Silent Sitting and Meditation on the Light

Everyone in life searches for happiness, whether it is a child asking for an ice cream, an elder who seeks peace and calm, or a hard-driving professional aspiring to become wealthy. However, in most cases, once we have achieved our goal our happiness is short lived. One of the paradoxes of today’s world is that it appears easier for humankind to venture into outer space rather than to penetrate its own ‘inner space‘, to secure the happiness yearned for. The ability to find inner contentment and peace of mind should be among the key pursuits of education; an ability that is becoming an inestimable tool for adults as well as children, who need to halt and breathe deeply to recover their sense of being, in a hyperactive world that runs faster than we do.

During recent years, mindfulness, silent sitting and meditation have entered many homes and classrooms for this ability to calm, build focus and energise, benefitting both behaviour, learning and a general sense of well-being. A variety of techniques and guided visualisations are swarming on the web to respond to the request of more and more people who have come to realise how much they need solutions to their modern plights, solutions that no market can buy. This article focuses on silent sitting in combination with a universal meditation on the light. Regularity gives best results


Silent Sitting:

  • Regulates the heartbeat and breath, calms and relaxes, reduces stress and tension in the body, promotes good health;
  • Puts children in touch with their own feelings, facilitating emotional growth;
  • Improves focus and concentration, thus increasing the attention span;
  • Sharpens the intellect and helps develop the intuitive faculty, promoting insight and problem solving skills;
  • Improves memory;
  • It is a tool for self-analysis, which helps in the understanding of personal behaviour and behaviour-related problems, resulting in improved relationships;
  • Reduces distractions and noise during the class.


HOW TO PROMOTE SILENT SITTING IN CLASS

The initial difficulties and the effort required in getting children to sit quietly for two or three minutes are amply rewarded by the benefits of silent sitting. Children become calmer and more efficient, more empathetic and mentally alert. Silent sitting can be practised at the beginning of the lesson or any time during the lesson, according to the teacher’s judgement and the age and ability of the children.

Silent sitting is a relaxation and concentration exercise capable of reducing stress, the level of noise in the class and physical restlessness, with the result of improving discipline and calming the mind. It has been demonstrated how both creative art and language skills improve after a period in which children sit in silence, due to an increase in concentration. It can be proposed in the form of a guided visualisation exercise and combined to the lessons, or used during a morning assembly so that the children may immediately go within, center and build the focus they will need during the day. It is important to be flexible and to begin with only a minute or two of silence until they are able to sit quietly for a longer period. They should be encouraged to practice silent sitting at home as well, if only for a few minutes, to boost its benefits, for the more you practice it the more you enjoy the peace, contentment and happiness that it conveys.

The teacher’s commitment to practice silent sitting every day will encourage the students to do the same.


SILENT SITTING: THE PRACTICE

The following exercise offer the steps of silent sitting. It is helpful to keep the same routine although teachers can introduce slight changes from time to time according to need. Children need to be comfortable, but it is very important to ask them to maintain an upright posture as much as possible. The exercise becomes more effective in the presence of the light of a candle.


A MINUTE OF SILENCE

When children become used to silent sitting, teachers may begin and end their lessons with a minute of silence. The opening minute sets the pace for the lesson, and helps the students to focus their thoughts and concentrate. The closing minute is a special way to sum up the lesson, and bring it peacefully to a close. 

THE STEPS

Make sure the children sit comfortably on their chairs or cross-legged on the floor. Their back should be straight and head upright. Invite them to take a deep breath and to relax as they breathe out. Proceed in this fashion, breathing in and out and watching the breath.

Ask the children to relax any tension in the body by stretching their calf muscles, the muscles of their upper legs and thighs, their stomach muscles and shoulders muscles, etc. Ask them to release any kind of tension until they feel that their whole body is totally relaxed. Reinforce this practice by saying: “We all feel good”.

Ask the children to take a deep breath again this time feeling the air touching their nose, or sensing the fragrance, if any, in the room. Guide them to sense the taste of water in their mouth, the firmness of the ground under their feet… Now ask them to remain concentrated, allowing them to sit in silence as you pause for a short moment and tell them: “Listen to the sounds coming from outside; stretch out your sense of hearing as far as you can”.

Ask them to listen to their breathing process as they inspire and expire. Have them do so slowly and to imagine that clean healing energy is entering their body as they breathe in, filling them with happiness, love and peace. When they breathe out ask them to release any uncomfortable feeling, such as sadness, a sense of fatigue, anger, fear, boredom, jealousy…, to let these unhappy feelings go, leaving them free from worry. Have them do this, three or four times. “One by one, the things that upset you flow out of you and drift away.”

Soft music such as the sound of a flute, bird song or other sounds of nature may accompany their mental images. When the children are completely absorbed in themselves, remain silent for up to two or three minutes. The capacity to endure silence will increase as everyone becomes more comfortable with being silent.

Finally bring the children’s attention back to the classroom, asking them to move their fingers and stretch their arms as they gradually open their eyes. “Now let’s smile at the person nearest to us and tell them what day it is today.”

GUIDED VISUALISATION ON UNIVERSAL LIGHT

As an alternative to the Silent Sitting exercise, or if a lesson plan takes for more than one session, you can propose a guided visualisation exercise known as “Light meditation”, which is safe and easy to use, as well as being very effective.

Ask them to sit in a comfortable position on their chairs, or cross-legged on the floor. Make sure their back is straight and head upright. Have them breathe in and out, slowly and deeply, relaxing during the process.

“Imagine that there is a light in front of you. Using your imagination, bring it to your forehead and into your head. Now your head is full of light. Whenever there is light, darkness cannot exist. I will only think good thoughts.”

Expand the light to your heart and imagine that there is a flower bud there. When the light reaches the flower bud watch it blossom into a beautiful flower. Watch the petals as they open one after the other. The flower is filled with light, and you feel love, peace and joy.

Let the light expand down your two arms into your hands. Your hands are filled with light. “Let me do only good, kind and helpful things.”

Now the light expands through the body, down your legs and reaches your feet.

“May my feet take me to places where I will be safe and in good company.”

The light is in your head, in your mouth and on your tongue. Sense its presence. “May I always speak the truth and say only what is kind and necessary.”

The light slowly radiates to the ears. “May my ears be filled with light”. “May I only hear good things.”

Your two eyes are now filled with light”. Concentrate on the light. “May I see goodness and beauty everywhere.”

Imagine that the light is expanding, reaching out towards others. The light embraces your mother and father or whoever looks after you and cares for you. These people are now full of light. “May they be filled with peace.”

Let the light and its love reach out to your teachers, your relatives and friends. Let it expand out into the whole world to all beings - people, animals, birds, fish, insects; to all the plants, trees, grass and flowers; to the rocks and to the earth itself. Let the light go farther and farther until it embraces the stars and the whole universe. Think, “May the world be filled with light. May the world be filled with love. May the world be filled with peace.”

You are surrounded by this beautiful light. Be still. “I am in the light... The light is in me... I am the light.”

After a few minutes of silent sitting, a guided visualisation or light meditation the students may wish to share their experiences. They may wish to express their deeper feelings and relate their experience to their classmates by illustrating them with colour or through a drawing.


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