It is a curious irony in life that meditation – an art in which one is essentially observing the present moment in a process of bare attention – is one of the most difficult things to teach and learn. The problem is that in the 21st century, we are completely overstimulated – pretty much from the cradle to the grave we are faced with television; preschool; school; work; social media; vacations; superhero movies and on and on. If you plucked a person from the 19th century and exposed them to all of these things, they’d likely go stark raving mad.It is no surprise then that we can’t get our children – let alone ourselves – to sit still for two minutes. As we start to age, mellow out and pursue a healthier path and perhaps find our way to meditation through modern apps like Headspace and Calm (ironic, isn’t it, that the very devices that distract us now promote mindfulness), we see the value in stillness, but it’s still a tough pitch for a twelve-year-old.
So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t convince your kid to meditate with you – there’s still hope. Mindfulness meditation involves resting your focus on your breath, certain sounds, objects or even a dancing candle flame set up in front of you. In essence, it’s just a way to drop into the present moment and engage with something in an honest way. So even if your child is super engaged with sports, music or chess, this is a very good sign indeed, since they can find something resembling meditation in these activities.
If you’re wondering why it’s important for you or your children to appreciate the present moment, take a breath and think about it for a second. Western culture has evolved in such a way that we tend to run around in a frenzy, making sure we are safe, secure and possessing sufficient material goods and status. All of this is a lot to keep up with, and sometimes we forget how miraculous and beautiful it is to simply exist, breathe and feel the universe moving around us. If you want your children to truly appreciate their lives, you need to encourage them to find activities that have inherent meaning for them, things they enjoy in and of themselves, not necessarily looking for some future payoff.
This is where the benefits of learning a new instrument come into play – studies show that practicing and performing on a musical instrument and learning to read music can be one of the most inherently satisfying activities a human can partake in. Even if your child performs music alone in their bedroom and never shares it with anyone, they will still build confidence, relaxation, and neuroplasticity in the process. If they start imagining themselves as a rock start and demanding money for tattoos and Marshall stacks, you may need to tell them to check their ego. If they show interest in playing classical music with a violin, introducing them to a beginner violin and in other instruments that fit their age, will help them familiarize it before moving into the big shots. Learning a new skill shouldn’t be about impressing people – not there’s anything wrong with impressing people, rather, whether it’s calculus, baseball or tenor sax, learning new skills should mostly about personal development and tapping into the present moment.