Last Friday, I attended a conference on integrating mindfulness into the classroom. I have been following the research on the benefits of mindfulness and even shared my mistaken understanding of it with my 7th graders (who are now sophomores), equating meditation with mindfulness. They are not the same. The dictionary's definition of mindfulness is "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique." Meditation is just one way of getting there.
We know many of our students are stressed and not with just good stress. When kids are in a heighten state of stress, cortisol is released as part of the fight or flight response. This elevated cortisol level can interfere with learning and memory. One of the many appealing aspects of mindfulness is that it can bring down the cortisol level, thus making students more available for learning.
At the conference the importance of building one's own practice was as highly emphasized as bringing it to our students. Who could not benefit from lower levels of cortisol? There were many simple activities that I have started bringing to this year's 7th grade guidance classrooms. As I learn more and work on my own practice, I hope to be able to share more with the students, the staff and the community. It's not very present to say this but more to come.