One morning, the kids of Visitacion Valley Middle School found three dead bodies dumped in their schoolyard. Sadly, these kids were used to violence and murder. In 2006 alone, there were 38 murders in the neighborhood. Crime and violence surrounded this San Francisco school. The kids were anxiety-ridden and stressed, and their neighborhood was terrifying. At school, this translated to physical fights, frequent absences, and a lot of time spent in detention.
Desperate for a way to help the children deal with stress, the school decided to try mandatory meditation. Perhaps in an attempt to make something foreign sound more palatable, they called it “Quiet Time.” During “Quiet Time” the kids learned Transcendental Meditation (TM). Transcendental Meditation is a technique for focusing the mind that is non-religious. Practicing TM is simple. It involves sitting for 15 to 20 minutes with eyes closed, silently repeating a mantra.
Teachers at Visitacion Valley Middle School doubted that adding a simple meditation would help much. They were shocked when they realized that “Quiet Time” was, in fact, changing their school in big ways and for the better.
Just a month after the students began the twice a day meditation, teachers noticed that students seemed happier. They paid more attention and worked harder. Suspensions decreased by 45 percent while attendance rose to over 98 percent. Best of all, California’s education department found that the students at Visitacion Valley Middle School were the happiest kids in all of San Francisco.
For fifteen minutes, twice a day the kids sit with their eyes closed. They repeat their own personal mantra in their head. In that silence space, they find peace.
It turns out, according to research, TM can help adults too. One study found that TM lowered blood pressure, reduced the risk of heart attack, and slowed biological aging.
The next time your environment seems too stressful to cope with, think about closing your eyes and taking some “quiet time.” You just might find that no matter what happens outside, you can always find peace inside.
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