In October I began teaching an 8-week course on Mindfulness Meditation to 3rd, 4th and 5th grades at the Boys & Girls Club in Sturgeon Bay.
In our first 8-week course, we noticed an increase in student’s abilities to self regulate behaviour, a deepening sense of relaxation and an increased ability to think through things; improving their ability to respond to situations verses automatically reacting. Mindfulness Meditation has been a great method of support in offering our youth a fantastic tool for increased awareness.
I have never worked directly with children and had fears about it being like trying to “round up and bunch of wildcats.” And… at times it was. Through Mindfulness, we all found a greater relationship between breath and acceptance of “what is,” offering us spaciousness, non-judgment and non-reactivity. Children’s essential nature is one of basic goodness, of purity, love, kindness and compassion. Through our interactions, I began to discover my very own childlike nature; getting out of my head, dropping into my heart, with no expectations or set agendas and being fully present. You have to be with wildcats!
We would begin with a guided body scan, follow our breath and then remain in silent meditation for 5-10 minutes, just relaxing and allowing emotions and thoughts to pass through us and to be completely at ease with whatever arose. Thoughts and emotions became just energy in motion, moving through us, just visiting, as we always returned to the breath.
I have learned so much from the children and am so inspired with their deep capacity to embrace the teachings, to apply it in their daily lives and in their new-found ability to drop into meditation. After an overwhelming display of enthusiasm for more experience with Mindfulness, we are beginning another 8-week session in January. My dream is that Mindfulness Meditation be included in the curriculum of all our school systems!
Several universities and hospitals have undertaken research and are now offering Mindfulness training. At Harvard University, the test subjects taking part in an 8-week program of mindfulness meditation showed results that astonished even their most experienced neuroscientists. The study was led by a Harvard-affiliated team of researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital. The team’s MRI scans documented for the very first time in medical history how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain’s gray matter.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says study senior author Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology.
The participants spent an average of 27 minutes per day practicing mindfulness exercises, and this is all it took to stimulate a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.