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What I Learned in Grade 6

posted at 11:18 pm
on Mar. 21, 2013

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What was the most important thing you learned in elementary school, that you didn’t expect to?

For me, it was how to meditate.

I had drama class twice a week with Ms. Bolton.  She was older, probably between 30 and 60—because to an 11-year-old, all adults are just, you know, older. She had blonde hair, possibly dyed, and a voice that projected well.

She taught acting things, I’m sure, though I remember almost nothing about the class, other than that it was down the hall from the woodwork shop, whose drills and lathes echoed whiningly down the hallway, and it had an area that was raised about 8 inches in one corner; that was the stage we used, I think.

To the left of the main door as you entered, there was a huge (again, to an 11-year-old) pile of rectangular floor mats. They were red vinyl, like bus seat material, like they’d skilled the red rubber balls they use for dodge ball and tanned it and made it into sleeping pads.  The mats had a white cotton handle stitched to one end, and when you came bouncing into class, laughing and pushing and talking loudly, the way kids do between classes, you reached out as you passed and grabbed a mat, and dragged it to an open space on the floor.

You put your backpack against the wall (mine was oversized and orange and full of books), and head back to your mat and settle down on it.

Then she’d darken the room, and we’d all lie on our backs, willy-nilly, hands at our side, and she’d tell us to close our eyes. At first you’d whisper a bit to each other but she’d have none of that, she would start out very strict, and silence would be immediate—once everyone had a mat.

And then her voice would soften and she’d talk to us, and tell us to breathe through our noses down the back of our throat, and out through our mouths in a big soft puff while we counted in to 4, and then held it for 2, then exhaled for 6, and held it for 2 more. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

I remember so many of the exercises. I remember being told to imagine I was at the sea shore, in warm sunlight, listening to waves crashing slowly. I remember being in the forest, in a green emerald twilight, in a sun-dappled meadow with tall trees around and wind blowing gently through them.

We didn’t know we were meditating. We didn’t know that we were in Savasana pose.

I remember being asked to imagine that I was on a white escalator, going down through layers of color, counting down 8 floors, to reach a state of calmness. I remember thinking about time passing, and slowing it down, and thinking about each second as it passed, watching them flit by.

I remember being told to clear my mind, to picture a wrinkled piece of paper with shadows but no writing, with no pattern, with endless crinkles, and to just let my eyes roam, slowly, across an endless horizon.

She’d also play white noise, or sometimes a tape of someone suggesting how to relax.  There were elements of self-hypnosis in there, visualization exercises, picturing the future, picturing positive outcomes, feeling good and positive and optimistic.

After we were calm and breathing gently in unison, then there’d be a short time of quiet, and I’d be alone with my thoughts, or my lack of thoughts, probably the only time in my life up to that point that I’d tried to experience that state of simply being, not thinking, not worrying, not imagining.

I used those techniques she taught to help myself fall asleep at night, and still do, when my mind is whirring. I use the breathing to calm myself before I do a presentation, or have a scary conversation, or when I’m just feeling tense and suddenly notice it.


And then she’d tell us to open our eyes, sit up, and get ready to do some drama, and she had a class that was focused, rested, and way more attentive than the wrestling bear cubs that tumbled through her door five minutes earlier.  The time she used on meditation probably made the rest of the class so much more productive it was a net gain in useable time.

What did we do after that? Improv, monologues, maybe some dance? I forget what all. That part never did stick with me. Sorry Ms. Bolton. But what you taught me about the inside of my mind and how to control it stays with me every day.


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Previous entry:
An Amazing Bowl of Ramen

Next entry:
I Miss My Kitty


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