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Why We Are Teaching Baba Nam Kevalam Meditation
at the Ananda Marga River School

by Kamala Alister

Visualization: Moving and Creating

Visualization and meditation are two separate techniques. Both are extremely valuable for mental development. In Inner Journey time our teachers frequently use visualization. In a visualization, children relax deeply and are carried away by creative stories and images into the world of fantasy. In the state of relaxation, the inner images are more powerful. Children learn to see inner images, to create colors and sounds in their minds. Visualization can be used to teach children about places they have never been, to help them feel safe and to help them deal with emotions. Studies show that visualization is important for building neuron pathways in young minds. For this same reason, TV is dangerous for children because it provides images along with the story so children don't visualize and don't develop those specific skills. The mind can remain stunted throughout life if children don't have a chance to visualize. Likewise, strong visualization skills are an important bonus.

Meditation: Still and Focused

Meditation is different because here the mind, rather than moving and creating, becomes extremely still. In meditation, we bring the mind to a specific focus. The body becomes relaxed but remains alert. There is a saying that the mind is like a monkey stung by a scorpion. Normally it is busy jumping about in all directions. In meditation, when we give the mind a specific focus, we are putting a stop to our normally outward flow, and this is extremely powerful. While it is difficult to do, calm focus on a mantra for even a brief time, brings a profound sense of peace. When the mantra is repeated with slow breathing and focus on its meaning, even young children can feel the effect.

This kind of focus is also an important mental training. For any kind of work we need to be able to focus and concentrate. This is why meditation has been shown to be so effective in improving the marks of school children who practice it, and why athletes and even executives at huge multinationals like IBM, practice meditation.

As You Think You Become

To focus the mind in meditation it is a common practice to use a "mantra" or specific word. Sound is extremely subtle, so bringing the mind to focus on a word or phrase has been used for millenniums around the world to provide the needed focus. Christians may say, "May I be an instrument of thy peace," Hindus may repeat "ohm" or say "Om Namah Shivaya," or "Hare Krishna Hare Rama," Tibetan Buddhists may say "Om Namaya Padma Om," Native Americans have various chants, or Muslims may say 'Allah'. The mantra that we choose is important because when the mind is so focused, it should be focused on something uplifting and subtle. The saying, "As you think, you become," is very true and very important.

Universalism

At Neo-Humanist schools we use the mantra "Baba Nam Kevalam." It is a Sanskrit mantra that means, "Love is all there is," or "Love is everywhere." Baba means "beloved" (which is why it is also the word in many Indian languages for "father,' and many gurus are called "Baba.") "Nam" means vibration. Because Latin is descended from Sanskrit (as are most of the languages in the world), "nam" is very close to the English word "name." Kevalam means "only" or "all." Put all together the concept of the phrase is that, on a vibrational level, at the very heart of everything, only love exists.

That is to say that when we go very deeply into things, physics has already shown that nothing is really solid as it seems. In fact, material objects are atoms and molecules moving around so fast that they appear solid to us. And physics has also discovered that these small elements of manner are not truly material, they are energy. As best-selling books like The Tao of Physics have shown, everything is really energy. That energy might also be called "love." This scientific research only is another way of explaining what mystics and visionaries have always known and experienced through their inner "experiments."

We consider "Baba Nam Kevalam" a universal mantra because it doesn't call on a specific god or goddess (Shiva, Krishna, Christ, Allah) but focuses on the principle of love which unites the various spiritual traditions. For a school it is appropriate to teach something that will compliment and not conflict with beliefs children may learn with their families. As children meditate on "love is all there is" they develop a security that love is inside of them. Slowly they begin to feel that they can get satisfaction and joy internally as well as externally, and this feeling provides a deep sense of security.

Deep Ecology

At the River School we emphasize ecology as an important subject. Its vital for the survival of our planet that children learn to respect plants and animals, as well as all other humans, as part of their family. While we teach this in many ways, the most powerful way to teach is through direct experience. In meditation, when a child actually feels oneness with all things, that experience can have a lasting effect. When you have deeply felt, "I am one with the trees, birds, earth, all the children of the world..." it becomes even more vital to protect and fight for their rights and survival.

Is this religious education?

We teach this simplified form of Ananda Marga meditation to children for several reasons. As mentioned above, we feel it a universal approach that utilizes similar techniques to most other kinds of meditation. Also, it is what we know best. Prabha, Dada Ratnaprakash and Kamala have all been practicing and studying meditation for around twenty years. We know this system very well, we have confidence that it works, we can explain it to children. We are not qualified to teach other systems.

At the River School, we follow the philosophy of Neo-Humanistic Education. There are hundreds of Neo-Humanistic schools globally that have been using Baba Nam Kevalam meditation successfully and we can also draw on their experience and resources. At other Neo-Humanistic school, teachers who don't practice meditation in their personal life, still find it a vital practice in the classroom. A teacher at the Ananda Marga school in Lismore said she could feel a total difference in her classroom in by chance they missed their daily meditation. Even if they day started off with a field trip, she would ask the children to meditate in the bus.

We don't feel that teaching meditation is the same as religious education. We are not teaching a specific creation myth, a belief in any particular god, or emphasis on any set of scriptures. Like Educational Kinesiology (Brain Gym) or DeBono's Six Hats, which all children learn at River School, meditation is a technique which we are convinced will benefit the children.

How children deal with it

Young children have a naturally built in connection with oneness, so if we nurture that at a young age it is easier for children to maintain the connection throughout their life.

But for most people, meditation is not easy. Like athletics, to focus the mind and concentrate inwardly is a skill that has to be developed over time and with regular practice. In time meditation can be vastly rewarding, but normally in the early stages it can be difficult and frustrating.

Different people have different natural abilities. As we know from the "Seven Intelligences," some people are developed rationally, others spatially, others musically, others socially. So for some children, sitting quietly and focussing isn't too hard. For others its the biggest challenge they have at school. For that same reason, its good for them to give it a try.

Because meditation can be difficult and frustrating for some children, we put an emphasis on making meditation, fun and interesting. We try to teach it without shame or pressure (as other subjects.) But because we do it in a group, we encourage everyone to participate so everyone benefits. Meditation in a group raises a special vibration--the individual result increases greatly when the collective effort is good.

Practices that help meditation

Chanting the mantra out loud before meditation is called "kiirtan." It is extremely beneficial and makes meditation much easier. Its a sort of a halfway step. The mind stays focused only on the mantra, but all the senses are not focused inwardly--we are still singing and listening. It helps slow breathing (through singing), helps fix the mantra in the mind, and on a subtler level, raises the vibration in the room.

Yoga postures promote flexibility, keep the spine limber and flexible (which as we known from Chiropractic, helps all the organs of the body), and massages the lymph nodes which strengthens the immune system and heightens resistance to disease. Importantly for older children, yoga tones and balances the hormonal secretions of the glands (ie. adrenals, thymus, and thyroid.) These hormones have an effect on growth, mental development, and as we known from teenagers, on emotions. Yoga calms the mind through regulated breathing, and through pressure and release on the vital glands of the body.

Syllabus for the three "families"

Our approach to teaching and practicing meditation in the classrooms varies depending on the age group.

In Little Family children learn through stories, songs and games. They might have a story about sitting so quietly that a bird makes a nest in their hands, or (as in all classes) they may begin with a visualization, like taking off in a rocket deep into space. They sing songs about peace and love and oneness with nature to prepare their minds. Sometimes (as in all classes) they listen to quiet music in their meditation, or sing the mantra quietly, or whisper it.

In middle family, games and challenges, with some inspirational stories is a good way to teach. We might play games to help children sit quietly (beanbag on the head!), or keep their eyes closed ("see if you can keep your eyes closed even if I make some noises around you.") They might play the intuition game or "follow the leader' yoga. After meditation they have a quiet journaling time for ten or 15 minutes to develop the skill of inner reflection.

Big Family uses some similar techniques, but also learns about the physiology and philosophy of meditation. They may learn about brain wave changes and the relaxation response, the connection between chakras and glands (the mind/body continuum), or about the lives of saints and mystics who have attained inner peace.

 

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