New Research in the fields of psychology, education and neuroscience shows teaching meditation in schools is having positive effects on students’ well-being, social skills and academic skills.
“Mindfulness” meditation is one of the more popular practices being taught at schools. It involves a three-step mental process where students are asked to:
- Focus your attention on a particular target (for example your own breathing, a sound, a sensation).
- Notice when your attention has wandered away from the target. 3. Bring your attention back to the target.
Students are asked to do this without being judgmental and with a curiosity that allows them to identify patterns in their thoughts and feelings. This leads to a clearer mind and a more peaceful outlook.
There are many different forms of mindfulness meditation. The process below outlines Awareness Meditation.
When you first meditate, your mind might be like a hyper active child, undisciplined and always wanting its own way. So to start give the mind lots to focus on; as you improve your meditation and relaxation skills you give it fewer and simpler objects of focus. This first stage of meditation is called “present moment awareness.” Simply turn your attention to:
First focus on the most obvious sounds and as your concentration gets sharper, notice more subtle sounds, such as bird calls and distant traffic. Just allow those sounds to wash over you, letting go of the sounds that have just passed by and being present to the sounds that arise now.
Feel your arms resting on your lap, your legs on the chair. Feel your clothes against your skin. Notice any pains, muscle tightness, fluttering in your stomach or anxious feelings, the very things you were trying to avoid. Watch how these sensations shift and change, letting go of them and becoming present to those that arise.
Watch your thoughts arise and pass, without getting caught up in them or feeling that you have to act on them. Some thoughts are nonsense; others are so compelling that you follow them. With demanding thoughts, observe them, label them and let them go. For example, if you are thinking: “I’m upset over that insult,” you might label it “hurt” and let it go, ready for the next thought to arise. It’s like watching clouds passing in the sky and you are progressing towards a “blue sky mind” where storm clouds pass and the mind is clear, calm and alert.
Watch the natural changes in your breathing as you become more relaxed. You might notice that your breath starts shallow and fast, but becomes deeper and more regular as you relax more profoundly.
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