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1. Ready

What is meditation?

Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. It involves training the brain out of an emotional, reactive place, to a more rational, thinking place.
Some people Tomasulo, D. (2018, July 8). Mental Floss: How Meditation is Like Brushing Your Teeth. PsychCentral.
think of meditation as a cleansing practice, like brushing your teeth. In fact, regular meditation for less than 10 minutes a day (about the amount of time you invest into brushing your teeth)
increases experiences Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062.
of positive emotions and builds personal resources. Jon Kabbat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and a leading meditation teacher, describes meditation as an act of love for yourself.

All meditation practices must have these
five features: Cardoso, R., de Souza, E., Camano, L., & Leite, J. (2004). Meditation in health: an operational definition. Brain Research Protocols, 14(1), 58–60.


  1. The use of a clearly defined, specific technique: The initial meditation technique must be communicated by a teacher as if it were a recipe, but the effect and evolution of the practice can be different from person to person.
  2. Muscle relaxation: Throughout the process, or at some point during the process, there needs to be some form of muscle relaxation.
  3. Logic relaxation: You must not intend to analyze, judge, or create expectations throughout the meditation.
  4. Self-induced state: The practice is taught by an instructor but you apply it yourself, such that it could be practiced independently at a later time.
  5. The use of a self-focus skill (i.e. anchor): There needs to be a concentration point (i.e. anchor) to focus the mind and avoid sequels of spiraling thoughts or sleep.

How do I practice meditation?

Meditation can be practiced formally or informally. There are
three different types of formal meditation Lutz, A., Slagter, H., Dunne, J., & Davidson, R. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 163–169.

Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(4), 1110–1118.
practices, which use different cognitive processes and each stimulate a different kind of brain wave:

Formal Meditation
Description
Associated Brain Wave
Focused-Attention Meditation
Involves concentrating on a chosen object, idea, or emotion. Focused-attention meditation generates faster brain waves, known as gamma waves (20-50 Hz), which represent a state of active and attentive consciousness.
Gamma
Open-Monitoring Meditation
Involves non-reactive monitoring of your breath, thoughts, and feelings. Open-monitoring meditation gives rise to slow, theta waves (4-8 Hz) that reflect a relaxed state of mind.
Theta
Automatic Self-Transcending Meditation
Involves techniques that go beyond their own mental activity. It is described as an effortless process that is characterized by alpha1 brain waves (8-12 Hz). Alpha1 brain waves are suggestive of a relaxed but internalized state of attention, alertness, and expectancy.
Alpha

As opposed to formal meditation practices, informal practices integrate meditation into your everyday life. For example, you may informally practice meditation while doing repetitive and simple activities such as cleaning, cooking, colouring or walking. As you participate in these activities, focus on your breathing, remove distractions, and find stillness inside. Micro-meditation can also be a great informal meditation practice. As suggested by its name, micro-meditation is a great way to de-stress and re-energize in 30 seconds or less. Taking five deep belly breaths, repeating a mantra, or grounding your feet and imagining energy flowing through your body, are just a couple of suggestions.

Regardless of whether you are formally or informally practicing meditation, a common misunderstanding is that the purpose of meditation is to have an empty mind or to never have wandering thoughts. It’s not. Meditation is about bringing your mind back from wandering. This is reflected in the traditional Buddhist saying, “A thousand times my mind wandered. A thousand and one times I brought it back”.

What are the benefits of meditation?

The benefits of meditation are well-studied and span the full range of physical, mental, and spiritual health. Broadly,
meditation has been found to Thorpe, M. (2017, July 5). 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Healthline.
reduce stress and anxiety, promote emotional health, enhance self-awareness, increase your attention span, reduce age-related memory loss, generate kindness, improve sleep, decrease blood pressure, and control pain.

Studies of meditation interventions in schools also shone a light on the tremendous benefits of meditation.
In California, Leach, A. (2015, November 24). One of San Francisco’s toughest schools transformed by the power of meditation. The Guardian.
a “high-risk” school district decided to lengthen their school day by 30 minutes to build daily meditation practice into their day. Following this change, schools began reporting higher attendance, better academic performance, and fewer suspensions. In addition, it was observed that students were happier and less aggressive than before the meditation program. For children with
high levels of anxiety, Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 218-229.
meditation improves attention and decreases behaviour problems, and there is also
strong evidence for Harrison, L., Manocha, R., & Rubia, K. (2004). Sahaja Yoga Meditation as a Family Treatment Programme for Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9(4), 479–497.
using meditation to help children with ADHD concentrate at school. Most importantly, regardless of cultural background, socioeconomic status, previous life experiences, or relative health,
meditation has been shown So, K., & Orme-Johnson, D. (2001). Three randomized experiments on the longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognition. Intelligence, 29(5), 419–440.
to benefit students’ overall mental health and wellbeing, increase intelligence and enhance creativity.

The benefits of meditation are also seen on a physiological level as changes in brain structure. In 2005, Harvard researcher
Sara Lazar Lazar, W., Kerr, E., Wasserman, H., Gray, R., Greve, N., Treadway, T., Mcgarvey, T., Quinn, A., Dusek, L., Benson, I., Rauch, I., Moore, I., & Fischl, I. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893–1897.
found that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks, had increased cortical thickness in the hippocampus and the temporoparietal junction, which are related to learning, memory and emotional regulation, as well as perspective-taking, empathy and compassion, respectively.

Where can I learn more?

Edutopia – Pause, Refocus, Assess: Meditation in the Classroom

Upworthy – A school replaced detention with meditation. The results are stunning.

Forbes – Science Shows Meditation Benefits Children’s Brains and Behaviour

Healthline – 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation

What will students learn?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Debunk the most common myths of meditation  
  • Define meditation and explain the benefits of meditation
  • Recognize and practice a wide variety of meditation techniques
  • Identify which meditation practice works best for them
References
Beecuz

Cardoso, R., de Souza, E., Camano, L., & Leite, J. (2004). Meditation in health: an operational definition. Brain Research Protocols, 14(1), 58–60.

Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062.

Harrison, L., Manocha, R., & Rubia, K. (2004). Sahaja Yoga Meditation as a Family Treatment Programme for Children with Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 9(4), 479–497.

Lazar, W., Kerr, E., Wasserman, H., Gray, R., Greve, N., Treadway, T., Mcgarvey, T., Quinn, A., Dusek, L., Benson, I., Rauch, I., Moore, I., & Fischl, I. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893–1897.

Leach, A. (2015, November 24). One of San Francisco’s toughest schools transformed by the power of meditation. The Guardian.

Lutz, A., Slagter, H., Dunne, J., & Davidson, R. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 163–169.

Semple, R. J., Lee, J., Rosa, D., & Miller, L. F. (2010). A randomized trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Promoting mindful attention to enhance social-emotional resiliency in children. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19(2), 218–229.

So, K., & Orme-Johnson, D. (2001). Three randomized experiments on the longitudinal effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on cognition. Intelligence, 29(5), 419–440.

Thorpe, M. (2017, July 5). 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation. Healthline.

Tomasulo, D. (2018, July 8). Mental Floss: How Meditation is Like Brushing Your Teeth. PsychCentral.

Travis, F., & Shear, J. (2010). Focused attention, open monitoring and automatic self-transcending: Categories to organize meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese traditions. Consciousness and Cognition, 19(4), 1110–1118.

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