The Many Gifts of Mindfulness
"Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.
Sylvia Boorstein, teacher and author
Growing up, I had a friend whose mother used the word "mind" to refer to any number of current or upcoming situations:
"Mind your manners." "Mind you don't bump your head." "Mind you're home by supper." For her, the word "mind" was a way of saying "pay attention" or "be aware." It was good advice then, and perhaps even more so today, as we are constantly bombarded from every direction. Children and adolescents are especially blitzed on every front with new data, emotions, and desires.
As teachers, our job has morphed from imparting information to the taking on the greater mission of giving students the tools to make their way in the world. The practice of mindfulness has become a widely accepted tool for improving physical, mental, and social health. When mindful, we pay attention to what we are thinking and feeling in the moment, without judgment. We are aware. We are in the present.
Scientific research provides evidence that practicing mindfulness at school has measurable benefits for students and teachers alike, including:
- A decrease in behavior problems, negativity and aggression;
- A reduction of unwanted distractions;
- An increase in one's ability to focus;
- An amplified awareness and compassion for others, as well as oneself;
- The relief of stress, anxiety and depression;
- The enhancement of healthy relationships.
Evidence even suggests that the practice of mindfulness can enhance vital parts of our "gray matter," the regions of the brain that control muscle movement and sensory perception.
Introducing our students to the simple yet powerful practice of mindfulness as a routine piece of their day is a priceless gift--not only for themselves, but for those around them and, in the end, all of us.