Clinical psychologists from the University of Sheffield have discovered young children’s concentration in class can be significantly improved by introducing mindfulness sessions into their school timetable.
When we think of mindfulness, many times our thoughts go directly to formal meditations. Guided meditations can be an integral part of developing a mindfulness practice; but you can also cultivate mindfulness informally by focusing their attention on the moment to moment sensations of individual activities. Doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention allows a person to slow down the process and be fully present in the moment as it unfolds and allowing recognition of all senses.
Two Informal Mindfulness Activities
Building Stone Towers
Stone Tower Building is like a mini-meditation. It gives children the opportunity to be quiet, think and focus just on what they are doing. Their silent fixed attention is fully in the moment of balancing…
If we plant a seed but don’t give it the right environment how can we expect it to grow? We may start to notice the earth drying out, we may notice mould forming. But if we simply react and try to add more water or move it into the sunlight, will the seed sprout? It may do so temporarily, but if we are not nurturing it, fostering a routine and balance of water, sunlight, nutrients, how can we expect the plant to thrive? It will simply learn to survive. Like a seed, compassion needs to be nurtured. But what measures are we taking to cultivate and grow compassion in our students?
While having strategies and tools in the moment of a conflict can help resolve it more quickly, it seems educators and schools could be doing more to develop emotional intelligence in students. We need a balance of remedies and prophylactics to maintain emotional health in our school communities. We need to develop healthy emotional habits for students that best prepare them to reflect on their emotional state and consider the emotions of others. Policies and procedures for addressing ‘bullying’ and ‘conflict’ is no longer enough. We need to foster compassion and empathy in students so that conflict is experienced as another part of life that must be explored and confronted, rather than avoided. We need to be reminded of our humanity, and the love we were born into the world with.
“Children teach you compassion. They come out, they’re half an hour old, and they’re already wiser than you are. And what they know how to teach you is how to have unconditional love, how to be completely absorbed with another human being and devoted to that human being. And the joy you get from that. And if you think ‘Gee, if I treated everyone the way I treated my little six-week old baby, then I would have a lot of joy.'” ~ George Lucas, Project Happiness Film
Water the Seeds of Compassion
“Compassion is comprised of that capacity to see clearly into the nature of suffering. The ability….to recognise also that ‘I’m not separate’ from this suffering…We aspire to transform suffering…and we cannot be attached to outcome.” ~ Joan Halifax
TEDTalk: Joan Halifax shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.
“The conditions for compassion to be activated, to be aroused, are particular conditions” ~ Joan Halifax