Modified Candle for Children

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The goal with meditation with children is the same as with adults, though the goal itself may seem alien to a child: We are trying to teach them something they know instinctively – the ability to simply clear the mind and let it rest.

Avoid wordiness when teaching¬†these meditative techniques¬†to children. Don’t overburden them with rationale and the motivation for meditating. Frankly, it might be best if you don’t even call it ‘meditation’ at first, unless they are already comfortable with this idea.

Your goal in guiding a child in this technique is to simply have them watch the flame and allow their mind to settle, to clear. You can use some of the statements below to guide your instruction. The point is to try to simply settle the mind for a set period of time, say 30 seconds initially, then keep adding time until they can fairly easily handle up to 2-5 minutes of silent observation. You should not worry about feeling like you are not doing it correctly or for a sufficient time – meditation, whether through this or any other technique, is a skill to be practiced and will not come on the first attempt necessarily. It is more important to try to build the ability to easily enter into a meditative state of mind, than to be able to sit for hours on end in meditation, which is generally not advised.

These statements can be useful in guiding meditation with a child using The Candle:

  • “Before we begin our activities today, we are going to slow down and try to let our minds settle.”
  • “Before we begin our activities today, it’s important that we slow down and focus our energy and attention.”
  • “All I need you to do is look at this candle. Sit comfortably, follow your breath, and simply watch the flame.”
  • “Can you hear the thoughts in your head? Can you hear the words and ideas floating around? It’s ok to listen to them, but try to avoid getting lost in your thoughts. Try to remain focused on the candle light.”
  • “If thoughts come into your head, just let them pass.”
  • “Don’t worry if you cannot stop your thoughts from coming; this cannot be done. You can however avoid ‘participating’ in them.”
  • “Try to remain aware of the candle only.”
  • “We are going to do this for 30 seconds. Can you pay attention to the candle for 30 seconds? Challenge yourself to do it.”
  • “Do you feel you could focus your attention for more than XX seconds next time? Do you think you can do XX seconds instead? (add 30 seconds to the last interval)”

You may also use the visualization techniques presented in ‘The Candle‘ activity.

Modification:

  • Position the child so that his breath moves the flame. Obviously, you will ensure there is no risk of harm.
  • The child must control his inward and outward respiration such that the flame moves only slightly, but is not blown out.
  • For some children, this may be just too much temptation and can become more of a distraction than is needed.