“The function of education is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but be yourself all the time.”
– J. Krishnamurti
1. Start with focusing on the breath.
Mindful awareness is a concept that children don’t get very easily, and to be honest, I think most of us adults have issues with it too. The more kids can experience breathing awareness the better off they will be handling stress. I like to start by saying, ” Today we’re going to practice training the mind to become more aware of what’s really going on in the present moment. We’re going to close our eyes and pay attention to our breath – on purpose – and see how long we can stay with it.” When we focus on the breath we are training the mind to step out of the thought stream.
2. Focus on the physical sensation of the breath.
We really try to get them to FEEL the breath. I like to let them know that there are usually three places the breath is felt: one is the nose – the air entering the nostrils (entering cool and leaving warm), another is the rising and falling sensation in the stomach, and others feel some stretching or expansion in the chest or lungs. Ask the kids where they feel it the most and then suggests that they focus their attention in that area during the meditation.
3. Catch yourself. Congratulate yourself. Circle back to the breath.
After a minute or so, I like to point out that thoughts are likely to sneak in and take our attention away from their breath. These thoughts are normal and we allow them to come and go – but we try to catch ourself when we get distracted by them. Once we notice we’re distracted, we gently bring our attention back to the breath. It’s very cool when students notice that they’re catching themselves distracted. That’s the real moment of mindfulness – they’re excited to know that it’s normal and that they’re doing it right.
4. Keep it short.
We need to keep in mind that kids have a shorter attention span than adults. We usually go by the age of the student as the guideline as to how long they can sit. All of our classes sit for five minutes in meditation. Science is proving that just five minutes of meditation (every day) can make a huge difference!
5. Lead by example.
Take a “Time IN too.” My son and I “take five” together and sit most mornings right before school. The area where we make the most progress in bringing mindfulness and meditation to the schools isn’t in working with the kids, it’s in working with the parents, teachers, school counselors, administrators, and learning support – helping them to be able to slow down and be less reactive and more present, so they’re really “in the room” with our kids.