We would like our students to leave our school with a ‘good heart’, sound ethical values and a sense of responsibility combined with the academic and social skills that enable them to make a successful transition into secondary education.
We hope our students will go on to act in ways that benefit themselves, their community, society and the world at large.
Mindfulness in Education is a developing movement in the UK. Scientific research shows that mindfulness practice may be of particular benefit to children during their primary school years when the brain’s limbic system (that controls emotion and behaviour) is still developing. Core life skills, emotional literacy and personality traits formed during this crucial period help determine how we will function as adults.
So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness and meditation are often confused with relaxation techniques, however in their truest form the practices are about focused attention on the present moment, leading to a heightened awareness of one’s self and the world around. This is sometimes referred to as a state of ‘relaxed attention’. Through the practice of mindfulness we are able to achieve stillness and space within ourselves, counteracting the force of incessant thoughts with wise and considered action rather than impulsive behaviour. Mindfulness can be practiced through silent or guided meditation (using a mantra, focusing on the breath or the sounds or objects around us), through focused physical activity such as yoga, walking or eating, and as part of our daily lives through our interactions with others and the world around us.
Regular mindfulness practice can help us ‘step back’ from situations and act with clarity, wisdom and perspective, rather than simply reacting in the heat of the moment. We are more able to focus on solutions rather than problems and to manage conflict and stress more effectively. This enables us to think and act with more awareness rather than just functioning and getting by. The positive effects of mindfulness are grounded not only in spiritual tradition, but in scientific fact. Whilst rooted in Buddhist philosophy, the practice of mindfulness is not dependent on a religious belief system. It is increasingly recognised in western psychology as an effective way of reducing stress and enhancing focus, self-awareness and emotional well-being.
Sessions of one to two minutes, as silent or guided meditations, several times a week are effective for young children, and connecting mindfulness with regular daily activities such as eating, working and playing is a useful way to develop patience, compassion and self-awareness. In meditation children become aware of their thoughts and how rapidly their mind moves from one thought to another. In this way children begin to understand the power of thought and feeling and have an opportunity to observe and learn how they respond to situations and people around them.
In daily meditation the older children are given a range of opportunities to reflect on and discuss experiences that have affected their inner world. Such meditations may involve situations in which they did not get what they wanted, or were given what they did not want, and experiences of separation from special people or pets. Children reflect on the experience and talk about it afterwards often expressing some relief or understanding. This requires receptive and non-judgmental listening by the teacher and is frequently experienced as positive and meaningful by children, teachers and observers.
This is a positive approach to living rather than a quick fix for problems. To be effective, it needs to be integrated into children’s education as an ethos, a daily practice that is encouraged over the long-term just like healthy eating and exercise.
“I like meditation because it makes me more peaceful and gives my head a rest from information” – Pupil
” Meditation helps her relax and learn how to be still and quiet with others” – Parent