Mindfulness in the Classroom- Finger Labyrinth Meditation

 lab1b

Labyrinths have been around for over 4,000 years with labyrinth stone wall carvings, clay tablets and coins dating back to the Bronze Age. Labyrinths have been featured in Greek and Roman mythology and, in the Middle Ages, they started to appear in churches and temples around the world. Labyrinths have been used by many different cultures and religions across time as they have been known to be used for relaxation, meditation and prayer that can bring spiritual and emotional well-being to the lives of those who used them.

Now, labyrinths can be found in hospital gardens, parks, schools and home gardens as they are known for their meditative properties.

What is a Labyrinth?

11597110-large

A Labyrinth is not a maze; a maze has blind dead ends that are used to confuse and trick the mind. A labyrinth is a spiral course having a single, winding unobstructed path from the outside to the centre that is used to calm and relax.

What is a Finger Labyrinth?

l-7bwbig

A finger labyrinth is similar to a full sized labyrinth you would walk except it is on a much smaller and more portable scale. The user traces the path to the centre using your finger rather than with their feet. There are many different kinds of labyrinths differing in size and complexity.

Finger Labyrinths are known to help children relax, feel better when they are sad or scared, deal with situations when they feel ashamed or embarrassed and help them to concentrate.

How to do a Finger Labyrinth Meditation?

  1. Take deep breaths to begin to relax and focus on the entrance to the labyrinth.
  2. Place your pointer finger from your non-dominate hand on the entrance of the labyrinth. If you find this too awkward at first, use your dominate hand. However, over time, keep trying your non-dominate hand. This helps keep the mind focused on the meditation due to the challenge it presents.
  3. Slowly trace the pattern of the labyrinth with your finger allowing your mind to clear from extra thought and focus solely on following the path of the labyrinth.
  4. “Walk” to the centre of the labyrinth and rest momentarily, taking deep breaths observing how you are feeling.
  5. Retrace your path out of the labyrinth.
  6. Sit back, breathe deeply and relax. Observe how you are feeling again.

Note: The same steps apply for a Walking Labyrinth, except you slowly walk the path.

Free Printable Finger Labyriths:

Other Activities:

150361_457330827389_683592389_5349828_8251244_nChildren01 P9150183

Meditations can take many forms and have been around for centuries. The important part is allowing you to be in the moment and letting other thoughts float past.

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Mindful Doodling

MindfulDoodling2

Time to doodle!

I can almost hear the collective intake of breath at the very idea that doodling can be good for you or have anything to do with mindfulness meditation.

Doodling, over the years, has received a bad rap!

Who hasn’t begun doodling in the margins of their notes during lessons or a meeting? According to a study published by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, doodling while listening can help with remembering details. During the research, subjects were given a doodling task while listening to a dull phone message. 29% of the people doodling improved recall compared to their non-doodling participants.

But, this type of doodling, good as it might be, is not a mindful activity.

The goal of Mindful Doodling is to fully engage with your doodles in a meditative way. It requires slowing down, focusing on the paper and pen and doodling repeatively with full intent. Thus, you become present in the moment.

Thus, mindful doodling:

  • focuses the mind
  • calms the body and mind
  • relieves stress
  • encourages relaxation
  • increases your sense of wellbeing
  • replaces negative or bored habits
  • allows you to be present and aware

MindfulDoodling1

How to do Mindful Doodling?

You don’t need to have any drawing skills for this to work. (This is a good point as I DO NOT have good drawing skills!) There really isn’t any right or wrong way to mindfully doodle. It is not about the end result but about the process that is being taken.

  1. Draw, by freehand, a border around the outer edge.
  2. In this step you can do one of three things:
  • Draw a string inside your border. ( A string is a simple curved line/squiggle that will lend structure to your design as your pattern will emerge accordingly from the contours of the string. The string divides the border into sections.)
  • Draw straight or angled lines free hand within the border dividing the area into smaller sections.
  • Choose a corner of the border and begin step 3.
  1. Start creating your doodle with patterns drawn with a pen or marker along the contours of the string, lines or border. Allow the pattern to reveal itself naturally. There is no right or wrong. You can use very simple shapes, lines, dots, squiggles and more. Shade as you desire and be mindful of and deliberate with each stroke.
  2. Keep going until you are finished. You will know when this is.
  3. Enjoy your creation!

Remember: There are NO mistakes. So, no erasing is allowed. Embrace the mark you have made and use it to continue your meditative journey of mindfully doodling.

Top Tips:

  • You can use any size paper you desire. It can be as small as a post it note or as large as a poster. It is up to you. However, I suggest that in the beginning you start on a smaller sheet as you get the hang of this mindfulness activity.
  • The finer the points of the pens/markers, the finer the detail will be in the doodles.

MindfulDoodling3

How to share Mindful Doodling with children?

Again, there is no right or wrong way to teach children to doodle mindfully except encouraging children to be present in the moment as they are doodling. Impress on the children that there is no mistakes in the process and allow each mark to lead to the next mark.

Playing music, as described in my post Mindfulness in the Classroom- Music, will support the meditative nature of the process.

Now, get to doodling!

*Note: Some people call this Zendoodling or Zentangle.

 

 

Mindful Leadership in Education

leadership.png

Leadership in general is a lonely position and leadership in education is no different.   Senior leadership is fraught with obstacles and, like never before, educational leadership is teetering on a tight rope trying to balance the needs of the children with the needs of the staff and then government throws in an unexpected detour!

Take a few minutes to watch this video.

Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Apple, Intel and Starbucks, to name a few, are advocates of mindfulness in the workplace and leadership. Successful leaders, like Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder) and William Ford (of Ford Motor Company), praise the benefit of mindfulness.

Janice Marturano, one of the pioneers in bringing mindfulness to corporations defines Mindful Leadership: “A mindful leader is someone who embodies leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity and compassion in the service of others.”

What is Focus?

Focus is the ability to stay present to what must be done right now and in this moment. You can’t be distracted by a wandering mind. It is the ability to identify that the mind is wandering and ensure that it comes back to the here and now.

The jumping of thoughts from the conversation you had first thing in the morning with the care taker, to the email that popped in your email a half hour ago about a meeting you have to attend next week, to the difficult conversation you will have to have with a parent at the end of the day, to… It is never ending and before you know it, the meeting you are currently sitting in has come to an end and you are really not sure what has been said.

What is Clarity?

Clarity is your ability to see things for what they are and with full awareness of the emotions we are having and not allowing those emotions to biases our decisions.

Experiences make us who we are; they shape our emotions, good or bad. We can react to situations, logical or not, because of these experiences. I personally do not like the use of standardised test to judge the teaching and learning of a school. It evokes very strong emotions and frequently gets me into a rant. However, I also know I must find clarity of those emotions or I could make some bad decisions that would be detrimental to the school.

What is Curiosity?

Curiosity is the ability to stay open-minded by truly listening to all viewpoints and ideas and not automatically making a default decision. We cannot just assume that what we have done before is right for this moment in time.

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!

Sure, you may have been doing parents evening in a certain way since the dawn of man. The outline of the event was developed before technology became easily available and mothers seldom worked outside of the home. But, is this still effective? Do others have ideas? Listen and consider the possibilities.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is the ability to care for others, see different perspectives and make right decisions and take right actions for a person’s well-being.

As leaders, we can get caught up in our own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes things are not black and white. Being a compassionate leader is a humane thing to do. How YOU see things or would react to things is not the same as what another person may see or react. Surrounding yourself with other viewpoints allows you to gain a better perspective and better leader.

It can also mean being NICE!

How can I become a more mindful leader?

  1. Take a minute and breathe! Throughout the day, when you feel yourself becoming stress, uptight or upset, take a minute to centre yourself and breathe.
  2. One Minute Meditation
    1. Sit or stand comfortably
    2. Bring your attention to your breath
    3. Breathe naturally and count each inhale
    4. Focus your attention to your nostrils and notice the inhale and exhale of air
    5. Continue to count each breath until you reach one minute. This is roughly 15 breaths.
  3. Check In! Be fully present where you are listening to a member of your team, working on a strategic plan, having a meeting or preparing for a presentation. Take a breath and be in the moment; be present!
  4. Guided Meditation– Just 5 -15 minutes a day can start to train the mind to become calmer and gain greater focus and clarity. I like doing this first thing on a morning while the house is still quiet. However, others enjoy doing meditation at lunch time or on an evening just before going to sleep. You can find many guided meditations on Youtube for free. Here are a few:
    1. Guided Meditation for Anxiety and Stress Relief- https://youtu.be/Fpiw2hH-dlc
    2. 5 Minute Guided Meditation for Anxiety- https://youtu.be/MR57rug8NsM
    3. 5 Minute Miracle Guided Meditation- https://youtu.be/utfw-rJUvy4
    4. Positive Thinking Meditation- https://youtu.be/o0EQEiecSxs
    5. Ocean Escape- Guided Relaxation and Visualisation Meditation- https://youtu.be/vaHJ7WjKTaE
    6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation- https://youtu.be/PYsuvRNZfxE
    7. Sleep Meditations- These are longer and are to be listened to once you are in bed and ready to sleep.
      1. Guided Floating Meditation for Insomnia- https://youtu.be/S6jkW3AR9z4
      2. Floating Clouds Sleep Talk- https://youtu.be/JFf4vV5GKZ0
      3. Power Sleep Affirmations- https://youtu.be/pybN0TLnbbo
  5. Mindfulness Development- We have all trained to do the job we do, particularly in education, with most of us having a variety of degrees and years of education. So, it does make sense that we may also want to train in developing our own mindfulness.
    1. Apps for phones and tablets-Calm and Headspace offer free beginners sections on their apps that include daily meditations of various lengths and reminders for you to meditate.
    2. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programmes– These are usually online for 8 weeks or a two day weekend residential. There is a systematic learning of the scientific evidence of mindfulness as well as development of practice. There can be various costs involved with these programmes. However, there is a FREE 8 week online MBSR programme at http://palousemindfulness.com.
  6. Practise Gratitude– It seems like common sense, but consider how you can be a compassionate leader.
    1. Listen- Listening to what everyone has to say. That doesn’t mean that you will have to go with the consensus. It means that you get to hear and see different perspectives. This MAY change your decision or it MAY NOT. However, people will feel valued regarding to what they have to say.
    2. Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you.- Sure, you are the leader. But, how do you want to be treated? Can you treat them in the same way?
    3. Do fun or quirky things to show your appreciation! I personally enjoy doing a Lucky Dip Christmas Card Give Away at Christmas and an Easter Egg Hunt with prizes for Easter. It is the silly things that can make the greatest impact.
    4. Celebrate #PositivePostItDay- Find out more here:  https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/positivepostitday/

So, how in these stressful times, can Mindful Leadership make a difference?

  • It improves mental focus and mindful wandering.
  • It extends our attention span.
  • It discourages black and white thinking.
  • It assists in staying organised, managing time and setting priorities.
  • It lifts us from a constant, low level of panic and guilt.
  • It lowers wear and tear on our bodies.
  • It toughens immunity.
  • It improves mood and emotional stability.
  • It builds self-monitoring capacity.

You may be saying you just don’t have time for mindfulness. My question is to consider this; can you afford NOT to develop your mindfulness?

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness in the Classroom- Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence

Some experts say that mindfulness is the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Google’s, Search Inside Yourself, programme looks at the latest research in neuroscience and ancient contemplative wisdom to help their leaders fight distraction and to grow emotional intelligence by being more present in the moment.

In the Google training, participants undergo attention and mindfulness training exercises designed to build emotional intelligences. Google believes that these skills are crucial for successful leadership and performance of its employees.

If Google, a highly successful multi-national business, puts this much significance on mindfulness and emotional intelligence, shouldn’t we, as educators, want to be developing these skills in all children to allow them to be successful as well?

Exactly what is emotional intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity of individuals to recognize your own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Then, the first step in developing emotional intelligence is to get children to understand that their emotions are valid. It is not bad to have emotions, good or bad. It is how they deal with and react to these emotions that makes a difference.

What are a few mindful strategies to develop emotional intelligence in children?

  • Talk about emotions like you talk about the weather- Often and every day!
    • What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?
  • Use Inside Out (The Movie)- Many teachers find this movie a useful resource for teaching about emotions and controlling emotions.  There are a lot of resources online that have been created by teachers and parents using the movie.  A couple of useful free resources are:
  • Track your emotions with a diary or chart
    •  Have the children track their emotions for the day or at a certain time each day. Discuss how they are feeling? How does their body feel? Why do they believe they are feeling this way? What can they do to change their emotion if they are not happy with the emotion?
  •  Guided Reading- During guided reading sessions, have the children identify the emotions of the characters. Questions: Have you ever felt these emotions? Can you relate or empathise to how they are feeling? What could they do to change their emotion?
  • Recognising Emotions- Emotion Card Activity
    • This helps children to accurately recognise and name their own emotions and is appropriate for both ASD, children that have problems with emotional awareness and all other children. Emotion Cards
    • Using an Emotion Thermometer- Free printable emotional thermometer pictograms- Emotion Thermometer

 

What have you found successful in your classroom?