What Children Say about the Fruits of Meditation

As explained elsewhere on these pages I used photo-elicitation and other methods to enable children to give metaphotical expression to the fruits of meditation in their own experience. The four fruits as expressed by the 

children in their conversations with me were as follows:  

The four fruits as expressed by the children in their conversations with me were: 

(i) meditation helps you to be yourself; 
(ii) it helps you to feel the goodness inside; 
(iii) it brings you closer to God; and 
(iv) it makes you a kinder person.

Let’s take a closer look at these by considering some of the things children said, in their own words. Julie, who was 12, said that ‘because you are not talking when you’re meditating so it takes you more inside yourself.’ She said because meditation relaxes her, she becomes more aware of what she is feeling and is able to talk about her feeling afterwards. And she finds she is more flexible in her choices. She can be herself. Jack (11) observed that “Sometimes when I’m angry or upset, I don’t feel like I’m the real me. But then I meditate and I find that I am the real me.” And Norah (10) reported, ‘When I’m worried or stressed, it weighs me down, as if there are heavy chains around my neck. But when I meditate, I feel like they just fall away and I’m just like [sounding a sigh of relief] I’m just free. I can be myself.’ I think this is something we all yearn for – to discover who we truly are and to have the courage to be ourselves, to be authentic.

Sophie (8) noted, ‘Meditation helps me to be more aware of the goodness inside me.’ Lucy (10) described that, ‘When you’re not doing meditation, you sort of … have a snap inside you. As if you are always getting ready to snap. But when you do meditation, the goodness comes out.’ In other words, the children recognised that the goodness deep inside themselves and others is who they really are. It is important to understand that this kind of realisation is genuine spiritual knowledge, which is very different to mental or conceptual knowledge. But, although it is very true and very real, it is almost impossible to express in words because it is knowledge of the heart, not of the mind.

Both of these fruits are very real and were experienced by the children as described in their own words. Different widsom traditions and religious traditions give expression to these fruits in different ways, each in the philosophical or theological language of their own tradition. 

Many  of the children, even in the single non-faith school, came from families committed to a particular faith tradition. It is no surprise then that many described meditation as bringing them closer to God which is another way of expressing their understanding that meditation enkindled and nurtured their innate spirituality. Natalie (11) expressed this very succinctly: “Meditation helps me to connect with God because normally we are so busy and we don’t pay attention to God. But when we meditate, we get about time to connect with God. I take a few minutes, not to talk to him, but to be with him, to feel closer to him.” For many of the children I interviewed the practice of meditation provided an opportunity to experience over and over again that heartfelt sense of presence that transcends them, yet makes itself felt, however subtly. Pamela (11) described meditation metaphorically as like a mother feeding her baby, but, she added, ‘your spirit is the baby … And God is the mother.’

As well as nourishing their spirituality – helping them to discover their true-self, who they really are in God – many also spoke of how they experienced meditation as a form of guidance, nudging them in the direction of acting responsibly and doing the right thing. For example, Sophie (8) found meditation made her a kinder person: ‘When I let go of the things that are bothering me, it’s like I’ve become a kinder person.’. Derek (9) felt that meditation ‘releases kindness in you … and makes you feel more open-minded.’ Adrian (11), said that meditation helps to shut down his brain and open his heart., making him a kinder person. Barry (10), said ‘Meditation helps me to understand that if someone is behaving badly, there is still goodness inside of them. And if they meditated they might realise that for themselves.’ Because he could see this deep truth about another person, even when they couldn’t because of anger or stress, he was able to respond rather than react if they behaved badly towards him.

All of these quotes point to the fact that these children experienced a strong heartfelt sense of inner, spiritual nourishment as a fruit of the practice of meditation. Jason, a 12-year old boy who had meditated in school for 8 years, captured the sense of this beautifully when he said: 'Meditation pulls you … Meditation is like a map and the destination is who you really are.' In many ways, that single metaphor summarises the four fruits of meditation as described by the children and the wisdom traditions, including our own Christian tradition. 

John Main was referring to this dawning of spiritual knowledge when he suggested that meditation moves the centre of gravity of the person from the head to the heart. Through meditation we come to know who we truly are. We discover our true selves – who we are in God and who God is in us. Our sense of who we are is no longer grounded in the ego, but in God. And we begin to live out of that way of seeing. 

I have worked with a Canadian singer, Alana Levaldoski, to put some of what the children said to music. We have produced a CD of Songs and Reflections which has been available since March 2019. The album contains 10 songs based on how the children described the deeper fruits of meditation in their own experience. Each song also contains a short piece of spoken text which highlights the theme of the song. Click here to download and listen to the song 'There is Goodness Inside.' The hope is that for each month of the school year teachers will choose a new song and play it for the children and afterwards speak with them - and enable them to speak - about how the deep fruits of meditation in their lives. Click here for an excerpt from the song 'Be Still and Aware'. 

Through meditation you begin to awaken to the language of the heart, the language of silence. Spiritual knowledge is intuitive, it arises from being calmly present to reality and it requires no mental processing. The meditator comes to know that ‘mystery can indeed be known without being solved, without being understood’.  It is remarkable that children were so very able to give simple but very rich metaphoriical expression to their own deepest inner experience, to that very deep truth. Meditation has the capacity to nurture the spirituality of children both within and outside of any religious context.