Morning breaks over Amman, a watercolour sunrise of pastel pinks and oranges. The city has long since awoken with busy-body cars honking their paths to work and shopkeepers brushing out the night’s shadows onto dusty streets. Children toddle off to school in green uniforms: hair brushed back, backpacks nearly their own size. Another day in Amman.
In the cool, early morning, we gathered in the spirals of incense, wrapped in shawls for the morning’s meditation. Today we were lucky enough to have scheduled (on quite short notice) two programs just outside of Amman. Both were planned to be quite small, so just a few of us went: tea sploshing as we slipped into taxis to traverse the troublesome traffic and arrive at our first destination: Ajnadeen School for Girls.
We were greeted with laughing children encircling our car. Wide, warm smiles welcoming us to their school: a maze of bright pink hallways adorned with pretty paintings (done by none other than themselves, of course). Our first group was a mixture of thirteen to fifteen year-old girls, quietly awaiting us with hands folded, unsure of what to expect from the strange visitors.
We began with introductions and the “Name Game”, where I find that no matter how hard I try I simply cannot remember a single one of their unique and wonderful names. My embarrassment comes in handy though – as we all laugh over my stumbling, their shyness turns to confidence and excitement. After another round of games, the giggling subsided and we settled in for our first meditation together.
Every meditation on this tour has been different depending on the setting and the children. Sometimes many get distracted when it’s too noisy and other times many are able to meditate for quite a while. Today was one of those days. Even without music to fill the silence, they were able to sit with eyes closed, ready to experience the peace within. Peace being a word which they defined as something that makes them relaxed, happy, creative, comfortable, safe, proud and a place with no wars.
When the meditation ended we asked if they had felt anything that they wished to share. Similar to every time before, the student’s answers astounded me, for although they have no prior knowledge of meditation, after this one session they vividly described cool and warm breezes, tingling across their fingers, a feeling of peace in their hearts and having gone completely thoughtless.
When we concluded the session, instead of getting up to leave they began raising their hands to tell us, in English or Arabic, about how much they enjoyed the experience. More than one raised their hand to sweetly say, “I love you.” In that moment, amongst the diverse group of strong, young girls, there was a sense of similarity and unity. In forty-five minutes they had all become my little sisters and I so wished to go amongst them to listen to their stories, hug and encourage them.
Knowing that most were either very poor, refugees or orphans, I left their shining faces and small waving hands, hoping that this short meditation, this discovery of a silent palace of peace found only within, would continue to make a difference in their lives.
Back in the car we watched as the setting changed from a rural landscape of desert dust and shabby houses to white-washed apartment buildings and shiny cars. Our next program was located in one of the richer neighbourhoods of Amman at Dabouq School. We would be working with a group of girls similar in age to those of our previous program. We went through the routine of introductions, a game and meditation. When asked about their experience they too responded that they became more peaceful inside and had felt something above their heads and across their hands.
They asked many questions and we tried to answer them as best we could, knowing that soon many would have to leave for their next class. At some point one of us asked if it would be possible to do a concert for the girls (we often have difficulty leaving) and as luck would have it the staff said yes-in twenty minutes!
The rest of the M2R group soon arrived, opening the door to fifty girls laughing as they played the “Clapping Game”, teachers just as excited stood rooting them on from the side. We began to set up our equipment and by the time we were ready, we looked up to find that the room had completely filled. Every song we played was overflowing with joy; the students were clapping along, singing lyrics they didn’t know and giggling with delight.
We conducted another meditation, allowing ourselves to slip into the sound of the violin’s sweet song and bask in the warmth of the sunshine coming through the open windows. The room was an ocean of vibrations and my heart was a buoy.
By the the time we finished the program, everyone’s eyes were shining and many came up to give us hugs or laugh as they showed us how red their hands were from clapping. One wished that she could join the group. In all honesty, I find myself always wanting to take them along with us. We could always use more people playing shakers.
On the drive home it crossed my mind of how wonderful it would be if someday, somewhere in the world, I’d meet someone who would tell me about how they discovered meditation as kid from a group who once visited their school. Perhaps they would tell me that they continued to meditate and that the peace they found within made an impact on their life. We would continue talking and discover it was our group and that she was one of those lovely, smiling girls I met today. To learn that a life of poverty or fear, of confusion or a life without direction, changed course today with one meditation would be something indescribable.