It’s been unbearably hot in the Negev and meditation with the 8th graders has been becoming somewhat less serene.
Our group of 14 included 3 girls who challenged everything we did. If the instruction was to sit quietly, they’d nudge each other, roll their eyes and then elevate the level of distraction by whispering.
I dealt with their behaviours by repeating instructions both before and after an activity. When they assured me that they understood, I offered them further chances to participate.
However, after ignoring instructions plus escalating elements of distraction, others wanted them out. They were asked to take a 10 minute break then rejoin us. They burst back after five minutes, in the middle of our relaxation session and I quietly ushered them out.
That was that!
One of the girls inside the room got up and simply locked the door, stating that I should have done it or reported them to the Principal and let him come and drag them away – the method she was used to seeing used by teachers in their regular lessons.
1. The majority were managing to cling to the meditative mood.
2. Negativity needs to be urged into positivity. I knew that my best bet was to meet the recalcitrant girls and speak with them outside of the framework of our sessions. Only then I’d know the score.
We were minus 2 of the offenders. And how was the class?
The environment was far more sympathetic. We were all there for the same reason, the best component of any group that wants to learn Safat haKeshev, the Language of Attentiveness.
We were there to learn a tool, something to be practiced and ready for use for the rest of our lives.
We were learning about exercising our pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for regulating attention. We were strengthening the hippocampus, responsible for memory function, and we were noticing how we responded to instruction.
Our first exercise: Write or draw anything you choose on one communal bristol board.
They all finished, including two who hated the sound of markers on the bristol board. I assured them that it was all good, those who drew and those who chose not to.
I asked them if they wanted to share something about what they drew: about the image, about the feeling that instigated the drawing, anything at all.
They did, explaining their artwork or how one drew something on their work and how it made them feel.
Stage 2: “I’m going to say something now and it might make you feel something or not, but after I say it, I’ll invite you to to go and draw or write something else. Are you ready?
I’m about to become a Grandmother on Wednesday, May 18th”
The girls all turned to me with huge smiles and wished me Mazal Tov (Congratulations/ Best of luck!)
Then they set off to draw.
After that, I asked them if they noticed a difference in how they felt this time, compared to their first drawing.
“Let’s look at the instructions: What were they this time?” They told me exactly what I’d said: That I would say something that may or may not make them feel something, but to listen and find out, and then I told them that I was going to be a grandmother.
G said: “The first time, I didn’t really have a focus but this time I did and it made me want to draw.”
“Yes” And do you remember the instructions the first time?” I asked. No one offered. Either they couldn’t remember or they went along with the few who honestly said that they couldn’t.
Is our memory that short or does one emotion broadly commandeer the space of those nothing in particular thoughts?
Exercise 2: The mirror exercise. In partners the girls were to look at their partner and exactly mimic their movement. They each took a turn and shared their reactions. Stage 2: They were to mimic the other’s sound. They each took a turn. Responses. Stage 3: They were to go as slowly as possible, mimicking the other.
They finished their rounds. I gave them a few minutes to share the experience. How it was to be the leader, how it was to follow and any other thing they might want to share.
Coming back to the circle. One girl said that her partner wasn’t really mimicking.
“How did it feel?”
“It felt not good. It felt like I wasn’t being heard.”
“Did you speak to her about it ?”
“No. She didn’t want to listen to me.”
I asked her partner how it was for her. Okay, she said.
“This is interesting. You say it was okay and she says that you weren’t copying her movements or listening to her.
We are here in this room to notice these very things.
What can we learn from this?
“That sometimes we think we’re listening but we’re not really,” said one pupil.
“Who else would like to say something?”
“It was fun. I liked it.”
“It was relaxing,” said G and A who chose to lie down and mimic their leg movements.
Exercise 3: We transitioned back to sitting and I explained to them the rest of the lesson. We would choose to either colour from a choice of pages including textual diagrams and other cool outlines. I would show them some reiki so that they could see another, structured way of doing a breathing / body awareness meditation. Some girls asked me to give them reiki. (Short form!)
Important to note that one of the former distractors -R, a major giggler, wanted me to give her Reiki but was afraid. She is, in fact, anxiety-prone, afraid of many activities in life. N, who had experienced a reiki session the previous week, encouraged her. I explained the movements that I’d be using, some touching her and others not, and that there’d be no pain, no need to worry. She accepted.
We went through the process and afterwards, I told her to quietly go get a drink of water and not to speak for a few minutes. She did this without a word.
Then I asked her how it was. She told me that it was weird that even though my hands weren’t on her, she felt as if they were. She’s a highly sensitive girl and I reflected that back to her.
Perhaps, she’ll allow herself to be braver in the future, based on her courageously trying something new that day, and feeling that she’d experienced it and successfully come through it!
Two more girls were given sessions. In between, I went to see how the colouring crew were doing. Four girls had chosen the ‘I Am Awesome’ page. Grade 8 girls who happily colour the self-awesome page! Not bad!
Exercise 4: We used a breathing exercise to bring us toward the end. I reminded them that in order to increase the thickness of our pre-frontal cortex, we need to practice at least a few minutes a day. The deliberate act of taking a break to notice our feet on the floor, our bodies on the chair, and our thoughts is just what we need. Some people steal time to practice by pretending to examine items on a grocery shelf, some do it while staring at a bulletin board. They steal the time to take a pause and pay attention to a few breaths, and take stock of their minds, without anyone else being the wiser.
And we breathed. The temperature in the room? Cool!
The bell rang. I said goodbye a few minutes later and we quietly went out.
A good nourishing session for me and for all. Till next time!