Merriam-Webster gives the definition of mindfulness as follows:
“The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also: such a state of awareness“
It is from this definition of mindfulness in which lies the focus of meditative practices. When implemented within the classroom setting, teachers and children can lower stress levels, encourage community and creativity, and learn about and become more aware of social, emotional and psychological interactions between peers and teachers and staff.
The concept of mindfulness is not a new one, but we’ve been dancing around the edges of this reawakening of sorts in our modern era, in which we are noticing the need more and more to approach each other with love and acceptance. This understanding has always been a paradox for humankind, but the more we reach out and grab a hold of this enlightenment, the more we can teach our children to make better choices for themselves, to help one another without selfishness, and to ultimately change the world for the better. This idea is something we older generations always strive for, even if at a subconscious level.
Teaching mindfulness to school kids is a wonderful method for opening pathways into higher understanding of one’s self and others. This understanding is gilded with acceptance and universal love. This is crucial lesson material for raising children in such a violent world. Practicing mindfulness also imparts emotional responsibility to children; instead of numbing, distracting or suppressing the emotions they feel throughout the day, mindfulness teaches our children to stop and breathe, reflect and review how they are feeling emotionally, and how those emotions impact the processes inside their bodies.
Mindfulness is also a means for children to become totally aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the actions created by the manifestation of those thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness requires self-reflection, meditation, and spiritual and emotional growth. Children can do this; when they’ve come to love themselves and learned empathy for others, they will have more confidence in their own dealings with society as they grow.
Mindfulness is meditation, and meditation is mindfulness. Even to begin a journey with meditation, whether guided in the beginning or not, is an understanding of what meditation is, what it entails and how it benefits and heals. Knowing these simple details already acknowledges the mindful approach to meditative practice. Once meditation is started and the more it is practiced, the more it serves to help develop mindfulness.
Self awareness is a beautiful thing, and meditation leads to this aspect of mindfulness. We have to be totally aware of our psychic workings within, as well as the biological workings that hold it all together. Meditation gives us glimpses into our subconscious and how it affects our bodies’ driven need to live and breathe and be.
The relationship between meditation and mindfulness is a deep and dependent one. Meditation can help augment and heighten mindfulness, and we need to be mindful in order to meditate, self reflect and turn inward emotionally and psychologically, and otherwise interact on a healthy level with all those around us.
Mindful practices have been proven to increase self-awareness, emotional and spiritual awareness and even a biological awareness in the respect that our bodies reflect our feelings, thoughts and emotions. When mindful and meditative practices are present in schools, community and harmony values are also present.
This is because of the many benefits of utilizing this human tool during lessons, meetings, activities and any interactions on campus. Mindfulness helps teachers lower stress, improve cognition, reflect on interactions between colleagues and students and offers a way to change thought patterns from negative emotions to positive emotions.
Harmonious learning environments are highly desirable, not just by the educators who are in charge of them, but by students and their families as well. It’s a fact that students learn better in a relaxed and creative type of environment, and mindfulness can benefit the community of a classroom by giving students and their teachers the opportunity to decompress and reflect after a challenging lesson, impart social awareness of themselves and their peers and can teach students how to process and handle their emotions without frustration and stress.
Check out some of the benefits for teachers who utilize mindful and meditative practices in the classroom:
- increases the awareness and responsiveness to students’ needs
- supports stress reduction and stress management, and helps foster healthy coping skills; this can reduce the rate at which educators become ‘burned-out’ in the classroom
- offers quiet reflection to assess emotions and offers mindful skills for interaction with colleagues, supervisors and students
- mindfulness can enhance the classroom climate
Benefits of mindful and meditative practices for students:
- increases awareness of self and others
- improvement in attention, concentration and critical thinking
- reduces test anxiety
- improves student participation in classroom activities
- fosters social and emotional learning & development
There are many resources on the topic of mindfulness and meditation. There have been mindfulness and meditative practice programs implemented into professional development workshops for educators all over the world. Many different people, no matter their culture, are beginning to see and experience the benefits of harmonious practice and interaction through mindfulness and meditative approaches to teaching within the classroom.
Here in the US, there have been rising numbers of educators and staff members of private schools and childcare facilities that attend mindfulness, meditation and emotional and spiritual health workshops. In fact, many schools and education facilities are realizing that with training their staff and educators on proper practice, development and implementation of mindfulness and meditation, they are keeping their educators refreshed, energized and less stressed, which is leading to lower rates of that hideous culprit of many teacher problems: burn-out.
Here are some great places to explore the meaning and practice of mindfulness and meditation, with some great resources that explain how to get yourself started with mindful practice, meditative therapy and stress reduction.
- MSC Teacher Training & Resources
- “Rethinking Professional Development”
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
- Contemplative Fellowships for Educators
- Inward Bound Mindfulness Education
Teachers all over the US have been developing lessons and activities with this goal in mind: to teach mindful practice to students. Introduction of mindfulness and meditation can be a tricky topic, but when done in small steps to the bigger picture, mindfulness activities will help build acceptance, community and harmony in the classroom.
Check out some of the following resources for getting started on introducing mindfulness in the classroom:
- Mindful Schools: Resources for Educators
- Mindful Teachers: Mindfulness Activities
- Psychology Tools: Worksheets, Handouts & More
- Kids’ Relaxation: Mindful Activities & Resources
The above resources also contain many more separate resources, activity guides, practice guides, lessons and more. Browse through and you’ll find a multitude of useful integration techniques, activity and lesson plans and other ways in which to implement mindful and meditative practices within the learning environment.
Mindfulness is a development process: it seeks to give understanding and acceptance to ourselves through the practice of being completely aware of internal and external stimuli and emotions within the moment. This process will serve to awaken and teach our children how to know themselves and their emotions, and specifically how to process those emotions moment by moment throughout their day.