Do you remember your first day of middle school? Nervously walking through the halls … worried you’d be late for a class … forgetting your locker combination. We all experienced the stressful transition.
Katie Hostetter experienced it too. But the 12-year-old had one thing that kids in the 80s and 90s didn’t have: Meditation.
“That helped with (my transition to middle school),” she said. “I think it has definitely helped me in my everyday life.”
Katie started meditating when she was 11. Her mother, who has been involved in meditation for 20 years, brought the tween with her one day to the Kadampa Meditation Center in downtown Denver. The group hosts free kids’ classes on Sundays, while an adult class is simultaneously happening in another room.
“I thought Katie might like it,” her mother, Erica Murdock, said. “It’s a great skill [that] I wish all kids would learn.”
It appears that more kids are learning meditation. Psychologists point to studies that show today’s kid is more stressed than previous generations. Some are turning to meditation to restore inner peace.
“Meditation helps children to be able to focus and to be able to self-regulate through mindfulness,” Kelsang Pagma, a Buddhist nun who teaches the kids’ meditation class at Kadampa, said. “They can look at what’s going on in their minds. Rather than let their feelings control them they can learn how to control their own feelings.”
The instructor has seen meditation affect children’s behavior as well as their performance at school.
“Kids can stay focused longer on their schoolwork and not get so frustrated if they don’t understand something,” she said.
Pagma says, the first step to helping a child meditate is finding a quiet place that he or she can go to for each meditation session.
“Close your eyes and focus on your breath. It’s good not to close your eyes all the way, just let a little bit of light in so that you don’t fall asleep.”
That focus on the breath should remain constant, teaching children to let thoughts float in and out of their minds, like clouds. Experts say, even if kids can only sit still for a couple of minutes, it can still be a successful meditation session.
“We’ve had kids here as young as two years old,” Pagma said, adding that reductions in anxiety and stress are pretty coming among the kids who she’s seen meditate.
Katie Hostetter agrees that meditation can be good for kids of all ages. She puts it to use in her daily life.
“When I get mad a lot, I just find it helpful to breathe,” the middle schooler said, noting that it’s not hard for other kids to learn to meditate.
“Basically, just close your eyes and try to concentrate on the breathing,” she said. “Eventually it just comes naturally.”
To learn more about Kadampa Meditation Center, visit: http://bit.ly/1RtqfGO.
For information on the free kids’ meditation class on Sundays from 10 to 11:30 a.m., visit: http://bit.ly/1QwAeyy.