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Group Pushes Meditation as Student Stress Reliever

Arizona Daily Star, April 20, 2006
by Jeff Commings


Children and young adults have plenty to be stressed about in the 21st century. They're pressured to pass standardized tests. They want to get into college. They want to fit in with the cliques. They want to look like the celebrities in the glossy magazines. They have dozens of gadgets vying for their attention. The list goes on. So what's a kid to do?

Some educators and researchers say they have the solution, and it doesn't involve tutoring, counseling or burning all cell phones and iPods.

It's called Transcendental Meditation. And they'll hold a press conference today to try to convince others it should be in every school in Arizona.

Transcendental Meditation isn't a religion, although adults have sworn by it for years. And schools in other states are coming up on a decade of gathering students for 20 minutes of communal relaxation a day.
Students sit in a room, legs crossed, eyes closed, thoughts on anything but the outside world as they recite a mantra. Those younger than 10 can walk slowly around the room or the playground and recite a word.

It's not exactly yoga, advocates say. No twisting or other complex movements are involved. But, like yoga, if they do it right, their minds become clear.

"The calmness that they achieve in meditation would hopefully carry over throughout the day so they would be able to solve things, do better in their social lives," said Rhonda Kaufman. She's a kindergarten teacher at Rio Vista Elementary, 1351 E. Limberlost Drive, and a 33-year practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.

And advocates say it's a healthy alternative to medication, which they say stifles students' ability to absorb the information they get in class.

Yoga already is being practiced in some Tucson schools, including at EDGE charter school campuses and Tucson High Magnet School, and teachers such as Kaufman don't think it would be a major stretch to introduce meditation.
"Obviously, the money's there, but I don't know," she said. "Maybe we're just slow to jump on the bandwagon."

Some students say meditation wouldn't be a bad thing to introduce into their hectic schedules.
"It sounds pretty neat," said Mountain View High School junior Martin Quiroz, 17. "I'm not a yoga guy, but I could sit there and meditate."

His best friend, Spenser Andrews, also a 17-year-old Mountain View junior, said a lot of students could use a little time to recharge from the stress of homework and jobs.

Though Transcendental Meditation started with adults and has trickled into high schools and middle schools across the country, Kaufman said even kindergartners could benefit from the program.
"It would be a more beneficial timeout," she said. "It'd be better than sitting in a chair for five minutes and squirming around."

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