It might be surprising to you, but I’ve had an incredible response from my choir members (boys age 15-18) when I have included mindfulness meditation in my rehearsal plan.
Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising – American teenagers are clearly overstressed and spiritually undernourished. Plus, in my experience choir members are a self-selecting group that tends to skew a little more emotionally connected than the average teenager.
The last time we meditated, I used a free online guided meditation, roughly 10 minutes in length. It doesn’t belong to any particular religious tradition, relying instead on centuries of experimentation and modern brain research. Research consistently shows that mindfulness meditation can have profound positive effects on the brain, whether or not it is connected to a religious practice.
I personally have tried to maintain a daily meditation practice – at least 5-10 minutes, to center me as life gets busy. I began with guidance from one of my oldest friends: “I count my breaths, by tens, starting over at one when I lose track or notice I’m not counting. I don’t beat up on myself.”
After the meditation, my students consistently seem calmer and more connected. Their singing improves, too. They begged me for links to meditation resources, so I have put together this list of books and guided meditations that have resonated with me.
Mindfulness For Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn
Waking Up by Sam Harris
Two Guided Meditations by Sam Harris (The 9-minute one is what I have used with my students. I appreciate its lack of any particular religious direction, making it universal in my classroom.)
Free Guided Meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
A Guided Meditation on the Body, Space, and Awareness with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Your community might have an organization like mine – the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness. Take advantage of yours, whether for yourself or in making their leaders available to your students and fellow teachers.
Try the ones I’ve posted or use them as a starting point for your own explorations. In any case, remember again what my friend said. Keep practicing and don’t beat up on yourself.
Online Guided Meditations
One more thing: we meditate regularly as a family, and have found even the three year old responds to child-centric meditations such as those on Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel