teaching kids

How To Get A Room Of Teenagers To Meditate

Quiet down mind, quiet down. I can’t think, I can’t focus,

I can’t find any peace.

I can hear my brain, rattling around and shaking and breaking.

And waking up in the midst of all the madness.

So much storm

So little rain.

Tap, tap, tap,

I am coming to the door,

Will I find you there?


Tap, tap, tap…

Artificial finger nails on artificial screens.

Tap, tap, and laugh;

About someone’s Snap Chat and someone’s hair,

And a boy or maybe a girl, or maybe the weekend,

Coming up soon, but never soon enough.

Wait, wait, wait,

A room of fifteen year old girls,

Looking down, at shiny blue screens,

Addictive little rectangles, dressed to kill

In elaborate rubber cases,

Filling up spaces with arbitrary conversations.

Fifteen is a tough age.

How do I get them to listen to me?

Look at me! I’m older than you, I’ve experienced more.

I’ve lived and lived again.

How do I engender sympathy? Acceptance? Kindness?

Peace and curiosity.

Do they teach these things in schools?

Whose job is it to teach these things?

Colorful yoga mats, strewn across the dusty floor.

I move the desks over, the chairs as well.

I made a space.

One that demanded to be filled.

“Come, sit, take off your shoes”

They complied. Rain poured outside, impatiently; I have no idea what I’m doing.

“Come sit down my friends, today we’re talking about mindfulness”

They groan and look confused, they look at me, they comply.

I pass out construction paper and markers and ask the girls to write what they think it means.

“What does mindfulness mean to you?”

Quietly, they write, they explain, they look at each other, they finger their phones.

Inky Crayola markers on colored pages.

Young minds commanded to fathom something beyond their years.

How do I explain something so abstract to a room full of teenage girls?

Think, think, think.


Tap, tap, tap…

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Artificial nails on artificial screens.


I ask if anyone would like to share

A few hands go up,

With them, my hopes,

My spirit as well.

But I didn’t want hands, I wanted voices. I heard different words and phrases. I asked again.

“What does mindfulness mean to you?”

“Being with yourself” “Being yourself” “Being true to who you are” “Loving yourself.”

Not bad

“What else?” I asked and pushed and shoved.

I give over the dictionary definition of mindfulness which reads like this: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.”

I asked them to translate this into English. Tangible English, the type you may mold and hold, accept and internalize.

What does it mean to think about your thoughts? I know this is abstract. What does it mean to be fully aware of your body in time and space?

Can you hear me right now? Can you really hear me?

Then I asked another question.

Who’s thinking about their hands right now? What about your feet? Where are they?

Are they touching the floor? How do they feel against the floor?

Are you thinking about your breathing? (I certainly wasn’t).

They shake their heads, “No.”

The other day I watched an inspirational video about mindfulness. Yes there are many, but this one really changed the way I think. The slow talking, peaceful man in the video addressed me, just as I addressed the girls. He asked me if I ever think about my breathing. He told me that if people didn’t think about their breathing, they simply wouldn’t breathe.

Because we don’t breathe.

Our bodies breathe for us. We’re literally, too busy to breath. I thought.

I gave this over – perhaps too harshly.

If you’d ever like to blow the mind of a fifteen year old, simply tell them that if they’re body didn’t breathe for them, they just wouldn’t.

We would all die.

Because breathing is automatic. Just like living. Every day we get out of bed and anticipate returning.

Every day we’re waiting for something. We’re missing things. Everyone is.

There’s no age limit on mindfulness.

I wonder if they’re freaked out yet. I wonder if they’re listening. I wonder if they’re as sick of my voice as I am

At this point it became clear to me that one cannot teach mindfulness. One can only practice it.

That when I asked.

“Has anyone ever meditated before?”

I suddenly became aware of the harshness of the florescent lights. The stale smell in the room. The whispering in the back.

The girls shook their heads.

“Would anyone be interested in trying it?”

The girls snickered and looked at each other. They were into it. I’d never led a meditation session before, and I wasn’t quite sure how. So I improvised.

I sat down on the floor and crossed my legs. A low buzz seeped into the room, dissolving just as quickly. Stiff faces began to relax into neutral expressions.

“Sit comfortably, or if you’re not comfortable sitting up, find a place for your body. Lie down. Hold still, close your eyes, and just breathe.”

I watched as each girl found her individual home on the ground. I felt a tug of pressure on my heart as I realized they were willing to try. I was the negative one. Not them.  A heavy silence fell across the room as each chest rose and fell, as each talkative, teenage persona fell humble and low, as each wandering mind slowed. Everything changed.

Just breath.

I looked around the room. Each body had become, a breathing mass of life, free from all surrounding noise, present in her own head. Slowly but surely, the rhythm turned to rhyme. I was breathing slowly now, I was well aware.

Tap, tap, tap. No more nails on screens, only rain outside, tapping at the windows, hoping to come in, wishing to interrupt. Let the clock spin and the sun descend, there’s no space for time in here.

Of course, there was more. Moments of reassurance. Moments of instruction. A few giggles here and there. But I’ll never forget the peace, or the silence. The individualistic approach taken by each girl was remarkable. Their faces twitched. Their eyes fluttered. So did mine. Everyone’s do. I didn’t look at the clock, I simply existed in the moment in a room full of young girls, six years my junior. So much to see and do, so much to understand.  I truly felt a moment of utter oneness, even if just for a few moments.

When I tried to end the session, no one moved, so I decided to leave them for a few more minutes. Alone with their thoughts, aware of their thoughts. I raised myself up on to a wooden chair and listened to the rain outside.

Tap, tap, tap…