STOP! Before you even begin anything, remember that mindfulness isn't a state of doing--it is a state of being, so says mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn. And even though the idea of "mindfulness" has been around for a couple thousand years, don't expect that it will mean the same thing for everybody.
Mindfulness is quite simply the state of being aware. Being present. You know, not stuck in the regret of yesterday, or living fearfully about tomorrow. It's simply about being present at this very moment, just acknowledging that you have breath inside you and an ability to see, smell, hear, touch, taste, and feel all that is around you.
Day 1: Welcoming Mindfulness
If you are skeptical about mindfulness and are not really sure if it's right for you, let alone your students, this is the perfect time and place to start. Whether it's the holidays, upcoming New Year's resolutions, school stress, or depression that's robbing you of being fully present, mindfulness is something that can work for anybody and anything. And the best part is that it doesn't have to cost a dime--so hooray for you and your budget!
Get the ball rolling with the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) from Virginia Commonwealth University. Yes, it may sound a little complex but it's actually just a simple assessment tool consisting of 15 questions. It's a great way to get students thinking about mindfulness in their lives and an excellent pre-assessment tool to gauge student success later on. Encourage students to really think about the questions and allow about 5 minutes to complete.
1. After completion of the MAAS, segue into this 60 Minutes interview of mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn by celebrity journalist Anderson Cooper. In about 12 minutes you've got enough introduction to mindfulness to have an informative, educational, and stimulating conversation on the topic with your students. But hold off on that discussion until Step 2.
2. Let's have a mindful moment with a journal. If you already have your students keep a journal, now is the perfect time to incorporate mindfulness into something they already do anyway.
Students have 10 minutes to write about what they learned about mindfulness in the video. If journaling is new to your students, there is no time like the present to start one.
3. Now let's talk about mindfulness. The curiosity of your students has already been piqued and they've penned down some mindful thoughts on paper. Now allow some time for classroom discussion. And encourage feedback from the skeptics as well as the new-found mindfulness believers. Allow a minimum of 15 minutes for as many students who feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
Total approximate time: 45 minutes
Day 2: Practicing Mindfulness
It's day two of your mindfulness classroom journey and by now, I'm sure, you've likely already had at least one student ask "Can we try this?"
It turns out that being mindful in the classroom is a lot easier than you might think. In fact the only hard thing you may encounter is sorting through the vast amount of mindfulness material that abounds you in cyberspace.
Mindfulness doesn't have to cost you endless hours of research and/or curriculum design. You won't need to plead for funding in order to get it up and running in your classroom. And you don't need to feel as if you must be a mindfulness guru in order to confidently teach it. The secret can be as simple as finding a good app or meditation video.
The Happify app uses animation as part of its mindfulness allure and this fun clip states that mindfulness is a superpower. It's a great ice breaker for those students who may feel awkward about mindfulness (3 minutes).
Former monk Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace, shares his journey to mindfulness (5 minutes).
Listen to Puddicombe share some tips on dealing with anxiety, something sure to benefit both students and teachers (3 minutes).
Practice your first classroom meditation with Puddicombe. (11 minutes).
After watching the videos, and practicing your first meditation as a class, allow 10 minutes for students to journal about their experience with meditation, as well as anything especially interesting from the videos. Take an additional 10-15 minutes for classroom discussion.
Total approximate time: 45 minutes
Day 3: Creating Mindfulness
Whether you've doodled on a page or colored in a book, you already know just how relaxing these activities can be. It turns out that mindfulness and creativity go hand in hand. Today's mindfulness lesson will focus on the calming and therapeutic component that art can have in our lives.
Although mindfulness is actually a secular philosophy borrowed from the spiritual techniques of Buddhists monks thousands of years ago, its practice in Western culture is gaining momentum in other therapeutic contexts, including art therapy.
Start today's mindfulness lesson with a brief history of the Buddhist sand mandala, an artful expression of mindfulness (4 minutes).
Watch the week long creation of a Tibetan sand mandala in eight minutes. Beautiful!
Visit the Mandala Project website for educational lessons about the history of the mandala as well as a link to download and print a mandala for your students to color. Allow a minimum of 30 minutes for mandala art.
Total approximate time: 45 minutes
"I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point — namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation. I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate."
- C. G. Jung
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