meditation and education

A head start with mindfulness

Craig Hassed, Times Higher Education: Don’t dismiss the meditation technique as a fad: its well documented benefits for those in demanding careers make a strong case for teaching it at university, says Craig Hassed.

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, but its potential importance to higher education has not yet been broadly recognized.

It can be described as a form of meditation and a way of living. It is a mental discipline that involves not only sharpening present-moment attention but also cultivating the attitude with which we pay attention: one of curiosity, acceptance, openness …

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Why teaching kindness in schools is essential to reduce bullying

Lisa Currie, Edutopia: Phrases like “random acts of kindness” and “pay it forward” have become popular terms in modern society. This could perhaps be best explained by those who have identified a deficiency in their lives that can only be fulfilled by altruism.

It seems there are good reasons why we can’t get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions, as scientific studies prove there are many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits associated with kindness.

As minds and bodies grow, it’s abundantly clear that children require a healthy dose …

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The power of mindfulness — in schools

Mindfulness is increasingly being used in schools to help children deal with stress and to improve their ability to manage their emotions. It also helps with focus, attention, and memory. In some schools where mindfulness has been taught, detention rates have decreased dramatically — even dropping to zero.

One school in Baltimore, Robert W. Coleman elementary, has replaced detention with meditation and is seeing astonishing results. In this video, Ali Smith, founder of the Holistic Life Foundation, joins the Emmy award-winning daytime talk show, The Doctors, to discuss the program he helped set up.

This CBS This Morning clip also discusses how mindfulness is being brought into the school. Twice a day, more than 300 students participate in a 15-minute long “mindful moment,” where they focus on breathing. What’s most remarkable about this program is that it’s being done in a neighborhood where kids are traumatized by violence and prevalent drug-dealing. Ali, and his brother Ahmed, are from the area and wanted to bring about social change.

At the time the second video above was published, the program had spread to 14 schools in the area, reaching around 4,000 children.

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Mindfulness can help combat test anxiety

Dr. Caryn Richfield, Montgomery News: With the school year well under way, many high school students are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of tests looming on the horizon. Some teens are taking AP courses as early as ninth grade and many are simultaneously taking an intense load of rigorous classes, which can make test preparation quite daunting.

These academic demands are compounded by the additional stress of preparing for standardized tests, such as the SAT, SAT subject tests and the ACT. Our teens are constantly having to study and retrieve information under pressure, over and …

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Mindfulness goes to school

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Dr. Susan Mathison, Inforum:

Our kids are back to the routine of school. The energy is high as we walk through the hallways, with lots of chatter and sharing events from the prior day. But high energy doesn’t always translate well to listening and focusing on tasks at hand in the classroom. Some schools around the country are turning to mindfulness as a strategy for improving attention and helping kids make better choices.

Mindfulness was a term first used in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and is defined by him as paying attention on purpose to the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. It has some roots in Buddhist meditation traditions but is now used in medical and therapeutic settings around the world.

Mindfulness is being used in the workplace (Google and more), in the U.S. military, in professional sports, and even on Capitol Hill, where Congressman Tim Ryan used mindfulness techniques during weekly staff meetings.

Studies show promising effects of mindfulness training on mental health and well-being: improved attention, reduced stress, and better emotional regulation and an improved capacity for compassion and empathy. It’s no wonder that mindfulness has fans in education.

Since England led the way in 2007 by adding mindfulness instruction, many similar programs have started in the U.S. to train teachers in mindfulness curricula. Among the largest is Mindful Schools. Mindful Schools has found that not only do students benefit, but teachers also benefit with lowered stress, more connection with students and higher job satisfaction.

California educator and author of “The Joy Plan,” Kaia Roman, uses the following exercises with students:

The Bell Listening Exercise

Ring a bell and ask the kids to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Tell them to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then tell them to remain silent for one minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. After, go around in a circle and ask the kids to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute. This exercise is fun and gets kids interested in sharing their experiences.

Breathing Buddies

Hand out a stuffed animal (or another small object) to each child. If room allows, have the children lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animals on their bellies. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. The presence of the Breathing Buddy makes the meditation a little friendlier, and allows the kids to see how a playful activity doesn’t necessarily have to be rowdy.

The Squish and Relax Meditation

While the kids are lying down with their eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished-up positions for a few seconds, then fully release and relax. This is a great, fun activity for “loosening up” the body and mind, and is a totally accessible way to get the kids to understand the art of “being present.”

The Heartbeat Exercise

Have the kids jump up and down in place for one minute. Then have them sit back down and place their hands on their hearts. Tell them to close their eyes and feel their heartbeats, their breath, and see what else they notice about their bodies.

Mountain Breath

This can be done sitting or standing. It is good to have the leader do this, too! As you inhale through your nose, raise your arms as high as you can and bring your palms together high over the top of your head. Imagine you are as tall as a mountain. As you exhale through your mouth, bring your palms together in front of your chest.

The class curriculum may already be set for this year, but these may be fun activities that can be done at home, too. My son has long been a fan of deep-breathing exercises. Usually it’s something I suggest if he’s feeling antsy, but on a few occasions, he’s thought to do them himself.

There are lots of great resources available. Harvard clinician Dr. Christopher Willard has several books, including “Growing Up Mindful.” Amazon of full of great resources. I bought a CD called Indigo Ocean Dreams for my son. It has some peaceful stories about bubbles, ocean waves and breathing. Also check out websites like MindfulTeachers.org and CalmerChoice.org.

Just breathe and be present. It’s good for kids, teachers and parents.

Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo.

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When teachers take a breath, students can bloom

Anya Kamentz, NPR: Garrison Institute looks a little like Hogwarts. The retreat center is housed in a former monastery amid tranquil green hills overlooking the Hudson River, 60 miles north and a world away from New York City.

Inside the airy chapel on a recent summer afternoon, about 35 educators from the U.S. and at least five foreign countries are seated quietly, shoes off.

“Just notice your breath, the sensation of your air coming in, going out,” says Christa Turksma, a Dutch woman dressed all in white with silver-white hair. She’s one …

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It’s brain science: University fights binge drinking with meditation

Susan Donaldson James, NBCNews: A song by U2 blares from loudspeakers as Dr. James Hudziak tosses a brain-shaped football back and forth to students, calling them out by name as they file in to the University of Vermont lecture hall.

The neuroscience course, “Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies,” is about to begin, first with meditation, then the latest research on the benefits of clean living.

The class is part of a pioneering program — Wellness Environment or WE, which is anchored in four pillars of health: exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and mentorship.

Last year, the university accepted 120 …

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Calming the teenage mind in the classroom

Kelly Wallace, CNN: At the start of the school year at Marblehead High School in Massachusetts, students started moving their desks out of the way, grabbing a mat and laying down on the floor for guided meditation before French class. Lexxi Seay, a senior, was skeptical.

“I actually never believed really in meditation. … I thought it was a joke,” she said during an interview.

That all changed one day back in September. While she was on her computer working and everyone else in her class was meditating, she just fell asleep sitting up. “When I …

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Mindfulness: the craze sweeping through schools is now at a university near you

Harriet Swain, The Guardian: Slowly take a raisin and examine every wrinkle and fold of its surface. Feel its texture with your fingers. Inhale its scent. Squeeze it and hear how it sounds. Raise it to your lips, place it in your mouth, explore it with your tongue. Prepare to chew. As you bite into it, notice the bursts of taste and how these change, and be aware of when you feel ready to swallow. Finally, feel the raisin travel into your body.

This is a common introductory exercise in mindfulness – a practice derived from Buddhist meditation that involves paying attention to the …

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Building a community of self-compassion

wildmind meditation newsBetsy Hanger, Mindful Schools: At the Brooklyn public high school where I worked as an English and mindfulness teacher, the principal came in one afternoon during a guided practice on self-compassion. He quietly took a seat among my ninth grade students and closed his eyes. Though he’d encouraged me to start the school’s mindfulness program, he hadn’t witnessed our daily practice.

We were silently repeating short statements meant to cultivate self-compassion. “May I be safe and protected from inner and outer harm. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I experience joy in my life.” I offered students the …

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