At KISU we are passionately committed to a holistic approach to education whilst being mindful (if you will forgive the pun) of the paramount importance of ensuring that each child makes the most of his or her academic talents to achieve the very best grades possible. As you know, out three main focuses for this year are Growth Mindset, Leadership, and combating bullying. I would like to submit for your consideration an early candidate for a theme for next year and it is…..
Mindfulness is our capacity to be fully and completely aware- right here, now. We all have this ability naturally. Look at a child playing and see how attentive he or she is; how curious, enraptured, fully engaged in the present moment. As we get older, our tendency is to develop the habit of getting ‘lost’ in the story in our head, ruminating about the past / planning for the future. This continuous stream of thinking that we are totally identified with and believe to be ‘real’ makes us overlook and disregard the endless possibility and power of the present moment. It is also exhausting as we are continuously been driven by the ‘to do list’ and the thoughts about ‘what I must get done today’. Many people come to Mindfulness Training “to switch off the voice in their heads” or at least to learn how to get some rest from it.
“When you are present in this moment, you break the continuity of your story, of past and future. Then true intelligence arises, and also love.”
– Eckhart Tolle
What is Mindfulness? Is it the same as living in the moment?
Yes, when we are Mindful, we stay with ourselves and our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment. And this awareness encourages qualities like: kindness; curiosity; openness; and acceptance.
Perceiving with all of the senses takes our attention out of the stream of our own thinking. We open up to recognise that we are more than our thoughts or feelings. Awareness or Mindfulness is our natural ability to be aware of or hold thoughts, feelings, sounds, how our body feels, the environment etc… without being driven by these.
We step back and observe reality just as it is, no more, no less. We can see how our mind’s habit of creating stories about how reality should be/look sets us up for disappointment and loss of self-esteem when our expectations are not met. When we are mindful, we suspend re-activity and begin to see and accept reality as it is.
What is Mindfulness and why is the research so compelling?
Overwhelming research evidence shows that mindfulness boosts the immune system, intelligence, positive emotional states, self awareness, creativity, happiness, compassion and more…
Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, when we are ‘present’ (or Mindful) we deal with whatever is happening. As we become more skilled at managing our state of mind and emotional states, we gain resilience. Then, we are empowered to use our minds effectively instead of our minds running us ragged!
We start to see things as they really are (instead of how we imagine them to be through the filter of our story and habitual patterns), so can respond effectively and appreciate more fully.
Solid scientific evidence suggests that mindfulness interventions improve attention, self-control, emotional resilience, recovery from addiction, memory and immune response. Here’s a summary of benefits particularly relevant to educators:
Attention -strengthens our "mental muscle" for bringing focus back where we want it, when we want it.
Emotional Regulation - observing our emotions helps us recognize when they occur, to see their transient nature, and to change how we respond to them.
Adaptability- becoming aware of our patterns enables us to gradually change habitual behaviors wisely.
Compassion - awareness of our own thoughts, emotions, and senses grows our understanding of what other people are experiencing.
Calming - breathing and other mindfulness practices relax the body and mind, giving access to peace independent of external circumstances.
Resilience - seeing things objectively reduces the amount of narrative we add to the world's natural ups and downs, giving us greater balance.
Mindfulness for KISU
I hope you will notice a distinct synergy between the benefits in the list above and our priorities and values as a learning community (and even perhaps with some of the themes I have taken in this weekly piece). I want us to finish with this year’s focus areas strongly so am only pointing Mindfulness out as a possible next direction for us. However, I believe that this is something that could have a significant positive impact on all members of our school community and so, even if some will think it a little “out there”, I commend it to you for consideration and welcome any thoughts….
If you would like to know more about some of the aforementioned research, this article in Forbes magazine is a good place to start…