings, away from the senses, and towards one-pointedness and a simple yet subtle idea: Baba Nam Kevalam (Love is all there is). The use of a foreign language phrase preserves the focused mood by invoking no other reference point outside of the Medtation. It can be likened to having a certain song that you only listen to at a special event, and so each time you hear it, it recreates the mood of that event for you by association.
Meditation has the additional benefits of relaxing the students, calming their nerves, improving their breathing and their circulation. It effectively counteracts what can often be a stressful bus ride to school. Improved breathing and posture are also intimately linked with mental function, and therefore classroom performance is enhanced, as any teacher receiving a group back from Quiet time can attest to.
So often teachers are heard to say “Concentrate harder!” But the only technique that is given for such concentration is to try more and not be lazy. With meditation, students are learning the finer points in concentration. This can only be beneficial to them in all aspects of their lives.
Meditation is one element of the NEW Yoga Program of NHE.