In large letters, write the word “meditation” on the whiteboard and ask students to quietly write down the first five words that pop into their heads. Then, get students to share their list with the person sitting next to them before opening it up to a class discussion. Based on what students share, create a list of words that summarizes their main ideas. Use this list to engage students in a brief conversation. Consider using any of the following prompts:
- It seems like many of you have a positive/negative association with meditation. Why is that?
- What information or experiences are your ideas based on? How do you know if this information is accurate?
- Have you ever practiced meditation? If so, what was your experience? If not, why not?
As mentioned in the READY section, one of the most common misunderstandings of meditation is that the purpose of meditation is to have an empty mind. For many students, this can be intimidating and seem out of reach, especially for those whose minds and bodies are always on the go. Clarify that meditation isn’t about not having thoughts by introducing the monkey mind. Explain that everyone has an inner monkey mind that is unsettled, restless, or confused. Similar to how monkeys swing through trees, jumping from one branch to another, the thoughts, opinions and worries of students’ monkey mind continually jump around and distract them from the present moment. Tell students that meditation isn’t about getting rid of the monkey mind, but about training the monkey mind, using relaxation, attention and focus.
To build students understanding of the monkey mind and help them develop confidence in their ability to train the monkey mind, play Headspace’s one-minute video, “Training the Monkey Mind”
After the video, encourage students to reflect on what they’re learning by asking them the following questions:
- When do you feel like you have a monkey mind? Is there a specific time of day or activity that is especially challenging for you?
- What does your monkey mind tell you?
- Why do you think so many people claim that meditation doesn’t work when they only do it once, for a couple of minutes?
- Think about a time when you were trying to learn a new skill. How long did you practice? Was it hard? Did it get easier over time? How might those experiences relate to meditation?
Finally, tell students that meditation has a lot of benefits for their physical and mental health. Based on what they already know, ask students to brainstorm what some of those benefits might be. Ask guiding questions and/or directly fill in the gaps to ensure that students are aware of the benefits of meditation that are listed in the READY section (ex. increased attention, academic performance, and creativity, greater emotional regulation, decreased anxiety and stress, and improved physical health).