Every morning, as soon as she awakens, 13-year-old Joelle Cazeault sits up in her bed, closes her eyes and performs a ritual unknown to most children. She spends 10 minutes doing Transcendental Meditation.
"I repeat my mantra and it slows my breathing," says the student at College St. Maurice in Ste. Hyacinthe.
Ditto for the afternoon. Joelle meditates when she gets home from school and, she says, it gives her the alertness and focus she needs to do her homework.
Meditation is a ritual she began three years ago when her parents, who have meditated since the 1970s, enrolled her in a Transcendental Meditation course: "They think it's important for my life and that it can help me become enlightened."
Perhaps it is inevitable that baby boomers, the generation that learned to chill out in heightened states of consciousness, want their offspring to experience the same.
Children as young as 10 are learning Transcendental Meditation and are reaping the rewards at school. "I always had good marks but they got even better after I learned to meditate," says Joelle.
She's at the forefront of a coming trend. There is a growing push in the U.S. to put "ohm" in schools by making Transcendental Meditation part of the curriculum. The movement is poised to take Canada with it.
A U.S.-based group called Stress-Free Schools has helped set up T.M. programs in 50 schools south of the border and has piqued the interest of educators in Canada.
Six Montreal-area schools want the program.
"My students deserve to have this, and it will transform the whole school," says Marielle Mayers, an elementary school principal in Ville d'Anjou.
Michele Beausoleil, a Montreal teacher of T.M., is keen to get started: "We're ready to teach the children, teachers and principals and I'll work to help the schools find funding from foundations."
Stress-Free Schools was founded in 2004 by a group of meditating parents in New York City, who were concerned about social problems in their schools.
Two months ago, the organization held a conference at Montreal's Ritz-Carlton Hotel to explain to educators how teaching T.M. to children as young as 10 can benefit their schools.
"It's a seven-step program," says Michele Beausoleil, a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, which is so specific that it is a trademarked practice. First comes a lecture on the benefits of T.M., then a second lecture to prepare students for the process. Then each student gets to ask the teacher questions. Next up are 60-minute lessons, one a day for the next four days. Each student is given a mantra. It all takes about a week, and there's follow-up by the T.M. teacher to ensure proper technique.