Author: A graduate of MTT (prefers to remain anonymous). Letter written in 2014
I have been an aid in the school district of a town with a population of about 8500 and with a strong Christian tradition. I mainly work with children with severe disabilities, i.e. severely involved physically as well as some with mental disability. The children that I have worked with have been from the pre-school age through the high school level. Currently, I work at the middle school. Building relationships is huge – no matter who a person is working with.
Having a sound meditation practice, and trying to deepen my relationship with God and Guru have been key to helping these students learn to focus and meditate. Interestingly, after having taught yoga at the community college, and then having my own studio for a few years, (as well as having a lot of unsolicited interest) – it seemed that everything fizzled away. I wrote to Swami and asked him about this….his answer, in a nutshell, was that the most important thing I can do, besides attunement to the Guru, is to meditate.
So last year, I decided to reinvigorate my practice. And I chose the beginning of the school year to begin this “fresh start”. I decided that I would work on deepening my practice and then try to stay quiet and listen more in my job and throughout my day…..to try the “less is more” approach. The results were both immediate and amazing to me.
I work with a few students throughout the day, but always have certain “charges” that I either feel drawn to or am scheduled to be with more than with the others. I love the privilege of taking the kids that no-one else wants….the ones that are harder to deal with attitude-wise, or just simply difficult for whatever reason. So often, our students are not only physically and mentally disabled, but also what I refer to as environmentally disabled, where, if the home conditions were different, the child could not only function at a higher level, but would thrive.
I worked with one such young lady last year…. she came from a background of abuse and is now in a wonderful foster home. Her story speaks to what the power of love can do for a soul. Anyway, as I was trying to deepen my practice, I decided that I would just spend time with this young lady. She simply drew on the deep quiet…we would go for walks through the school when she was feeling wound up – not saying a word, just walking side by side, and she would settle down. Or sometimes we would go to a room where I would dim the lights, put on Swami’s music, and she would swing in a swing we had set up – again – no words, just time for quiet, going within. When she was ready – we would go back to class.
I also worked with a young man who was deeply disabled physically as well as mentally – he and I made the sweetest connection – and again – it was without words. He was nonverbal – and full of complete mischief sometimes. He was quite a bit bigger than me and was deciding to give me run one day so I simply looked him in the eyes and started blessing him through the eyes. He absolutely melted. After that, he and I were best buddies. Where he would give others a hard time – I was his friend. Again – no words – just these wonderful teachings. One day I was trying to show him how to look at a magazine without tearing it up (which he would often do) – and he saw a photo of someone doing yoga and he pointed it out to me. We had a very special connection.
I am currently with a young man who has severe autism. He just turned 13. He knows 10 languages, can write, read, memorize and draw anything – but what we do is connect on a soul level. He is so special – I am slowly teaching him how to sit quietly, to walk quietly with me and not take off running- not by demanding, but by offering my arm for him to hang on to when he needs to be grounded. I am teaching him how to ask for things instead of grabbing for them, how to ask for a break instead of exploding. I am finding with him as with all of these kids – that when they learn to trust me, and also to learn self-control in their environment, they are ready to try to sit still, close their eyes, and to begin to soften inward. Always, always, always – I look to meet them at a soul level – mainstream, special education – doesn’t matter –
I am always looking for ways to incorporate these teachings into my everyday life and I never fall short of opportunity. I don’t have a magic recipe for teaching these kids except that it is Divine Mother and Master guiding me as well as me being able to call on folks at Ananda for support and input when I need it.
I find that the more I meditate, and the more I open up – the more that comes in. I am currently teaching about 5 – 8 staff members at the middle school, Ananda Yoga and meditation once a week. I am doing this as karma yoga….they are drawing on the goodness, and I am hoping to put more lights out into this world where we live. If they begin to fill up – then they will pass this on to their students…
Also – another quick anecdote that pertains to teaching meditation to kids:
Several years ago while working at the high school, there was a boy who had self image and anger management issues. He loved to meditate with me. When he would become agitated, he would ask to meditate. One day the principals came looking for him after an incident, learned that this boy and I were meditating and they said they would wait to talk with him until after we were done.
Another day, while we were going to walk dogs at the Humane Society – he looked at me and said, “I don’t know why, I just feel like smiling.”
Everyone feels the benefits of this lovely practice.
I have so many beautiful stories from the students and working at the schools. It is so rich and I feel so blessed.