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Try Buddhist meditation

Try and breathe like the Buddha with this basic meditation technique.

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Scouts is open to everyone. We don’t identify exclusively with one faith, and we welcome people of all faiths and of none.

We know it’s important for people to learn about each other, including understanding different faiths and beliefs. Scouts always respects people’s beliefs, faiths and cultures, and everyone should be open to learn.

As an inclusive and values based movement, we support our members to engage and learn about different faiths and beliefs in an exciting and meaningful way, even if they don’t have a faith themselves.  

Celebrating and understanding differences, including differences in faiths and beliefs, is an important part of our Scout values, which are:

  • Integrity: We act with integrity; we are honest, trustworthy and loyal.
  • Respect: We have self-respect and respect for others.
  • Care: We support others and take care of the world in which we live.
  • Belief: We explore our faiths, beliefs and attitudes.
  • Co-operation: We make a positive difference; we co-operate with others and make friends.

Our value of Belief and its exploration helps Scouts to learn from other faiths and beliefs. This encourages them to develop or build their personal beliefs and understand their shared values, whether faith-based on not. 

We know that learning about faiths, beliefs and different attitudes can help to break down barriers, helps us all to recognise what we have in common, and teaches us to value and respect other people. It also helps us to build up respect, acceptance and knowledge for each other, leading to a more co-operative and inclusive society. 

In our diverse society, people can sometimes feel cautious talking about  this sensitive subject. However, it's important that Scouts offers young people safe, exciting and open spaces to explore faiths and beliefs. They should be able to engage in personal reflection, as they question and develop their opinions and understanding of the world around them.

Making time for personal reflection and developing our beliefs means exploring the places, people, communities, celebrations or stories which hold meaning for us, and it may not necessarily mean exploring a faith. 

For example, someone’s shared values may be their Scout Values and that person may choose to reflect on them at important times, such as when they make their Promise. Others may choose to reflect at certain times of the year, such as a faith-based festival, birthdays, meaningful events or at New Year. Some people may still celebrate events, such as Christmas, but use it as a time to celebrate family, friends and loved ones, as well as for charity and giving.

Discover more about Faiths and Beliefs in Scouts.

  • Buddhism started in India over 2,500 years ago. Buddhists follow the teachings of a man called Siddhattha Gotama. He became known as the Buddha, which means ‘enlightened’.
  • Siddhattha Gotama was a prince who lived a life of luxury. When he was 29, Siddhattha went outside his palace and saw people suffering for the first time.
  • He decided to leave his palace and live among holy men in search of truth. His search took him six years, but he became enlightened while meditating under a fig tree.
  • Following this, Siddhattha became known as the Buddha, which means the 'awakened' or 'enlightened' one. From then on, he dedicated his life to spreading his teachings.
  • The Buddha discovered that the answer lay in what have become known as the Four Noble Truths. Buddhists try to achieve enlightenment by understanding these important principles.
  • Buddhists try to live a good life by following the Buddha's teachings, helping them to avoid suffering and bad feelings. They believe nothing in life is perfect and the way to avoid suffering is to follow a set of important guidelines known as the Noble Eightfold Path.
  • The Buddhist scriptures are known as the Tipitaka which means 'three baskets'. This is because the original writings were made on palm leaves and stored in baskets.
  • The Tipitaka contains the teachings of the Buddha and his companions, comments on those teachings, as well as rules for monks. Buddhists call the teachings of the Buddha dharma which means ‘truth’.
  • In Buddhist countries there are many temples. People bring flowers and incense for the shrine and food for the monks. Some Buddhists may also have a shrine within their home too.
  • When entering a temple, Buddhists will take off their shoes, put their hands together and bow to the image of the Buddha. They may also use prayer beads called malas. 
  • Buddhists believe that meditation is crucial to understanding the cause of suffering. It’s a way to clear the mind of worries and fears.
  • They also believe it’s very important for well being. It is a way to clear the mind and encourage positive thinking.
  • To meditate, you need to find a quiet area where you can concentrate. There are lots of different ways of meditating. Some people sit on a cushion with their legs crossed and focus on breathing deeply. Others attend classes and learn different techniques.
  • Buddhists may celebrate Nirvana Day by meditating or by going to Buddhist temples or monasteries. 
  • Nirvana Day is an annual Buddhist festival that remembers the death of the Buddha when he reached Nirvana at the age of 80. Nirvana is believed to be the end of the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is reached when all want and suffering is gone. Most Buddhists celebrate Nirvana Day on the 15 February. Others celebrate it on 8 February. It is also known as Parinirvana Day.
  • Mandalas are used by Buddhists to help them meditate. A mandala represents a symbolic depiction of the universe. They can be made using coloured sand, or they can be a painting on a wall or scroll.


Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples.
  • Make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers.

Planning this activity

  • You could invite a local Buddhist faith leader along to your session.
  • If you’re not able to arrange a visit from a faith leader as part of the session, we’ve included some information about Buddhism on this page.
  • If they’re able to, you may want to ask the group to do their own research and share what you find out at the session.

Get comfortable

  1. Explain that this activity will use some of the techniques from the Anapanasati Sutta, a Buddhist sacred text, to guide you through basic mindful breathing.
  2. Everyone should get ready for mindful breathing by finding a space and getting into a comfortable position. This may be sitting cross-legged, sitting with a straight back, lying down or sitting on a chair.
  3. Some people may want to close their eyes to help them focus. Remind everyone to keep their mind on their breathing and try not to let their thoughts wander.
  4. Some Buddhists sit in the ‘lotus’ position, with their right foot on the left thigh and their left foot on their right thigh. Try the ‘half lotus’ by just moving one foot. However, the position must be comfortable for you to be able to focus on your breath.

Be mindful

  1. Everyone should try to sit still and relax their body as much as possible. Tell everyone to breathe out slowly through their mouth, then close their mouth and try only breathe through their nose from then on.
  2. Now, everyone should breathe in as normal, then breathe out while counting to one in their head.
  3. This time, breathe in as normal and count to two on the next breath out.
  4. Keeping counting gently and slowly in this way, until you reach ten, making each breath longer and longer.
  5. Your mind may begin to think about other things, but try and forget about everything else and focus only on your breath. It’s OK if you lose track, just start from one again.
  6. When you’ve reached ten, now begin counting for the breath in, rather than the breath out. 
  7. Start by breathing in as normal, hold the breath for a count of one in your head, then breathe out through your nose as normal.
  8. Keep building the length of the breath in up until your reach ten. 
  9. You could also just focus on your breathing as you breathe in and out. Try to breathe in, then pause, still thinking only about your breathing, then breathe out and pause before you breathe in again.
  10. Ask everyone to pay attention to the subtle sensation at the tip of the nose where the breath first enters and last leaves the body. If thoughts come into your mind, focus on your breath again.

After the breathing technique

  1. Ask everyone to slowly open their eyes, if they have them closed, and stretch.
  2. Ask everyone how they felt during the mindful breathing and how do they feel now. If anyone is happy and comfortable to, they could share their thoughts with the group. Does anyone practice mindful breathing or meditation as part of their normal routine?
  3. Ask if anyone can remember some of the things they’ve learned about Buddhism and meditation.
  4. See if anyone can think of how Buddhists’ use of meditation, as a form of prayer or worship, compares to their own beliefs. Can anyone think of one similarity and one difference between their beliefs or values and what Buddhists believe/
  5. Some people could think about how different people pray or worship as part of their faith, if they have one. If they don’t have a faith, people could think about how they choose to clear their mind, relax, calm any busy thoughts or reflect.

Reflection

This activity was a chance to reflect on and develop beliefs and values. Sometimes it can be really useful to chat about these with friends and share them with each other. Sharing can help people see what they have in common and help them work together better as a team. What values did the whole group share? Did any of them match any Scout values?

This activity was also about being an international citizen and connecting with people from other faiths and parts of the world. It isn’t just Buddhists who meditate or practice mindfulness: these activities can have a positive effect on anyone’s physical and mental state. Some people find that it helps with things like restlessness or anxiety too. Ask everyone how they found the session. Was it difficult to stay still or concentrate? Did anyone feel easily distracted? See if anyone can think of any other ways they relax or practice mindfulness. If they enjoyed the meditation, challenge everyone to try it again in their own time over the next week.

Safety

All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

This is a basic introduction to meditation through mindful breathing. You could extend the activity and try out a metta bhavana or ‘loving-kindness’ meditation with the group. Look at information from The Buddhist Centre or Buddhanet as a guide.

Make sure everyone can find a comfortable position to take part. It isn’t necessary to sit cross-legged on the floor: mindful breathing could take place lying down or sitting in a chair. This activity talks about the physical aspects of meditation, but it’s really about working with the mind.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Anyone can have a go at leading the group though the mindful breathing activity.