Students at Indian International School, Singapore
In a time of worldwide social transition and upheaval, more and more people throughout the world are seeking concentration, purification and peace of mind through the practice of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana means "to see things as they really are" and is a logical process of mental purification through self-observation. Many come to Vipassana later in their lives, wishing they had found this technique sooner because it is so effective in learning the art of living peacefully and harmoniously.
The ideal time to begin the first steps of this mental training is in childhood when children as young as eight years old can easily learn the technique of Anapana meditation. Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. It is the observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. Anapana is a simple technique that helps develop concentration of the mind. It is easy to learn, objective and scientific. Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available, and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different from techniques that are based on artificial regulation of the breath. There are no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana. It is presented in a non-sectarian format, making it ideal for introducing it to children in school programmes throughout the world. This approach is traced back to the Buddha, who rediscovered and taught this technique nearly 2,600 years ago. The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma-the way to liberation-which is universal. Following this tradition, this technique is presented in a totally non-sectarian approach. For this reason, it has had a profound appeal to people of all backgrounds, of every religion or no religion, from every part of the world.
School children at UK and Malaysia centres
Besides helping them to calm and concentrate their minds, Anapana helps children to better understand themselves and how their minds work. As they learn to calm and concentrate their minds, they gain mastery over their impulses and actions. They develop an inner strength that helps them to choose right and appropriate actions over wrong actions. This is a natural by-product of the technique. For this reason, Anapana provides them with a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties, and pressures of childhood and adolescence. Because of its simplicity, they find the technique easy to practise and understand and they appreciate its scientific and universal nature.
For more than 20 years, thousands of Anapana courses have been conducted exclusively for children around the world. These courses have yielded substantial benefits for the thousands of children who have attended them. Many of them have experienced a positive change in their outlook, behaviour and attitude. Many have found their ability to concentrate has improved and that their memory has strengthened. And above all, these children have acquired a tool that is of immense value to them for the rest of their lives.
|Rehearsal for a 'Swimmology' class in Germany|
Children are, by nature, active and enthusiastic, with an eagerness to learn and explore. For this reason, it is appropriate to offer them an opportunity to explore themselves and their mind with all its hidden faculties, latent abilities and subtle complexities. Learning Anapana plants a wholesome interest in self-introspection and meditation, which may open an entirely new dimension of life for them later on.
Anapana courses for children have been conducted since 1986. These courses have been offered to children of various ages and socio-economic and cultural groups. They have been conducted in Vipassana meditation centres as well as at schools and other institutions, and have been both residential and non-residential.
Whether a children's Anapana course is held at a school or at a Vipassana meditation centre, it is recommended that the students be given an opportunity to continue to practise Anapana in school for a short period each day after the course to yield the true benefits of the practice.
|Students continuing to practice at secondary school in Malaysia|
Students from the ages of eight to eighteen years are eligible to attend the courses. Separate courses should be organised for the two different age groupings, one for younger children ages 8 to 11/12 ; and one for ages 12/13 to 16, or up to 18 in some cases. These are ideal groupings but slightly different groupings are also sometimes considered. Students less than eight years of age and more than eighteen years may not be admitted to a children's Anapana course.
The recommended maximum number of children per course is fifty. For courses larger than fifty children, additional Children's Course Teachers (CCTs) may be required to conduct the course.
Various schedules have been developed and successfully implemented in schools over the years. One-day or two-day non-residential courses may be conducted during the school hours. Besides organising courses during the regular school week, courses may also be organised to take place at the school on a weekend or during vacation periods (see sample timetable ). In residential schools, three-day residential courses may be held. The timetable is determined by the length of the course and whether it is residential or not. The timetable should be modified to avoid the times when other students who are not participating in the course could interact with the children taking the course. Enough time should be scheduled for meditation periods, discussion or checking (when the CCT meets with small groups of children to reinforce the practice), discourses and stories, lunch, rest, play, etc. The total duration of a one-day course is a miniumum of about six hours.
The timetable will be decided by the teacher conducting the course in consultation with the organisers and school administrator.
Pre-requisites for Institutions
To begin the process of having a children's Anapana course held in a school, the administrator or the head of the school should send a formal request to either the Regional Co-ordinator of Children's Courses, a Children's Course Teacher or a local Vipassana meditation centre.
Ideally, at least one person from the teaching staff or administration should have completed a ten-day Vipassana course in this tradition and there will be a commitment to provide an opportunity for the children to continue their practice of meditation for a few minutes every day. The school management may decide the time to implement this programme within their daily routine, with about ten minutes a day for practice.
The limit on the number of students participating in a course should be carefully determined. A very large group may be difficult to manage and a very small group may have difficulty in creating a cohesive and inspirational atmosphere. Generally, courses with between twenty-five to fifty participants work well. However, depending on the infrastructure, facility and circumstances, the number may vary. Ideally, a course should be organised for all of the students from the participating classes. Teachers of the classes, meditators or non-meditators, may participate or sit as observers. After the course, non-meditator teachers who participated will be practising with the children – not teaching them. A group sitting CD is available for use in this context.
Guidelines for Courses in Institutions
|Games supervised by volunteers in Belgium|
(From school administrators and heads of institutions, for holding Anapana courses in their institutions)
|Meditation facilities in Belgium|