When the 36 students at Reservoir’s Maharishi School return to the classroom this week, there will be the usual buzz that comes from the thrill of seeing classmates and starting a school year.
But by 9.30am, shoes will be off and all will be quiet. Complete silence will descend over the school as the students and teachers sit crossed-legged on the floor and meditate.
Breathing and pulse rates will slow as students quickly settle into their transcendental meditation — a technique that teaches pupils to slow their mental activity and experience pure consciousness.
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It won’t be a scene played out in many classrooms this week, but there is more to this picture than just time out. Meditation is a central part of the education students receive at Maharishi School, an 11-year-old independent primary school that teaches consciousness-based education.
The ritual was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — the man who introduced transcendental meditation to the Beatles, Mia Farrow and Shirley MacLaine in the 1960s. It is performed in two 10-minute sessions each day at the school, the only Maharishi school in Australia.
Principal Frances Clarke said meditation enabled students to tap in to a reservoir of creativity and intelligence at the beginning and end of each school day. At least one parent was also taught the technique, with families also encouraged to meditate at home.
“It creates great receptivity to learning; their awareness is open. It creates dynamic, alert and aware children,” Ms Clarke said. “They meditate and are so settled and silent and then they get up, go outside and play soccer, and it’s that contrast of rest and activity that strengthens the physiology.”
Other benefits Ms Clarke attributed to meditation included reducing stress levels, headaches and insomnia in children. She said levels of bullying at the school — which charges just over $4000 a year and teaches the standard Victorian curriculum — were also nearly non-existent.
“It’s not that there’s no conflict, but they work it out and talk it through and appreciate where the other person is coming from,” she said.
Parent Lina Turecki said meditation had taught her daughters Ania, 12, and Amy, 10, how to handle stress, gain confidence and respect their peers.
“There’s no bullying at the school and the children interact across the year levels,” she said.
Dora Edge’s 11-year-old son Tomas is in grade 6 at the school this year and already she is dreading the search for a secondary school.
“I wish there was a high school that offered transcendental meditation,” the special education teacher said. “It’s really important for boys especially, as it’s a release for them that they wouldn’t have elsewhere.”
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