There are three fundamental processes required for mindfulness to occur: forming intention, paying attention and adjusting your attitude (Shapiro, Carltion, Astin & Freedman, 2006). Mindfulness is a purposeful act and, the process of becoming mindful, can seem to be selfish in today’s society that deems multi-tasking to be what successful people do to be successful. Thus, we have people who can not calm their mind and recognise individual thoughts and feelings which leads to fight or flight reactions that are hard wired into our natural reflexes.
A study suggest that mindfulness promotes significant positive changes in the brain structures that deal with learning and memory processes, self-referential processing, emotion regulation and perspective-taking. In short, all the skills we want children to have for effective teaching and learning to occur (Hole life et al., 2011).
There are many strategies for practicing and developing mindfulness which I will explore in future blogs. But, if I were to be asked which practice has had the most significant impact on mindfulness development, I would have to say meditation.
My introduction to meditation actually occurred at a very young age, however I didn’t call it meditation. I called it prayer. I will not get into any religious debate. But, I have come to realise that guided prayer, such as saying the rosary led by someone, was a relaxing activity that allowed my body to relax, my breathing to become regular and my mind to focus on one thing, the prayer. In my opinion, this is why I believe people find solace in prayer.
In an earlier post, I wrote, “The word itself usually conjures up images of people sitting in a lotus position, hands with pinched fingers resting on the knees and the person saying, “Ooommmmmm”, at regular intervals. This perception is not entirely wrong. This is a form of mindfulness called meditation and meditation, though extremely effective and powerful, is only one way to be mindful.”
It is through guided meditation that I find my most peaceful mind and has the longest residual impact on my health and well being. So, how do we get this into the classroom?
It is not a prerequisite, however I do believe that the person leading the children in developing their mindfulness toolkit, should also be developing their own strategies or, at least trying out the tools.
The number one reason that adults give me for not doing meditation is that they don’t have time. Meditations can be as short or as long as you want. I have even seen a pair of ladies from Australia sharing their one minute meditations. I always suggest at least 10-15 minute meditation first thing in the morning or a longer 30 minute meditation just before going to sleep at night. But, honestly, those few minutes leave you so relaxed and refreshed that you would swear you have had double or triple that time in good, deep sleep. So, well with the few minutes a day!
I, personally, find meditation very difficult. My mind wonders here and there and I find myself feeling like a cowboy, wrangling my thoughts like a herd of wild horses! So, I always recommend guided meditation; particularly in the beginning.
There are many mindfulness apps and YouTube videos that are great for guided meditation. Most of these apps have free beginner guided meditations. There are costs involved if you want more advanced meditations. However, from my experience the free parts are good for trying out the tools. The apps I currently have on my tablet are Omvana, Headspace (highly recommended by some teachers at my school) and, my favourite at the moment, Calm. (The Calm Classroom Initiative is offering every teacher in the world free access to Calm, the mindfulness app that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world use everyday. Their aim is to empower teachers with mindfulness tools and resources they can use to help kids learn this new skill. https://www.calm.com/schools ) My all time favourite meditations, however, are the personalised guided meditations From YouTube. I consider what I want to focus on (stress, self-confidence, anxiety, sleep, etc.) and what kind of meditation (visualisation meditation that feels like a mini holiday, affirmation, body scan, etc.) and search “guided medititation for …”. I then consider how much time I want to dedicate to the meditation and choose one. (Examples below)
I suggest that guided meditation be a scheduled activity in your school day. You may choose it to be at anytime. I personally believe it is most effectual first thing in the morning or at the very beginning of afternoon lessons. Also, it is best to limit the meditations to 10 minutes or less. You know your class best.
There are a lot of good guided meditations for children on YouTube and free scripts online. (Examples below)
Like anything else, practice makes perfect. At first, you will have some children that will find this difficult; staying quiet and focusing on one thing is as hard for some children as it is for some adults. Encourage the children to close their eyes and just do what the meditation says to do. If they find it difficult to close their eyes, have them focus on one spot for the duration. Ignore any nonconformity within the meditation and keep doing them as scheduled. Over time, they will start to relax and meditate in their own way. Interesting is the fact that these are the children that most need to meditate. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The key is being able to calm the mind by focusing the mind in the moment.
Back to Basics Guided Meditation- https://youtu.be/IzV6J4WCwRM (15 minutes)
5 minute quick meditation- https://youtu.be/ytgL6slPNX8?list=PLwRp13WDIrMNywoE9Nd6BIJqDT_dPJrJq (5 minutes)
Secret Garden Meditation- https://youtu.be/YW-GcRr3zuQ?list=PLwRp13WDIrMNywoE9Nd6BIJqDT_dPJrJq (15 minutes)
Floating on Ocean Meditation- https://youtu.be/7DSXtxrIdmY?list=PLwRp13WDIrMNywoE9Nd6BIJqDT_dPJrJq (10 minutes)
Updated 4th January 2017
I have complied a large number of guided meditations of various lengths on my YouTube Channel which can be found here: (Look in the Library for meditations from 2 minutes to 1+ hours.)
5 Minute Meditations: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv4a-oA0ga0XImzveOmiQa0q
10 minute meditations : http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv6uL9BQUdRjbJse6scuYaLy
Additional Resources: (Updated 10th March 2016)
Mindfulness Exercises for Kids: Still Quiet Place (GoZen!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIJn5XhqPN8
Tree Meditation-3 minute easy meditation- https://youtu.be/mc24izlaLqA
5 minute Mindfulness Bell Meditation- https://youtu.be/wGFog-OuFDM
Mindfulness for Kids I- 7 Children’s Meditations & Mindfulness Practices to Help Kids Be More Focused, Calm and Relaxed by Nicola Kluge- This is a good resource for guided meditations that include pre-meditation questions and post-meditation activities.
Updated 4th January 2017
I have also complied 60+ meditations suitable for children on my YouTube Channel which you can find here:
Meditations for Children: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv4bN1ci-1k_r-EcbW_4sImJ
Meditations for Teenagers: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv54sTn4fbH4RiLQ–PGFiQs
Updated 5th November 2017
Free Guided Meditation Scripts by Green Child : http://www.greenchildmagazine.com/guided-relaxation/
If you currently meditate alone or with you class, share your experiences in the comments below.