Kate Orson believes you should be gently informing your children about New Age practices, all too prevalent at school and in the wider culture
Yoga and meditation/mindfulness are becoming more and more mainstream practices, sometimes being taught in school or clubs for children. In the West, the practices often appear to be secular, presented in such a way that it seems anyone can do them regardless of their religious or spiritual beliefs.
Sooner or later children are going to be exposed to the New Age, so I think it’s important to talk about them in advance, so they can be fully informed.
I can remember the first time I did meditation in a religious studies class, thirty years ago, when I was around age 13. It felt really good, very relaxing, and like an escape from the school routine.
If a child tries out a New Age practice and feels a benefit, then it can plant a seed and they may be drawn to the new age as they get older. After my own experience in the New Age I’ve come to see the practices as like a recreational drug. They feel good in the moment, and they can even come with some long term benefits. However the problem is, they are designed to put people into a trance-like state, which can open them up to spiritual warfare. What is confusing about spiritual practices is that while overindulging in alcohol comes with an obvious hangover the next day, the side effects of spiritual practices are harder to spot. But they will be there.
A research study from Dr. A Sumner at the University of Westminster looked at introducing yoga and meditation into schools. While the study found short term benefits, in the long term there were ‘minimal changes on validated measures of wellbeing, in comparison to the control group.’ What was interesting is that there was a higher level of perceived, self-reported benefits. The students enjoyed the practises, and felt they helped, even if objectively they didn’t improve their wellbeing much.
I think this is an important point to share with children. Modern society is full of messages these days like ‘just being yourself’ and doing what feels good. We can remind them that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things,’ (Jeremiah 17.9) and how the Bible warns us against simply going with our feelings. We need to think about what gives us long term benefit and joy which is of course, following Jesus and living in alignment with God’s will for our life.
For parents that don’t know much about new age practices, there are hundreds of testimonies on YouTube from ex.new agers who turned Christian. They share their experiences with a wide variety of different practices such as manifestation, witchcraft, Reiki, astrology, tarot cards etc. Hearing about their experiences can help to understand the negative side. The website Christian Answers For The New Age by ex.astrologer turned Christian, Marcia Montenegro gives a detailed overview of all the different practices.
As always, I find the best way to tackle informing our children is to pray and see what opportunities the Holy Spirit brings to plant a little seed. One simple way I explained it to my daughter recently when it came up in conversation is that meditation is about trying to ‘empty’ our mind, which can open us up to demonic influence, whereas the Bible tells us to be full of God’s word and meditate on that.
The New Age is everywhere now. If you look around your local bookshop or gift shop you will see that it is being subtly pushed in all kinds of merchandising. Books on magic and manifestation are in prime position. Mugs and notebooks are covered in horoscope constellations, and slogans about following your dreams. For children that grew up on Harry Potter it can be very exciting to discover that magic is indeed real, and ‘manifestation’ does work.
The false signs and wonders of the new age can be alluring. Perhaps the most important thing to share with our children, is that everything in the new age is a counterfeit, and that however amazing it might appear, God’s power and love for us is worth so much more.