CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 August 2018

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Meditation is that coming home feeling

HONG KONG (SE): “Meditation… It is as simple as that,” Penelope Sturrock, the international coordinator of Meditation with Children and Young People, told a gathering of primary and secondary teachers organised by the Hong Kong branch of the World Community for Christian Meditation at the Diocese Centre on March 17.

From Sydney, Australia, Sturrock said that she was introduced to meditation at the age of four, when her grandmother put her on her lap and, she explained, “I was being prayed.”

In a talk entitled, Simply Begin Simply, Sturrock pointed out she believes that meditation is an excellent classroom activity, even for students as young as five-years-old, because during all stages of growth they are faced with many complexities in life.

She added that meditation helps children, even at a young age, to develop an ability to self-nurture. Contemplation can give them the necessary seeds to grow in this area.

But she insisted that sessions must be kept short in the beginning, saying that five minutes is enough for a five-year-old, then by increasing it incrementally each year by one minute, by the time a child is 10, they should be comfortable in using 10 minutes profitably.

A teacher commented that she can see how this is an easy exercise to introduce into the classroom, as it does not require much of the teacher and is a simple and natural activity to integrate into the daily schedule.

Sturrock said that in her native Australia, most diocesan education systems have introduced meditation into the classrooms in their schools and in some areas it is in every classroom.

In addressing the topic of how to get started, Sturrock introduced the teachers to a website (cominghome.org.au), which says that meditation and contemplation are natural activities for children, but often they live in an environment of noise and activity that can destroy that ability.

“Children and young adults are born contemplative, but in the modern world they are bombarded from an early age with noise, stimulus and a message to keep busy,” the website says in offering a variety of hints on how to introduce this natural activity to them.

It adds, “Children, like adults, will find the practice of meditation a process in which they will feel like they have come home. They will feel as if they have arrived at a place that is familiar, real and comfortable for them.”

A group from Canada stresses that they should be able to enjoy the experience and, while it may seem paradoxical, children are actually capable of being still and silent, and enjoying it at the same time. In fact, often it is something they yearn for.

It is an exercise in finding God in the stillness, or in Old Testament terminology, “Be still and know that I am God.”

It is a curriculum of wonder and the role of the teacher is to lead their students to the gateway of wonder, as well as help them to develop the ability to delve into their own identity.

It takes the natural inclination of a baby to touch, taste and learn beyond the tangible into a world that cannot be seen, but which is a world in which they also live.

Sturrock explained that her group is teaching prayer of stillness and quietude to children of all faiths. She described it as combating what she called a secular consciousness with a contemplative consciousness, which helps to present a holistic education to a child, as well as allowing them to develop an intimate relationship with God.

She explained that it assists children in finding a balance between doing and being, as well as in forming healthy relationships.

She noted that it does not solve problems, but does help children to transform the manner in which they perceive them and, consequently, deal with them.

However, Sturrock stressed to the gathering that they are teachers and the primary role of a teacher is to teach. She recommended that they learn how to meditate themselves first and how to enjoy it, then the students will follow naturally.

A spokesperson for the World Community for Christian Meditation organisation in Hong Kong explained that this year the group will celebrate its 10th anniversary of foundation and it decided to begin the schools project, as the members believe that it is time to introduce some new initiative.

With the help of the Catholic Education Office and a contact from Caritas schools, around 110 teachers and friends gathered to participate in the afternoon.

During the afternoon, Sturrock introduced two meditation sessions, the first one was short, only about five minutes, but the second ran for longer, stretching out to 15 minutes.

After the first meditation period, one teacher asked if they could have another one, as she said that she felt extremely peaceful. 

Another said that she found the approach introduced by Sturrock constructive, as it is not intellectual and can be slotted into the schedule in a natural manner.

Sturrock was also described as being a picture of serenity.

She quoted some wisdom from the guru of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Father Laurence Freeman, saying, “The Spirt is leading you to make this contemplative wisdom part of the Hong Kong Church of the future, by giving it to your students today.”

Meditation sessions in schools in Hong Kong may not be widespread, but it is not an entirely new concept, as St. Paul’s Convent School in Causeway Bay began a lunchtime group that meets once a week in September last year.

The World Community for Christian Meditation proposes that if we can become more loving, more childlike, more gentle, more attentive and more peaceful, then so will the world.