Meditation to Relieve the Stress of Being a Teenager! By Susan Searle

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1 Meditation to Relieve the Stress of Being a Teenager! By Susan Searle Purpose Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life. They re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and wellbeing. This high school session focuses on the health and well-being of the youth we minister with and to. Stress is an everyday occurrence for everyone but especially for young people who may feel the pressures of school, friends, family, and work. This session introduces the practice of meditation as a way to relieve stress. Component: Prayer & Worship, Pastoral Care Session at a Glance 7:00 p.m. Welcome and Introductions 7:05 p.m. Community Building Activity: The Thinking Game 7:20 p.m. Stressed Out! Top 10 Things that Stress a Teenager 7:35 p.m. The Practice of Meditation 8:05 p.m. Processing the Experience 8:15 p.m. How to Practice Meditation at Home 8:20 p.m. Announcements and Refreshments 8:30 p.m. Good Night! Extend the Session Ideas 1. Invite a meditation teacher to come and teach your youth about the basics of meditation. 2. Show the film Into Great Silence (Zeitgeist Films) to your group. The film is a visual meditation about the Carthusian monks and their monastery lifestyle. The film has no music score, no voiceover, and very little dialogue. It is an immersion into the life of a monk. 3. Have youth write guided meditations and practice leading them to the children in your parish. Materials Needed Objects for youth to pass around (balls, rubber toys, pillows, candy, etc.); you will need four objects per each small group Stopwatch (most smart phones have this feature) Page 1

2 Ocean Gold 2012 by Steven Halpern or Angelic Rays by Deborah Van Dyke and Valerie Farnsworth (available from itunes) or other quiet and reflective background music MP3 player and speakers Prepare in Advance 1. Select a location for the session. A quiet and non-distracting place, such as the church sanctuary would work well for the session. If your meeting room is not carpeted, you will want to have pillows or chairs for youth to sit on. Turn off any overhead lights and use either lamps or candles to light the space. If you choose to lead your meditation outside, be sure there is a nice grassy spot for youth to sit. Be prepared for outdoor noise such as traffic and passing airplanes. You can still lead meditation outdoors; just remind youth to not pay attention to the surrounding distractions. Session Outline Welcome and Greet Participants (5 minutes) As youth arrive make yourself available to meet and greet the young people. Once all have gathered, introduce the session tonight by asking if anyone has ever tried meditation before. Invite youth to share their experiences. Next, let youth know that they will all have an opportunity to practice this ancient form of prayer later in the session. Community Building Activity: The Thinking Game (15 minutes) Note to Leader: The instructions for this activity are intentionally vague because small groups will need to figure out how to accomplish the task by working cooperatively in a short amount of time. Some groups will count off members and toss the ball in that specific order. Some groups will pass the objects around a circle. Some really clever teens will put all the objects on the floor in the middle of the circle and together touch each object in a specific order. The point of the game is to illustrate that we often feel pressured or stressed out by time. Time each group to see who can perform the task the fastest. Groups should go one at a time so the other groups can watch. If groups drop an object in the process they do not need to start over. They will probably not be the fastest group because by dropping the object they will add time to their process. Some groups may not complete the task at all and that s okay! You want some groups to feel frustrated to show how easily things stress us out. Divide youth into small groups of four to six participants. Give each group four objects. Youth can either sit or stand in their groups as you give the following instructions: When I say go, you will have five minutes to figure out how each person in your group will handle (hold) all of the objects (one at a time) in the shortest amount of time. Everyone in the group will need to hold all the objects but you can only hold one object at a time. This will be a timed activity. Your objective is to accomplish the Page 2

3 task in the shortest amount of time possible. After five minutes, each group will demonstrate how they have accomplished the task. I will time each group to see who can do the task the fastest. Allow five minutes for groups to plan and practice. Then time the groups to see who can complete the task the quickest. Stressed Out! (15 minutes) After the game, ask the group: What was the most stressful part of playing the game? Allow for a few answers from the group. If no one identifies that time was a stress factor, be sure to bring that up. Keep youth in their small groups and ask them to create a list of things that cause the most stress in their lives. Encourage youth to use their smart phones to record the list, or give each group a sheet of paper and a marker. Tell groups to come up with a Top Ten list of things that stress teenagers the most. Let groups know they will have about ten minutes to create their lists. After the groups have completed the task, invite each group to share their lists. Let youth know there are many ways to de-stress, but tonight they will be learning about the practice of meditation for stress relief. The Practice of Meditation (30 minutes) Share with youth this information about meditation: About 10 million Americans practice some form of meditation regularly to reduce their stress. Meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way to prevent, slow, or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions and cancer. Meditation is also being used to restore balance in psychiatric disorders such as depression, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder. When people meditate, they use 17% less oxygen, lower their heart rates by three beats per minute, and increase their theta brain waves (the ones that appear right before sleep). Meditation can significantly lower your blood pressure. Note to Leader: Before you begin your guided meditation, ask the youth to stand and stretch or move around a little. Then invite them to take a comfortable seat. (This would be the time to move to your parish sanctuary or other quiet space). Turn on some quiet and reflective music for background noise. To get ready for this experience in meditation, choose a comfortable sitting position. The most important quality in sitting for meditation is comfort because if our physical Page 3

4 bodies are uncomfortable, it will be difficult to sit still. Some of you may be comfortable sitting on a pillow on the floor. If not, sit in a chair. Make sure you are far enough away from each other so you do not disturb someone else s meditation. Use the following script to lead youth into a period of meditation sitting. Speak slowly and calmly. Sit comfortably tall, drawing your attention to your breath. Close your eyes. Begin to relax your body. Try and sit as still and quiet as you possibly can. Feel completely relaxed in your body. Allow your breath to flow softly and slowly. Simply watch your breath without trying to change it in any way. Breathe quietly. Feel and visualize the breath flowing in your nose, down your throat, and into your lungs. Receive your breath as a gift of life from God. As easily and as naturally as your breath flows into your body, let it flow back out just as effortlessly. Allow your mind to become completely absorbed in the flow of your breath. Notice how your breath feels as you inhale and how your breath feels when you exhale. Imagine you can see your breath as it moves through your body. When your mind wanders away from your breath, gently bring it back to the steadiness, the rhythmic flow of your inhales and exhales. Staying fully absorbed in the breath and allowing it to continue flowing freely, noticing the natural pauses between the inhale and exhales. Notice the natural quieting and stilling of your mind that happens when you are empty of breath. When we exhale the breath, we naturally let go of stress. Allow that same sense of quiet to fill you when you inhale. At the top of your inhale, feel a sense of the rising quiet expanding into a feeling of openness and spaciousness in your body. Stay with your breath. Stay with this sense of inner quiet. Continuously come back to the feeling of your breath as thoughts start to bubble in your mind. Feel at one with your breath as it flows in and out of your body. The ancient name for God is Yahweh. This name means breath. Notice how when we call to God it sounds like we are breathing Yahweh Yahweh Yahweh Sit for the next few minutes in quiet and repeat the name Yahweh to yourself. I will let you know when our meditation time is over. Enjoy this time of stillness and quiet. Wait at least three to five minutes of silence before ending the meditation. Page 4

5 Processing the Experience (10 minutes) Allow the youth a few minutes to awaken from their meditation. Then invite them to process the meditation by using some of the following questions: How did you feel during the meditation? What was easy or difficult about the meditation? What do you remember the most from the meditation? How might a regular meditation practice help you with some of your stress? How to Practice Meditation at Home (5 minutes) Give everyone a copy of Handout 1, How to Create Your Own Home Meditation Practice. Review and discuss the handout with the participants. Encourage youth to try this for a week and see if they feel any less stressed. Remind them that like anything else they want to be good at doing, meditation takes practice. Tell them not to get frustrated but rather to relax and do the best they can. Close the session with a spontaneous prayer of gratitude. Announcements and Refreshments (10 minutes) Thank the youth for their participation in tonight s session. Make any needed announcements and invite everyone to enjoy some refreshments. Websites and links in this session were accessed successfully on December 3, This session was written by Susan Searle, Coordinator of Youth Ministry Services at the Center for Ministry Development. Susan teaches the Prayer & Worship course in the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies Program and is the project coordinator for Just5Days and YouthLeader. Susan and her family make their home in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Page 5

6 Handout 1 How to Create Your Own Home Meditation Practice You can meditate at any time and place. Some people find the most natural inner peace and quiet in the early morning hours, before their day fills their mind with new thoughts. Others find the time right before going to bed each night to be great for meditation. The key is to find a time that works for your schedule and will allow you to be consistent in your practice of meditation. 1. Find a quiet place. Turn OFF your cell phone. If it helps, turn out the lights. The fewer distractions you have, the easier it will be to concentrate on your meditation. 2. Close your eyes. The idea is to shut out the outside world so your brain can stop actively processing information coming from your senses. 3. Pick a word, any word. Create a sacred mantra for yourself. For example, repeat the name Jesus or Holy Spirit. You can also use words or phrases like Peace or Give me rest or I am all, I am holy as mantra words. Choose a word or phrase that holds a special meaning or significance for you. Your word or phrase should have a soothing rhythm when it is repeated. 4. Say it again and again. Try saying your word or phrase to yourself with every out breath (exhale). The repetition will help you to focus. 5. Try and work up to sitting in meditation for minutes each day. Keep a journal of your meditation process. Other Helpful Hints Download a pre-recorded meditation or purchase a meditation app for your smartphone. Meditate on the following Scripture passage: Ephesians 5: Set up a small prayer table in your room with candles and pictures of loved ones. Purchase a really comfortable meditation cushion. Page 6

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