Mindfulness has become the buzz word, not just within schools but everywhere.
As with similar initiatives, it’s become another thing to DO. Another thing for teachers to try and build into their days. Another box to tick on the road to wellbeing success. Another responsibility by schools to support the young people coming through the doors every day. Another thing to research and quantify.
I think mindfulness has been misunderstood and mis-sold for a while now.
There’s no doubting the positive impacts of programmes to support mental health and give everyone time for peace and calm.
But, the emphasis on the mindfulness tools is only one part of the power of mindfulness. The real power is in the insights that come to us in everyday moments of stillness…whether we are daydreaming, or waiting in a queue, or in the shower…those are the moments when our minds get a chance to re-set.
And mindfulness can bring more of those moments, but it isn’t complicated, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time, and it doesn’t need to cost thousands of pounds.
You can enrol individual teachers on mindfulness training courses, which provide comprehensive training and detailed lesson plans to embed in your school curriculum. They are fantastic, but not absolutely necessary.
Instead, you might want to consider a more affordable, sustainable approach that includes all staff, and embeds mindfulness as part of your school ethos across a full year, with external support (this is something we can offer of course!)
Gaining this support will help you to see that mindfulness doesn’t cost anything to start practicing, when we understand the fundamental message that everything is temporary. Including thoughts and feelings. It's getting everyone on board with that ethos that is key.
Once we are on board with that fundamental truth, all of a sudden, we can observe everything coming and going.
The message is simple, but as humans we tend to overcomplicate simplicity, and mindfulness has fallen victim to this too. With hundreds of tools available to ‘do mindfulness’ without children or teachers really understanding the value behind the tools.
Mindfulness is acknowledging, accepting and letting go. Of the breath, the body, thoughts, emotions and external circumstances. All of which are temporary.
But, because it’s a simple but tricky idea to get our head round, we try to find ways to explain it.
I’d explain it with just three further points:
Nothing but our thoughts make us feel a particular way, even if it seems that something external to us has MADE us feel happy/sad/angry/excited
We don’t need to take our thoughts and feelings as seriously as we do because they don’t make up who we are and they won’t stay around for long
Because everything comes and goes, we can acknowledge that underneath all the comings and goings, there is something innate within us – a default – that we might describe as resilience i.e. the ability to keep going as a human being despite the to and fro of thoughts and emotions.
That is what mindfulness teaches us. Through stillness and a chance to listen in to uncover that default that we all have
So if mindfulness is that simple, what do we actually need to DO to practice it?
In essence, nothing. But we know how tricky that can be in a world where we are always doing something. It is probably hard to think back to the last time you did absolutely nothing.
But for children, it can be surprisingly easy – and no matter how often we run Mindful Magic sessions, we're still surprised by that. Somehow, they seem to revel in the chance to switch off and reset. They seem far more attuned with their Joy Default than most of the adults I work with.
And the simple, accessible, fun tools engage them in that stillness and focus easily.
And that’s the crux of it – simple, accessible and fun. Mindfulness doesn’t need to be onerous. It is of no value when children don’t want to do it, or feel as if there are expectations on them to achieve something from practicing it.
In fact, taking time - whether it be 1 minute, 5 minutes or 10 minutes in a school day – needs to be without any expectation at all. Because mindfulness is not something that can be assessed or measured.
Mindfulness comes from ancient wisdom. It is interwoven into many of the world’s belief systems.
That’s thousands of years of humans practicing it.
But, it has also developed dogma alongside it, to justify it’s importance and to ritualise and control how it’s practiced. We can still see that today, and in many of the ways it’s practiced.
But the beauty of it is that once we can get on board with the basic understanding that everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – is temporary and constantly changing, then we can start to take those moments to notice it. To acknowledge, accept and let go.
And you’re doing mindfulness!
The repercussions of this can be huge. But I’m not going to justify the effectiveness of it here, not as a cop out, but because I don’t think it’s necessary to do so. And evident in the way that mindfulness has taken off recently, neither do a lot of other people.
And that’s because it’s innate. We are innately mindful. Parents, teachers, children…all of us are innately mindful, if we give ourselves a chance to recognise it.
It’s simply about taking those moments of stillness to strip back the thought chatter and uncover that innate okayness – that Joy Default. And recognising that everyone has exactly the same essence within them.
To find out more about our Educators Toolkit available to launch in September, and how our local Mindful Magic Mentors can support your educational setting, pop us a message