Whether you’ve found this page because you’re a young person interested in mindfulness and meditation or someone who cares about a young person and is looking for resources to support them, welcome. We’ve curated this page with the help of WholeSchool Mindfulness to create a take-what-you-need hub of meditations to support people juggling the myriad challenges facing people in their youth. Continue reading to learn more about this initiative or scroll down for a selection of meditations curated especially for you by professionals who teach and practice mindfulness with young people every day.
Mindfulness for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults
Being young has never been easy—cue the movie montage of confusing teenage hormone changes, the emotional rollercoaster that invariably sums up the early twenties, and the stress of middle school social dynamics. Now add to the list the tremendous challenges our young people are being hit with today that were not faced by previous generations. Think social media, the pandemic, environmental crises, and more. The youngest generations are resilient, bright, and powerful and they’re shouldering a lot. Mindfulness is a science-backed practice that can boost mental health and overall well-being. Here, we’ve gathered meditations designed specifically for young people that are conceptualized and led by a cohort of WholeSchool Mindfulness directors who teach and practice trauma-informed mindfulness in schools and young communities.
“We try to invite in our full experience, starting with honoring the very real difficulties of our lives while holding alongside the things we have and what we appreciate,” says one director, Erica Marcus, about teaching mindfulness. “We savor the joyful moments, we name that we have a negative bias, but that even on a hard day, we have experienced something that was pleasant.”
There is an urgent need to prototype and test bold, innovative solutions that have the potential to rewrite the script for how we think about student well-being.
WholeSchool Mindfulness is a nonprofit organization co-creating an education system that advances well-being, community, and justice through the transformative power of mindfulness. WholeSchool is working toward the vision of a mindful education system in which every school has a “Mindfulness Director”—a school or district staff member whose role is to integrate mindfulness practices within their community.
To realize this vision, WholeSchool launches and supports Mindfulness Director positions in schools across the United States. They offer schools and their Mindfulness Directors catalytic funding, implementation support, data gathering, and professional development to launch sustainable, thriving Mindfulness Director positions.
WholeSchool’s Mindfulness Directors are rooted in their school community and offer culturally responsive, secular, trauma-informed mindfulness to the students, faculty, and families of their school. WholeSchool is committed to equity in its work, and two-thirds of its Partner Schools are public K-12 schools serving predominantly low-income and/or BIPOC students.
Since founding in 2019, they have launched 15 Mindfulness Directors and plan to launch an additional 30+ sustainable Mindfulness Directors in the next three years, all creating proof points for the bold idea that a “Mindfulness Director” position could one day be an integral part of schools nationwide.
Getting Started With Meditation
If meditation is new to you, don’t worry. These teachers have got you. Each guided practice offers comprehensive instructions so you won’t have to do any guesswork. That being said, there are a few general guidelines for meditation that you may want to consider before diving in.
How Does Meditation Work?
Follow the lead of the teacher guiding the meditation. They’ll take you through it step-by-step, all you have to do is follow along with the guided audio recording and if you want, you can read the practice transcript to familiarize yourself with the meditation. There are lots of different types of meditation and each one will be a little different. If you’d like a thorough guide, check out our How To Meditate page.
Where Should I Meditate?
If you can, meditate in a quiet space where you feel safe, can get some alone time, and don’t have to worry about what’s going on around you. This won’t be possible for everyone all the time, and that’s OK. There are lots of other options.
Mindfulness teacher Kenneth Bourne recommends going into the bathroom with your phone and a pair of headphones if there’s nowhere else you can get some privacy. Other ideas include listening to a meditation while you’re walking from point A to point B. As long as you remain aware of your surroundings, a commute can be a great time to pop in your headphones and find a moment of grounding and calm. Once you get the hang of the basics, you may not even need the audio recordings. You’ll learn how to bring your attention into the present moment anywhere, any time.
When Should I Meditate?
Whenever you want. Some people like to meditate in the morning to set themselves up for the day, others like an evening meditation to help them unwind. What’s important is that you practice at a time that you can settle in without feeling rushed. Mindfulness teachers tend to suggest that daily meditation is ideal, but if that isn’t realistic for you, it’s OK to create a more lenient schedule or to simply pick it up whenever you feel like it.
Who Is Mindfulness For?
Anyone can practice mindfulness. That’s part of what makes it such a great resource! It’s free, you don’t need any special equipment or clothing, and practices are adaptable to your individual preferences. If you would rather stand than sit while you meditate, go for it. Feel better focusing on sounds around you instead of your breath? Great! The key is doing what feels right for you in the moment.
Why Should I Meditate?
Well, lots of reasons. Science shows that mindfulness can benefit us in many ways, from lowering stress and helping us feel calm, to helping us be kinder to ourselves and others. It isn’t a cure-all, but it can help us get to know ourselves better so we can make more intentional choices in our lives. Mindfulness practice is all about being fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Guided Meditations to Support Young People Today
Which meditation sounds most like what you need right now?
A Guided Meditation to Check in With Your Whole Self
When her students are feeling overwhelmed or low, WholeSchool Mindfulness Director Ashely Williams leads this practice to help them check in with their minds, bodies, hearts, energy, and emotions.
BY ASHLEY WILLIAMS
Based on research and self-reporting from many sixth and seventh grade students, there’s a lack of motivation and self-esteem in the classroom due to poor relationships and motivation from teachers, their peers, and their environments. This practice is one that I do with my students to help us check in with our minds, our bodies, our hearts, our energy, and our emotions.
You may want to do this practice during transitional periods throughout the day like in the morning or bedtime, at the beginning or end of classes, or before or after test taking. After the guided practice, I like to provide time for reflection, inviting students to express what is present through an open dialogue, circle check-in, or writing.
Practice Full-Body Mindfulness
- When you’re ready, find a comfortable position that works for you in this moment.
- As you settle in, invite yourself to take a look around your environment. Noticing colors. Noticing shapes. Noticing sounds. Take a breath in and notice smells.
- Then find a soft gaze on a focal point or allow yourself to close your eyes. Take a few mindful breaths in and out. We’ll take a moment to check in with our whole selves and if the mind becomes distracted by one of those sounds, smells, or objects in your environment, our only intention is to bring our awareness back to our focal point of checking in.
- Take a moment to notice your body. Check in with your legs. Check in with your arms. Check in with your belly. Check in with your head. How does your body feel in this moment? You may notice sensations of soreness or relaxation. Are the arms relaxed? Take a moment to check in and ask, How does my body feel in this moment? Without any judgment. Allow yourself just to notice and check in.
- Now, bring your awareness to the space of your mind. Noticing thoughts that are at the top of the mind. You may notice thoughts of an experience that you had before doing this practice. You may also notice thoughts of experiences that may come after this practice. Notice what you’re thinking about. Also notice and ask, Is my mind steady? Or is my mind full of thought? We’re not trying to change what’s happening in our mind, we’re simply checking in.
- Begin to move your awareness, your attention, to your heart. You may find it helpful to take the palm of your hand and place it over your heart. Take a moment and ask, How is my heart right now? Noticing how it feels. Notice what is present. Check in with emotions, noticing if they’re emotions of happiness, sadness, joy, pain, loss, excitement. Notice if there’s blankness or an emotion that there may not actually be a word for in this moment. As you notice your emotions, notice that there may be more than one emotion present at this time, and that’s OK. Notice that each one is valid.
- As you take a breath, begin to move your attention to your energy. Taking a moment to ask, How is my energy in this moment? Notice if the energy feels high. Also notice if the energy feels stable and steady. Notice if it’s anxious energy that feels scattered. Notice if you feel alert and relaxed. Just take a moment and ask, How is my energy in this moment? Without any judgment, remembering that you are simply checking in.
- Then, check in with your whole self—your body, your mind, your heart, your emotions and your energy. Ask: What do I need to care for myself right now? Noticing that. That response may be movement or stillness. Maybe taking a sip of water, or getting rest. It may be asking for help. It also may be nothing. But based on what you just explored during your check in: What do I need to support and care for myself right now?
- And as we end our practice, take the information that you just gathered during your brief moment of pause. Take a moment to say thank you to yourself for checking in. And when you’re ready, invite yourself to take a few mindful breaths. Gently open the eyes and return back to the physical space.
A Guided Walking Meditation to Notice the Beauty Around Us—Even in the City
This guided walking meditation from Kazumi Igus offers an opportunity to slow down and notice the wonder of the natural world in our urban environments.
BY KAZUMI IGUS
In the hustle and bustle of city life, it’s not often we slow down and take in all there is to experience. Even in urban areas, if you pay attention, you can hear the call of a bird, notice your favorite color in shop windows, and look up at the vast sky above. In this guided meditation, we slow our roll and take in the beauty of our surroundings, no matter where we find ourselves.
A Guided Walking Meditation for the City
- Let’s start with taking three deep breaths.
- As we begin, I want to bring your attention to how you are moving if you’re walking through the city or trying to get from one place to another. How fast are you moving? How are you walking? What’s your pace? Do you have a destination and a timeframe? Or do you have some space? Wherever you are, slow it down just a little bit. If you can afford to walk really slow and won’t hold up traffic, you’re welcome to. And if you’re not walking and you’re in a wheelchair, you’re welcome to slow down. If you really need to be somewhere, try to relax into this space, whatever it is. Slow and steady, but maybe not too slow depending on where you are.
- Bring your attention to how you are walking—your balance. Are you taking a step? Start to notice the small changes, the muscles involved. And whatever you’re thinking, all of it is OK. You’re just noticing where you are in this space right now.
- Then, acknowledging that our minds sometimes race and we have a lot of things going on in our lives, just take a deep breath and bring your attention back to each step. Start to settle into a rhythm. Notice every muscle that’s involved with creating this locomotion to propel you forward and shift your weight. Maybe if you’re in a wheelchair, you’re using your arms. How are the hands involved? Are you holding something? Maybe a backpack, bag, or someone’s hand. Focus on really being present with your physical space, your physical body. Take a deep breath. As we move through our urban environment, we start to notice other things outside of ourselves.
- The first thing I want you to bring your attention to is the smell around you. Depending on where you are, that can be pleasant or unpleasant. Breathing in, can you identify a particular smell? Maybe you’re getting a lot of smells all at once. Maybe you notice the change in smells as you move past different areas. And as you experience these smells, notice what you’re thinking. Are you creating a story? Are you finding yourself wanting to be near a pleasant smell or maybe pushing away, trying to avoid an unpleasant smell? If that’s the case, that’s all right. All of it is normal. Just experience the smell and label it as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. See if you can identify pizza, poop, grass, or whatever it is.
- Then take a deep breath and shift your attention to sights. What can you see? Start by focusing on a color that brings you joy. If it’s a bright color you might notice it in wrappers from candy or chips, maybe in ads, signs, storefront windows that have lots of flyers. If it’s something more earthy, like green or brown, you might start to notice it in nature—the trees and plants. Just pick your color and start noticing it on your journey. Even if the color is on a man-made object like clothing, hats, backpacks, signs, and things like that, that’s a part of the urban environment. If it’s flowers, trees, plants, we’re just noticing the natural portions of the urban environment. Both are necessary.
- Taking another deep breath, we shift to looking at nature. Starting with animals. And for this, let’s maybe not focus on people and their pets. Let’s look for the animals that exist in this environment without being owned by a person. You might notice lizards depending on where you are in the world, cats that don’t have owners, squirrels, insects.
- I’d like to bring your attention to the birds. Birds are what we call an indicator species. They tell you if your environment is healthy. So look up. Look around. Listen. You might even need to stop for a moment. If you can hear birds, start to listen for the variations in their calls, maybe even a different species. If you have mockingbirds, sometimes it’s the same bird making a bunch of different calls. Really stop to listen to it as though they’re telling you something. If the sound of traffic muffles some of the calls, it’s OK. The urban environment is complex. It has both manmade and natural things. If you can see the birds, notice their behaviors, the coloration, and any other details that might pop out at you. And notice your thoughts while seeing or hearing the birds. You might be able to see or hear seagulls if you’re near a coast, rock doves, a.k.a. pigeons, finches, sparrows, chickadees. Notice if you can identify any of these species by site or by call. Take a deep breath, noticing where the birds are. Probably in plants, trees, bushes, or on grass.
- Those of us who live in urban environments often have plant blindness and don’t notice the plants. Take a moment to notice leaves and if you can see any patterns in how those plants are growing. Are there any flowers? Maybe you can recognize a specific species. Can you name it? Take a deep breath. Experience being around plants and animals in nature.
- And as you continue moving keep noticing your color, new plants, new animals. Notice what you’re thinking and if you’re telling yourself a story or if you’re asking a lot of questions. And if you are, take a deep breath and then focus back on the details of the experience—the shape of the leaves, the color of the feathers. As humans, we cannot survive without the natural parts of the environment. So it’s very important for us to be mindful of how our movement through the world affects the nature around us and how the nature around us can affect our experience. Take another deep breath. If there’s a big tree or a squirrel that’s standing there looking at you, or a plant that’s intriguing, take a moment to stop.
- Be grateful for its part of this urban environment. Expressing some gratitude that you are even able to experience it today. Taking a deep breath. Finding your walking rhythm. Slow but steady, or whatever works for you. Continuing to notice your color, plants, the animals. And continuing to take deep breaths.
Free Your Mind From Unhelpful Tech Habits With These 3 Guided Meditations
Today’s technology is designed to be addicting. Erica Marcus, a WholeSchool Mindfulness Director and author of Attention Hijacked offers three guided meditations to check in before, during, and after you turn to your screen.
BY ERICA MARCUS
As a WholeSchool Mindfulness director based out of Maine, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with young people thinking about how to create healthier tech habits. These practices are intended to help you start noticing what’s going on as you use your tech in order to make the best choices for you. Much of the technology we use is designed for mindless consumption. So how do we take control of our own technologies? At its simplest, we pay attention. Attention equals choice. Not paying attention means we are easily driven by impulses, habits, and manipulative design features.
If you’d like, you can use this worksheet to supplement your journey throughout this series.
Set a Tech Intention
Here’s a practice to experiment with the next time you feel the impulse to pick up your phone or open your laptop.
- Start by slowing down. Take a few deeper breaths.
- Notice how you are sitting. Feel the seat under you.
- See if you can relax tension, especially in the shoulders, the jaw, the belly.
- Now that you’ve dialed into how your physical self feels, name your plan. Do you want to watch your favorite YouTube channel? Scroll through TikTok? Get a math set done? So often we jump right in without even noticing. Naming what we want to do helps us stay the course. So what do you want to do?
- Why are you turning toward your screen? That might be very simple—you need to get work done. Or it might be more complicated—you’re feeling sad or bored and want to distract yourself. See if you can start understanding what is driving you. This question helps us consider if we are picking the best tool for the job or simply reacting. Why are you here?
- Then set the intention to notice what happens while you are using your screen. Notice impulses to open up a new tab or app. What does it feel like in your body? What’s driving that? Be deeply curious about your own impulses.
- Finally, use a timer to escape the rabbit hole that can be screen use. Set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes to check in and notice what you need at that moment. Consider using the check-in below to guide that time.
Check In With Your Inner Experience
We often become quite disconnected from our internal experience when we are looking at screens. Regaining connection with what we’re feeling in the moment is key to choosing actions that benefit us. We want to come back to paying attention to what we’re feeling regularly to make conscious decisions. So let’s check back in.
- Start by settling your mind and body without changing anything. Notice how your body feels. Can anything be relaxed? Sometimes connecting with your breath, especially the exhale, naturally allows this to happen.
- Notice a few breaths, with attention on the exhale. Can this be a place of letting go?
- Turning back to your tech use, are you still doing what you said you wanted to be doing? No judgment. Just checking that out.
- How does your physical self feel? Is there tension in your body? Is it relaxed? Are you a bit jittery or more at ease?
- What about your mind? What are you thinking about? Is your mind super focused or all over the place? Stuck on some fact or worry? Or maybe in the flow.
- What’s going on with your emotions? Is anything up? Frustration, unease, pride, happiness?
- Remember, attention gives you choice. Whatever information you gathered from checking in, consider your next move. Maybe you are good to reset the timer and get back to it. Maybe you need to take a stretch break and go chat with someone. Maybe there’s a specific question you need some help with. Whatever it is, now you are choosing instead of continuing on mindlessly. There’s a lot of freedom there. Make your choice.
Reflect On Your Tech Use
When you are done using your screen, take a moment to come back to yourself.
- Orient to the room by looking around and noticing your surroundings. You are back.
- It can be nice to just ask yourself how it all went. Not to be hard on yourself or judge yourself, but to truly get curious. Did your tech use bring you what you hoped it would? Did you do what you set out to do? Did anything hijack your attention from what you wanted to do? If so, are these frequent hijacks that you know you have to be careful of? Just take note.
- How are you feeling now? Scan through the body. What does it feel like after all that? Really observe tension or relaxation; pleasantness or unpleasantness.
- Check in with your mind. Is it settled or spinning; stuck or open? What’s the quality of your mental state?
- What’s your emotional condition? How are you feeling after all that? Our internal experience is always happening, whether we notice it or not. We can be researchers of this. By paying attention we can learn more about how we are impacted by our tech use. We can see our habits more clearly. In turn, this can help us make moment-to-moment choices that are best for us.
A Loving-Kindness Meditation to Anchor In Compassion
Learning to love ourselves and others when our expectations aren’t being met is hard, but with practice we can open our hearts and learn to love what’s challenging.
BY ENRIQUE COLLAZO
When I was asked what kind of mindfulness practice I’d like to offer to young people, the very first thing that came up for me was the practice of loving-kindness. Other ways of putting it is the practice of unconditional friendliness or the practice of being kind to oneself and all other beings. Through my own experience working with thousands of young people, my sense of the cultural Western conditioning is to be really hard on ourselves. We often try to achieve perfection which gives us really high expectations. Then, when we fall below these expectations, there’s a habit of self-criticism. I think it’s such good medicine and so important that I learned to be kind to myself, the same way that I would be kind and compassionate and friendly toward my best friend if they made a mistake or were struggling in some way. I think that’s when we need love and kindness the most. It’s easy to offer love to myself and other people when I’m doing a good job, but I think what makes us good at love is when we’re able to love what’s difficult, what’s challenging.
Loving-kindness meditation may be new to you and when I first started this practice, some of the language felt strange to me. Even the idea of being kind to myself felt foreign. I started saying loving-kindness phrases to myself—which I’ll be offering to you, too—like “May I be happy,” and what came up for me was, You don’t deserve to be happy. That’s totally normal. The invitation given to me was to see if I could actually meet the voice in my mind that said, You don’t deserve this, with a little bit of kindness.
Through the work that I’ve done, I’ve come to understand that the little voice is just confused and doing its best to protect me from being vulnerable in a very intense world. Like some of you, I’ve had experiences where I’ve opened my heart and it’s been hurt so a natural part of me wants to protect my heart. But through lots of practice, I realized that my heart is actually my gift to the world and not something that I need to protect it from.
With that, let’s start the practice.
A Beginner-Friendly Loving-Kindness Meditation
- Find a way to position your body that feels good to you. Lying down, sitting in a chair, standing, or whatever feels good. The invitation is to find the most cozy, relaxed posture so that you can continue to focus on the words that we’ll be using. If a part of the body starts to ache or get uncomfortable, it’s no big deal. Just adjust so that you find some comfort and then redirect your attention back to what’s being offered.
- Take a couple deep breaths if that feels good to you. Letting go of the future. Letting go of the past. Letting go of any expectations. And seeing if we can trade that all in for a direct experience of right here, right now. You can check in with yourself about whether it feels good to do this practice with your eyes closed and if it does, feel free to gently close your eyes. If it doesn’t, I invite you to cast your eyes downward, looking at a spot in front of you with a soft gaze. When I say that I mean maybe your eyelids are heavy but not fully closed.
- See if you can begin by welcoming whatever is present for you. Whatever sounds, sensations, emotions that might be here. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Notice what it feels like to even consider practicing being kind to yourself. See if you can relax in the places holding tension, like the belly, the eyebrows, the little muscles around the jaw, the tongue. Allowing gravity to do its job pulling the shoulders down. Softening the belly, relaxing the legs all the way down to your toes.
- Then choose a home base for your attention. It’s the place where we’re going to try and post up for a bit. Some people use the sense of their breath, the sensation of the air coming in and out of the body at the nostrils. Some people use sensations in the body that are either pleasant or neutral, like the bottoms of their feet on the floor or the palms of their hands on their lap. Some people use sound. Choose something in your experience to rest your attention on. And if the attention jumps around, just notice where it goes and with kindness and patience and commitment, bring the attention back. Just do that over and over. Each time we bring the attention back to this anchor we strengthen this capacity to stay a little bit more each time.
- We’ll begin our loving-kindness practice by reflecting on our deepest desire for happiness and freedom from struggling—the sense that we all want to be happy, that we’re all philosophers of happiness, and all the moves that we make are moves toward a sense of ease, even if you’re confused about what happiness ultimately means. Reflecting on how challenging it is to be human sometimes and how it’s often intense and that’s just the way it is. There’s nothing wrong with you. For me, when I reflect on this deep desire to be happy, this deep understanding and acknowledgment of how intense and challenging being human can be, sometimes what comes up for me is a sense of kindness, compassion, friendliness.
- Now I invite you with each breath to acknowledge your wish to be free from harm, your wish to be safe and protected, to experience love and kindness. The invitation is to offer yourself kind and friendly words—phrases with the intention of uncovering the heart. I’ll offer some of my own personal words that I use in my practice. But the invitation is to find your own words that mean something to you, that are the words you need to hear:
May I be happy. May I be at ease. May I be free from struggle. May I allow myself to be happy. May I be at ease, even when things aren’t so easy. May I be free from any ways that I suffer.
- As you sit in this practice, repeating these phrases in your mind, your attention might be drawn into thinking other things like resisting or judging. Judging the practice or your capacity to love or be kind. This does take a gentle, persistent effort to continue returning, offering yourself these phrases even when the mind wanders. May I be happy. See if you can feel the breath and the body’s response to each phrase. May I be free from struggle. Allowing the mind and body to relax into each phrase. You just repeat them over and over again. I love you. I will take care of you. I will provide you with what you need. Keep going.
- Then bring your attention back to the body. Again relaxing into your posture. Noticing what’s there to be felt after offering yourself these kind and loving words. Remember there’s no right or wrong way to feel. See if you can allow whatever is arising to exist. If it’s difficult, see if you can continue to bring kindness to that. That’s not where we turn our back. That’s what’s needing our love and attention the most.
- Then bring your attention to someone that’s been beneficial to you. Maybe a benefactor, someone that has inspired you, that has shown you great kindness, seen you for who you are, offered you some of that unconditional love. Recognizing as this being comes to mind, or maybe a lot of people, that just as you wish to be happy and to be at ease, peaceful, to struggle less, that this person also shares this universal desire for well-being. So begin offering them some kind words.
Just as I wish to be happy, peaceful, and free, may you be happy, peaceful, and free. Continue offering the words that you think they would benefit from hearing. May you be happy. May you be at ease. May you be free. Or maybe it sounds like, Thank you. Thank you for seeing me and loving me. Thank you for being there for me. I don’t take it for granted.
- Let those words and the image of that person go and bring the attention back to the body, back to the breath. Notice what’s there to be felt. Remember there’s no right or wrong way to feel so you can allow what’s there to exist. See if you can expand just a little bit to a neutral person in your life. Maybe a neighbor that you see, but don’t know very well or someone that you come across at the local grocery. Bring that being to your mind and your heart. Just as I wish for myself to be happy, to feel ease, to be free, may you be happy, feel ease, and be free. Or it might sound like, I see you. You are a whole human being deserving of kindness and happiness just like me. Just like me, you want to be happy. Just like me, you struggle and get scared. May we be happy. May we feel at ease. May we be free, my friend. Letting that go, bring the attention back to your body. Noticing what’s present for you and allowing it to exist.
- There are two more categories to cover as we continue to expand our hearts. This next one is optional. We consider offering the same kind of loving-kindness to someone that’s been difficult. If your mind is anything like my mind, as soon as I think of a person, your mind may have gone to the most difficult person in your life. And I encourage you to not go there. If you feel like you have the capacity to work with this, start with someone who is easy to work with, someone that maybe just hurt your feelings or annoyed you in some way. Starting easy so we can build strength and confidence and a capacity to open our hearts to difficult people. All beings wish to be met with love and kindness. All beings, even the annoying and the unskillful, the confused and the unkind, wish to be happy. Even their harm is coming from a place of confusion of fear. That’s not an excuse, just the truth. We all need to take responsibility for our actions.
- With as much heart as you can in this moment, see if you can offer this slightly difficult person in your life some kindness. May you be happy. May you be free. For the sake of our own personal freedom from hatred or fear, with as much heart as you can in this moment, allow someone who may have been a source of difficulty to be the object of your well wishes. May we be happy. May we be free. And letting that go. Notice what that was like by sensing into your body. And last but definitely not least, see and experience this heart, full of capacity to offer love and kindness to all beings.
- We can start with beings in our immediate vicinity, sending some love, some kindness to the people in our space right now. May we all be happy, at ease, and free. Expand to those in your town or city. I like to imagine it like my heart is radiating out, and allowing those waves of kindness to expand to the city, then expanding to the country. Allow a positive intention for meeting everyone with love and kindness to spread out in all directions, radiating kindness with this open heart and fearless mind. May all beings, including myself, be happy. May all beings, including myself, be at ease. May all beings, including myself, be free from unnecessary struggle.
- Then coming back to the body, to your heart. Noticing what’s there to be felt, noticing if anything’s changed, if anything’s stayed the same. Welcoming it all with big, spacious, patient, kind awareness. Feeling your breath, the ground beneath you. And when you’re ready, on your own time and your own way, coming out of the practice. That might be by opening your eyes, or maybe a hand on the heart is what’s being called for in this moment.
A Guided Visualization Meditation to Fill Your Cup
WholeSchool Mindfulness director Carrington Kernodle Epperson offers a guided visualization meditation to restore and recenter.
BY CARRINGTON KERNODLE EPPERSON
A common saying in mindfulness is, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It means that we cannot show up at our best—for ourselves or others—if we’re physically, emotionally, or energetically drained. What needs to come first is self-care and self-compassion. This guided meditation is an opportunity to recharge and recenter so you can then go about the rest of your day with a full cup.
A Guided Visualization Meditation to Recharge
- To get started, I ask that you find a comfortable position that supports your body. I invite you to close your eyes, to settle in, and if that doesn’t feel safe or comfortable for you today, that is OK. You may keep your eyes open with a slight gaze toward the floor.
- Take a deep breath in through the nose and slowly open-mouth sigh it all out. Allow a wave of softness to come across the entire body.
- I invite you to first begin to visualize yourself as a vessel, specifically as a cup. You can be any shape or size or color, made of any material. Just visualize yourself as a type of cup.
- Now I would like you to look inside your cup. See if it is full of anything. Is it empty? Is it half full? Or is it pretty close to the top? Check in with yourself to see how full your own cup is. Remember, we’re not judging ourselves. We’re simply observing.
- Next I would like you to imagine a golden, shimmering liquid pouring out from above the clouds into your cup. Slowly but surely, it begins to fill you up from the bottom all the way to the top. This liquid represents abundance, wisdom, love, inner peace, joy, connection, and any other things that you need right here, right now. Absolutely everything that you need is now in your cup. Your cup is full and you are content.
- I invite you to sit and stay with this moment of fullness, of having all your needs met. Allow this visualization to serve as a reminder that you have everything you need inside of you. Take a moment to just breathe and be with yourself in the present moment, fully.
- Let us affirm to ourselves these words: I have enough because I am enough. Repeat those words as many times as you wish, quietly to yourself, and really try to embody the fullness of your cup, the fullness of those words. You have enough because you are enough.
- It is now time to take this feeling and carry it with us for the rest of our day. Take a deep breath in through the nose and open-mouth sigh it all out. When you are ready, you may begin to open your eyes, waking yourself back up to your space. I wish you the best for the rest of your day.
Help Kids Find Calm in Just One Minute With This Mindfulness Game
WholeSchool Mindfulness Director Alex Tzelnic recommends this fun challenge to help kids find a quiet moment of embodied presence.
BY ALEX TZELNIC
Unless the clock is ticking at the end of a sporting event or your parking meter is about to expire, we so rarely notice the passing of time. I’m a PE teacher and mindfulness director at Belmont Day School in Belmont, Massachusetts and this practice is one of my favorite activities to do with my students. I call it the One-Minute Challenge. This challenge is a chance to tune into the present moment and notice what’s arising in our minds and bodies.
Try the One-Minute Mindfulness Challenge
In a moment, I’m going to ring my bell and start my stopwatch. After one minute, I’ll ring the bell again. Your challenge is to stay as present as you can and to see if you can anticipate the sound of the bell just before I strike it to signal that one minute has passed.
- Find a position that feels comfortable and alert, whether that’s sitting up straight, lying down, or standing up and tapping your toes.
- Before we begin, I’d also like to offer that some of the best mindfulness advice I’ve ever received is to stay in the room. It sounds really simple, but so often our bodies remain right where we left them while our minds wander off to consider that conversation we had this morning or what we’ll have for snack later, or that thing we saw on social media, or what we want to be when we grow up. But if you’re able to stay in the room, mind and body in the same place at the same time, I have a feeling you will be much more aware of the passing of time. Whether you accomplish that by noticing the breath or counting in your head or listening to the sounds that puncture the silence is totally up to you.
- I will mention, since my students are always looking for creative ways to hack my challenges, that looking at a clock or a watch is against the rules.
- Alright, let’s get settled in. When I strike the bell. The challenge will begin.
- If you already noticed your mind drifting away out of the room, gently bring it back and tune in to what is truest about your experience right now. Whether it’s the sound of my voice, the feeling of your feet on the ground, your breath rising and falling.
- Let’s debrief. Did that feel like a minute? If that felt really short or super long, take a moment to reflect on why that might be the case. If you perfectly anticipated the moment that the bell sounded at the one minute mark, what allowed you to be so in tune with the passing of time? Were you able to stay in the room? If so, did it feel really challenging to do so? If your mind wandered all over the place, that’s because that’s what minds are really good at. If you noticed that your mind wandered, that is an important step in cultivating mindfulness. You got to spend a minute witnessing how your mind operates.
At the very least, I hope that after just one minute you feel a little bit more centered and spacious and that you can take that with you to the many minutes that will make up the rest of your day. One of my favorite things about this challenge is that it unfolds differently every single time. So experiment with it. Try it out again. Remember that time flies when you’re having fun.
A 15-Minute Guided Sound Meditation for Present-Moment Awareness
Notice the sounds around you, then use them as an anchor to check in and release tension.
BY CHARISSE MINERVA
Sounds are a constant feature of life. So much so that we often take them for granted. So let’s go on a sound excursion. You may like to crack a window to let the sounds from outside in. If you can’t do that, it is quite all right because we can still hear sounds inside with the windows closed.
I approach mindfulness practice by designing lessons that are user-friendly and engaging. I want to open a path for many to enter, deepening their practice naturally as they continue their journey of discovery.
A 15-Minute Guided Sound Meditation
- Please get into a comfortable position—not so comfortable that you fall asleep, but comfortable enough that your awareness can grow. You can have your eyes closed, and if that doesn’t work for you, just lowering the gaze will be fine. It’s just so that we remove the distraction of eyesight and we actually use other senses to see.
- Now, we’ll breathe. If focusing on breathing tends to cause some stress, I invite you to focus on other parts of the body, like the feet or the hands, or at any point, just crack the eyes open and look to see where you are in the here and now. So let’s get started. Let’s allow our breath to normalize. Usually when we first start noticing our breath, it gets a little awkward but in just a few moments, it’ll gradually fall into its own natural pattern. You might as well take this time and, if you can, notice your heart rate. Is it fast? Is it slow? Notice your breathing rate, and notice whether or not your palms are dry or sweaty. Later on at the end, we’ll come back and check that again.
- I’m going to ring a bell to get us started. Listen to the sound of the bell gradually fall off and diminish. Settle in and listen as the sound of the bell goes away. What sounds from the room you’re in do you hear? Could it be a fan or overhead like a ceiling fan? Or maybe you have the fan from an AC unit or a heater. Maybe there’s a hum of a small machine or the refrigerator. And if there’s no sound, it’s the sound of silence.
- Let’s see if we can find three separate sounds just in the room we’re in. If you don’t find them it’s quite alright it’s the exploration that is actually the benefit. It isn’t finding the sound, it’s looking for the sound. You don’t have to struggle with it. You can look around with your senses or just see what comes to you. What do you notice that’s there? Sometimes I have heard this called receiving the sound.
- Next, let’s branch out to another part of the building, outside of the room that you’re sitting in, another part of the house. If you’re in an apartment building, the other apartments, other floors. Perhaps you hear people talking, a TV, a computer, someone washing dishes, or a dishwasher. Let’s look for three to five sounds as if we’re in a larger space than just the room. Again, it’s a curiosity exploration, and there is no grade here. There’s no pass or fail. It’s just seeing what’s there. And perhaps you might even find a sound that you hadn’t noticed before because you’re paying attention. Remember to breathe, relaxing from the feet, up to the belly, to the top of the head. Letting the breath nourish as we listen.
- Now we’re going to explore a little further. We’re going to open up our sound awareness even further and go outside the building. This is where the cracked window helps, but like I said, it is quite all right if you don’t have a cracked window. Let’s listen outside the building. Maybe one of the first things you hear is birds, or cars passing, children playing, someone cutting the grass, or someone walking on gravel, a dog barking, a cat purring, the wind. Is there something new that you noticed that you hadn’t heard before? Again, let’s look for three to five sounds. No problem if there’s no sound heard. It’s the listening, it’s that sense of reaching out beyond the body, that the senses do not stop at our skin, they continue outward. In fact, once you’ve found the closest sound, I invite you to try expanding your circle of sound awareness, gradually increasing the distance. I hear a bird in the bush by my house, so let me see if I can hear a bird across the street. Then let me see if I can hear a bird in the next block, two blocks away, three blocks away, or a plane overhead. I hear it coming in the distance. It gets louder and louder and louder and gradually falls away, kind of like a bell. It is so interesting how we can hear sounds from so far away. Sometimes I play a game in the city when I am in the middle of downtown. I sit and I close my eyes to see if I can hear birds. And it’s that listening. Sounds are there if we listen for them. Were you able to find three to five sounds? Good for you for the effort.
- Now, let’s gradually bring our attention back from the outside to the building. From the building, to the room. And once we’re back in the room, we can turn our attention toward our bodies. :Let’s go inside our bodies. What can we hear inside? We can hear the sound of us breathing, swallowing. If we just ate food, we can hear our stomach gurgling as it’s digesting food. Sometimes we can even hear our heartbeat. Although, with the heartbeat, I think sometimes it’s as much felt as it is heard. Now that you’re inside your body, let’s see if we can find three sounds. You may find this a little more difficult.
- I have a question for you. When you were doing this sound exploration, did you find yourself leaning toward pleasant sounds? Because life isn’t all pleasant sounds. A police siren could be very unsettling, or it could be pleasant. It depends on our own situations. When you hear an unpleasant sound, what do you do? Do you clench anywhere in your body? Do you grit your teeth? Do you have to press down on the floor? Have you ever even noticed that? Do you tighten your biceps?
- I’m going to do a quick experiment with you. I’m going to play some instruments and I’m going to play them in a way that is a bit disruptive. I want you to explore what happens to your body. Does your heart rate change? Does your breath change, or your palms get more wet? Is there a part of your body that might tighten up? Just see. How does my body react when I hear sounds that are not pleasant?
- You may find that what you have just found out about yourself, what your body does when it hears an unpleasant sound, is what happens when you are in situations of stress. So if that’s the case and you feel your body tightening up in the same way it did with these unpleasant sounds, you can start to learn how to breathe into that so that in those situations, you can breathe through that stress, breathe through that tension, breathe through what’s bringing that anxiety.
- In these last few minutes I’m going to give you the chance to go to whichever level of sound awareness you would like to explore. Internal, the room, the building, outside. What works for you? Where do you like to hear sound? And it may be a combination. While you’re listening, notice your body sensations. Breathing. Letting the energy settle. Listening to sounds with the whole body, the whole sense of awareness.
- Let’s take three deep breaths. When you’re ready, open your eyes if they were closed. Gently stretch and move your body if it feels good. Thank you so much for spending time with me.
A Guided Meditation to Cultivate Kinder Self-Talk
The story we tell ourselves isn’t always the whole truth. When we learn to notice our inner voice, and notice when we’re focusing on negative thoughts, we can cultivate a habit of self-compassion.
BY ADAM ORTMAN
One way I like to think of inner voice is as the language or talk inside of our minds that we use to tell the story of what’s happening to ourselves. This story can function a bit like virtual reality goggles, where when we put them on, sometimes it’s hard to actually see the full scope of what’s happening. It’s a version of reality that might not be the whole story. But if we can start to see around the edges of those goggles, our perspective on what’s happening expands and becomes more clear. We experience a bit more freedom. So this practice will be a process of exploring that voice and exploring how to see around its edges.
A Guided Meditation to Explore Your Inner Voice
- As we begin, I encourage you to find a posture that feels comfortable for you. We’re going to be paying close attention in this practice. And so it’s a good idea to find a posture that allows you to feel awake and maybe even a little bit energized. You can have your eyes open or closed.
- For this first part of the practice, we’re just going to start to explore our inner voice as it helps us to pay attention. I’ll encourage you to use some phrases to help you notice your breath. So as you breathe in, I encourage you to think the words “inhale, body.” As you breathe out, thinking the words “exhale, body.” Try this for a few breaths, finding an inhale and exhale that feel comfortable. See if you can keep this phrase, “inhale, body,” on the breath in and “exhale, body,” on the breath out, at the forefront of your mind.
- Then shift that phrase to “inhale, belly,” as you breathe in and “exhale, belly” as you breathe out. And then “inhale, chest,” and “exhale, chest.” And then “inhale, nose,” and “exhale, nose.”
- Now I encourage you to choose your favorite phrase. Body, belly, chest, or nose, and stick with it just for a few moments. If you do this, you’ll notice that your inner voice can be useful. It can help us frame what’s happening. It can even help direct our attention to something we want to pay attention to.
- Now we’re going to explore a bit more about this voice. As I talk,see if you can stick with the inhale and exhale process, but we’re going to play. As you think “the word of your choice, inhale,” and “the word of your choice, exhale,” does it seem as though that voice is coming from a certain location? Is it coming from somewhere inside of your head? Somewhere outside of your head? Where do you notice it? Does it have a certain sound to it? Does it sound like your voice? Like somebody else’s voice? Does it have a volume? Is it loud or is it quiet? Does it change its volume?
- Nowwe’ll see if we can shape it. For the next couple of breaths see if you can think that word or phrase in a really deep voice, a voice that’s deeper than yours. Then see if you can think that phrase in a really high voice, a voice that’s a lot higher than yours. See if you can think that voice in a singing voice. And then back to whatever kind of voice you’d like, whether it’s a voice that sounds like your own or something else.
- When we do this, we notice that we do have some control over our inner voice. When we choose to exert that control,we can shape it a bit. We can shape what it says and even what it sounds like. But maybe you’ve noticed as you’ve been doing this practice that the inner voice we choose is not the only inner voice.
- Maybe distracting thoughts have been arising for you. Maybe occasionally you forget the inhale and exhale and some other voice comes in. Am I doing it right? or When this is going to be over? or something completely outside of what you’re doing. There’s the voice we intendand then there’s the voice that seems to play on autopilot. We’re going to do a little practice to see if we can tell the difference between the intended voice and the autopilot voice.
- Before we get there, let’s reset because we’ve been at this for a little bit. If your eyes are closed, I encourage you to open them for a moment, and if they’re open maybe look around. Maybe shake one hand and shake the other. Roll your shoulders a little bit, sway your spine, roll your neck. Now we’re going to find a posture again that feels energized, awake.
- We’re going to return to feeling the breath. As you breathe in, you notice it in your whole body or your belly or your chest or your nose. As you breathe out, you feel that space in your body settling, softening, releasing. Very, very softly think the word “in” on a breath in, and the word “out” on a breath out.
- What we’re going to be on the lookout for is any other voice, any other inner talk that might arise. Any talk that we don’t actually intend. Anything that’s different from the “in” and the “out.” Any time you notice another voice like that, just pause for a moment and see if you can notice it. Does it seem like a kind voice? Is it a harsh voice? Is it neutral? Does it seem like nonsense? Does it not actually have anything to do with what you’re doing? However that voice is, just see if you can notice that it’s not reality. It’s just a voice. It’s focused on one little sliver of reality when it could be focused on something else.
- You can choose whether you give that voice energy or not. Whether it’s pointing you in a direction you want to look or somewhere you really don’t want to pay attention to. So just spend a moment with that in and out of the breath. Picking up on any time a voice sneaks in that’s not the “in” or the “out.” Just notice it. Not to silence it, not to give it energy, just to see if you can pick it up in your attention.
- When we have a voice in our mind that feels harsh or critical, the fastest way to soothe it isn’t with more harshness or criticism, or even by trying to silence it or push it away. The fastest way to soothe that voice is to notice that it isn’t you, to offer some kindness, and to come back to the present moment.
- Let’s try that now. Letting yourself breathe in and out, finding a soothing breath. Then any time another voice comes into your mind—maybe it’s actually always there—notice it. Actually turn your attention to that voice for a moment and say inwardly, “thank you for trying to help.” Offer that voice an inward smile and then return to the present moment. Repeat this as many times as you need. The more we practice noticing our thoughts in this way, the more choice we have over the thoughts we energize. We may not totally get rid of our inner critic, but that’s not the point. Our goal here is to see if we can peek outside of the VR goggles and see that there’s a whole world beyond what fits inside of our thoughts. We can visit it whenever we choose to.
- Coming back into the room that you’re in, noticing the other sounds around. Noticing what you can see and anything that looks delightful that you enjoy looking at. And noticing the settling quality of your own breath.
The “Take-What-You-Need Meditations to Support Kids, Teens, and Young Adults” project was made in collaboration with:
With special thanks to:
Ben Painter, Partner & Co-Founder, Strategic Growth, WholeSchool Mindfulness;
Selena La’Chelle Collazo, Partner, Mindfulness Director Outreach, Recruitment & Selection, WholeSchool Mindfulness;
And all the WholeSchool Mindfulness Directors who took time out of their busy schedules to share their practice: Adam Ortman, Alex Tzelnic, Ashley Williams, Carrington Kernodle Epperson, Charisse Minerva, Enrique Collazo, Erica Marcus, Kazumi Igus
This project was produced and edited by Ava Whitney-Coulter, Editor and Social Media Manager, Mindful, with further edits by Kylee Ross, Senior Editor, Mindful