Teaching children and young people to be more mindful
10 May 2017 | beando_admin
For us, teaching modern meditation in the classroom is a ‘no-brainer’ – literally!
We’re with the Dalai Lama on this one:
“If every 8 year old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation”.
But we are living in a strange world at the moment. Imagine what sort of world we could create in the future if meditation was part of our young people’s lives from the start. Imagine how different politics and economics would be. Think for a moment about the creative innovation, the revolution in hope, health and wellbeing that could transpire.
But right here, right now we have a problem. It seems the world we are actually creating, particularly for our children, won’t deliver any of the above any time soon. It sounds like a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but our children are unhappy.
So what’s to be done?
Firstly, we have to tackle this growing unhappiness, then maybe we can get to the world the Dalai Lama tells us is possible.
Here are some facts:
The OECD says the average onset age for mental illness is 14. For anxiety related disorders it can be as low as 11. In the US, the David Lynch Foundation points out that nearly 900,000 young people aged between 5 and 16 are diagnosed with a mental disorder as they grow up in a climate of fear, bullying and violence.
It’s easy to blame the rise in social media for this, but it’s clear that our children are now under immense pressure to conform, to be liked, to be accepted as the illusionary world of the internet follows them around asking for their judgement on everything. At the same time they are feeling more and more isolated and alone. Add this to the current UK government’s education policy and we have a really toxic mix of stress, fear and anxiety. It seems we are not helping ourselves…
What can we do?
Part of our work at beanddo is to teach teachers in the art and science of modern mindfulness meditation. This way, we can not only equip them to thrive in a challenging world but also help them help their pupils thrive too. Working with inspiring initiatives such as Teach First, we are helping graduate teachers towards a different way of being and doing by developing a foothold in being mindful moment-to-moment. This in turn passes into the classroom; it’s a win-win, low-cost, high-impact intervention that promotes, shapes and drives change in the classroom, for the classroom.
Mick teaching TeachFirst graduate teachers modern beanddo meditation
We know there are three core aspects to teaching this new (but at the same time, ancient) life skill:
It’s not top down teaching: The benefits of meditation grow from the inside out. Change is cultivated naturally, not enforced or applied. That way the impact is far more lasting and sustainable.
Keep it simple: The benefit of meditation is in the doing of it. Nothing extra is required. No extra preparation, no heavy reading or planning and only limited class-time. It’s designed to integrate easily into the school day.
One at a time: The impact of just one person meditating regularly will impact widely. One committed teacher teaching meditation in the classroom is the most effective way to nurture change.
And it’s not an obscure thing
Meditation grows present-centred awareness. To be here, now. The older you get the more difficult it becomes. For some adults, it can feel too obscure to normalise fear, anxiety and self-consciousness. The great thing about introducing meditation to younger children is that they get it. They are present to their lives because it’s the most natural thing, and as yet, no-one has told them otherwise. Young children know what optimum presence feels like. They thrive, are joyful, full of energy and ideas. They live outside of judgement, not entangled with fear and anxiety.
It would be good to keep them that way well into adult life. But it’s not that easy – unless we want it to be!