Chapel where we meditate
I realize human development happens in stages at different times of life due to physical and mental states. However, there are some things I wish I knew, or had understood in my teens. I take my students to meditate at least once every two weeks. When they lay down on their yoga mats I take them through a relaxation practice I have created over the years. Last year I took a class on meditation that taught me mindfulness. I use parts of it during the relaxation. I tell the students to stretch out their legs, arms, and bodies. Then they tighten different muscles and relax them with direction. They concentrate on their breathing. The next portion is dedicated to self-awareness. I ask them to first notice the sounds of the room, the temperature, the light or darkness. Then I ask them to bring attention to their bodies, how the temperature feels on their skin, how their feet feel inside their socks, and shoes. I ask if they can feel the fabric against their backs. The next part is what I wish I knew. I ask them to notice how they feel, their emotions. I tell them emotions are temporary; no one stays angry, sad, or happy all day long. I ask them to look and observe their emotions but to realize they are not their emotions, they do not define them as a person. I ask them to not attach to that emotion but to watch it change. Next, I ask them to notice their thoughts and how like emotions those too are temporary and that we are not our thoughts, and not to attach our identities to our thoughts. I ask them to allow all of their self awareness to be in the background and to simply listen, suspend judgement and just be present. Then I start into the guided meditation.
As a teen I wish someone had told me that I am not my emotions or thoughts, that they are both temporary and will come and go. As a hormonal, teenage girl my thoughts and emotions were extreme and I was intensely tangled in both. I thought that the morbid poetry I wrote defined me as a person and the anger or sadness I felt were part of who I was. To have known that it would all shift would have been a treasure. Of course, I don’t know how deeply I could have understood that concept.
I hope and pray that my students are able to watch their emotions and thoughts come and go. I want them to realize no emotions or thoughts should lead a teen to a permanent decision such as suicide, or poor choices. That although things seem to last forever, that feeling is fleeting. I pray that they learn something from my experience and understanding of mindfulness.