"When we trust we are the ocean, we do not fear the waves."   

-Tara Brach

During the last few years we have conducted most of our classes in a clinical setting, planning to expand when we felt the time was right. I apologize if we were not as attentive to this site as we should have been. With the outbreak of COVID19 it is obvious that it will be sometime before we can continue with clinical or group meditation classes. It is our goal to concentrate on at a distance meditation groups using group conferencing software, we are trying to enact these changes as quickly as possible. If you have any suggestions as to what may serve your needs we are eager to hear your thoughts. email or message us at 303-349-3623.

9/20/20

We finally have time we will start offering our course and meditation classes. We are planning on or around October 20th. Please submit your preferences as to what day and time would be of interest to you. We will conduct our classes via Zoom. We do apologize for the long delay, it is a complicated and uncertain time for all of us, we do commit to restarting all classes online in the next thirty days. Thank you for your patience.

 

Mindful Ways is a not-for-profit corporation 509(a)(2) dedicated to promoting the many physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of the practices of mindfulness and meditation. 

Your donation will help us make mindfulness classes available throughout our community. Contact us if you would like us to bring a mindfulness presentation to your organization or to your place of business. Message only 303-349-3623.

In the interest of promoting access to mindfulness education, Mindful Ways also provides the opportunity for other organizations and/or teachers with similar purpose to advertise their services on this site. If you are a teacher and are interested in having us include you on this site or provide a link to your website for a small donation, Message only at 303-349-3623.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness Meditation in Schools

James Holland

 

           For more than 100 years schools have tried to introduce science into teaching methodology, using new schools of psychology, reviewing the purpose of education and introducing physical changes to our places of learning. We have historically tried modifying everything from texts to seating arrangements, paint color to punishment. Continuing this tradition, we have recently seen the rise of using mindfulness meditation to better prepare the student for learning. In this paper, we explore the introduction of mindfulness meditation as an additional tool to enhance a student’s performance and general well-being. We will present information to support providing children with tools to better self-regulate, concentrate and lower anxiety will create a better student and a happier child. We have also seen success in broader school applications such as decreasing negative behavior and improving the performance and well-being of students with ADHD.

            Recently CNN presented an article titled “Instead of detention, these students get meditation.” (Goyal, 2013) in which journalist Deborah Bloom highlighted a Baltimore school that replaced traditional detention with one centered around meditation. Instead of hoping children will use detention time to sit and reflect on their behavior, they took a more active course and instructed the children in the art of focused breathing and concentrating on the present moment. It was demonstrated that recidivism among these children who were taught mindfulness meditation decreased by more than half. Studies produce an almost universal agreement that there is significant improvement of student performance and satisfaction. It seems clear from the data that meditation produces a profound equanimity and expresses itself in the child being better able to respond to life and all its conditions instead of always reacting to outside stimuli.

     

          The author, Deborah Bloom, reports that some people are worried meditation creates “obedient little robots”. Studies clearly show meditation produces a sense of equanimity and expresses itself in the child being better able to remain centered and calm in the face of over stimulation which leads a person to better communication, sense of balance and better decision making. Children develop better impulse control, greater self-regulation and in turn better judgement and significantly better performance. The key is self-regulation not obedience or robotic performance. We also see a push back in some locations on constitutional grounds. The belief being that schools who teach meditation are teaching religion. Mindfulness may have things in common with some eastern traditions but mindfulness meditation as taught in schools is totally secular with the focus on being in the moment, most often through a focus on the breath.

 

            By their very nature, children can suffer from a heightened sense of anxiety, depression and anger. Any human emotion is magnified in the young brain. Add this to decreased impulse control and you have the recipe for chaos and impaired learning.  An additional area of ongoing concern is the number of children with some level of ADHD that are being treated with medication. A randomized study on meditation or medication which began in 2016, addressed the efficacy of mindfulness training in relation to current ADHD medications, as well as cost comparisons. Early results would indicate there is a correlation between mindfulness and the reduction of the need for pharmaceuticals. (Meppelink, 2016).                                                                          

            As the scientific community continues to clarify the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation to address differing areas of concern, it may become easier to bring this practice into schools. A study performed by Crescentini (2016) in which primary school children with behavioral problems were treated with mindfulness oriented meditation training (MOM) did not produce clear evidence of success in the treatment of mental health problems other than ADHD. The treatment which consisted of one and a half hours of training once every week for eight weeks, did demonstrate an increase in the ability of children to self-regulate emotions and a decrease in disruptive behaviors.

In addition, the mindful student will become the mindful adult.

         As reported “The current study confirms and extends to primary school children the crucial role of attention in MOM interventions.” (Crescentini, 2016). It would seem to present a clear case for introducing MOM into the classroom to develop and enhance the child’s ability to self-regulate attention and behavior.  The conclusions of this longitudinal study were that "Mindfulness meditation practices in educational settings can improve a child’s cognitive, emotional, and social abilities. Combined with other social and emotional learning (SEL) programs we could see a powerful preventive tool and a means to improve the academic development of students even in the first years of school.” (Crescentini, 2016).

           An additional study titled “Capitalizing on Behavioral and Emotional Strengths of Alternative High School Students Through Group Counseling to Promote Mindfulness Skills”(Wisner, 2013) showed that meditation had a profound effect on at risk youth. The improvements were based on changes in ratings pre and post intervention. These differential changes were between .59, a medium effect and .89, a large effect. Of the possible areas of improvement, the students demonstrated the greatest gains in self-regulation which produced a better overall student as well as healthier member of the family dynamic. These students demonstrated an increased ability to regulate their emotions, manage stress, concentrate and retain information.

         When taught in a group setting we see improvement in cognitive, behavior and self-regulation ability. With so many incidences of student instigated disruption, poor grades and decline in cognitive skills, contemplative education could be significant in reversing these trends. We would not see “obedient little robots.” but rather self-aware, self-actualizing people that have better cognitive functioning and emotional regulation (Wisner, 2013) .

            Now that clinical studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is effective, how does one introduce it to schools. What does this training look like? Meditation practice is age-based since a first grader does not have the same ability to sit still and focus as that of a high school student. There are many programs out there that have been formalized into teaching guides, and organizations to support them. The first step after administration and teacher buy-in is proper training of the teachers. They need to be trained on how to teach mindfulness meditation to children. Part of the introduction should be a factual, science-based presentation of the secular practice of mindfulness.

       

The following are universal:

  • School buy-in: Without significant appreciation and approval it will be difficult if not impossible to have a successful program over the long run. These programs need facilities as well as teachers who have been trained to teach meditation.

  • Parent buy-in: It is important to have presentations and materials to demonstrate the successes of meditation studies, alleviate parent concerns over the program and answer questions that may arise.

  • Ownership: Create a program in which the administration, teachers, parents and students are fully invested. When the entire school community wants to participate the practice of meditation will succeed.

  • Regularity: Consistency must be introduced in a way that teaches children that it is important and supports forming a positive habit. 

  •  Trust: The student must feel safe. They are not used to closing their eyes and not worrying about being disrupted or possibly harmed. They need to have a place that can be shut off from disturbances allowing the student to give themselves permission to participate.

  • Incentive: Not only does the teacher have the responsibility to show relevance but also demonstrate it by having occasional rewards for participation such as simple trophies or group rewards, such as pizza parties of other food treats.

        The evidence is clear, scientifically and logically this practice should be implemented in target schools and as we fine tune it, move it into additional locations. Unfortunately, in today’s climate of science denial, alternate facts and political alignment being the key determining factor in labeling a fact as true or the newly named fake fact, it will be an uphill struggle in the near term. It is also not likely to be the top item on the list for our new secretary of education. What is important is to not to turn our backs on these studies. We can push ahead in select areas, continue well-modeled studies and learn to be patient. Since one of the most profound outcomes of mindfulness meditation is the ability to maintain calm in the middle of a storm, it would seem the best course of action would be to meditate. Even in this climate there are no restraints on the general population adopting this practice.

  References

 

  Crescentini, Cristiano; Capurso, Viviana; Furlan, Samantha; Fabbro, Franco. Frontiers in Psychology. 6/7/2016, p1-12. 12p. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00805.

Meppelink, Renée; de Bruin, Esther I.; Bögels, Susan M. BMC Psychiatry. 7/26/2016, Vol. 16, p1-16. 16p. 1 Diagram, 2 Charts. DOI: 10.1186/s12888-016-0978-3

  Waters, Lea; Barsky, Adam; Ridd, Amanda; Allen, Kelly. Educational Psychology Review. Mar2015, Vol. 27 Issue 1, p103-134. 32p. DOI: 10.1007/s10648-014-9258-2., Database: Professional Development Collection

 Wisner, Betsy L.; Norton, Christine Lynn. Journal for Specialists in Group Work. Sep2013, Vol. 38 Issue 3, p207-224. 18p. 1 Chart. DOI: 10.1080/01933922.2013.803504. , Database: SocINDEX with Full Text

Goyal, Madhav ggMD, MPH1; Sonal Singh, MD, MPH1; Erica M. S. Sibinga, MD, MHS2; et al JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357368.doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

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