As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been learning about the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation. At the start of Advent last December I began a practice in my classes which I hoped would prepare students for Christmas. During the first six to ten minutes of class, I had them use their iPads (as my classroom is essentially paperless) to write in a private Gratitude Journal while quiet music played. After they completed this, they were to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. As I wasn’t sure if I’d continue this class time after Christmas Break, I didn’t offer them much instruction in mindful breathing beyond a few simple suggestions.
On the day after break, I gave my students a short, confidential, Google Survey – a few questions and space for an extended response. You can see the results and comments here:
I was pleasantly surprised – more than 80% of my students felt we should continue the gratitude journal/mindful meditation time (and a slightly higher percentage wanted to continue the later than the former).
I knew I needed to teach the students more about how to practice mindful meditation. So I turned to an app/website that I started using recently – Headspace. While there’s a not-insignificant subscription fee to access all of the resources, they offer a free set of 10 x 10 minutes audio sessions. I’ve used these sessions and have benefited from them.
During a class period, I started by showing this very short animated video produced by Headspace. I then showed this great, less than 10 minute,TED talk by Andy Puddicombe in which he engagingly articulates how to begin a meditative practice. For further introduction I showed this animated video by Headspace and concluded with this cute one:
I then led the students through a 10 minute meditation. Calmly and quietly, with relaxing music in the background, I walked each of my classes through much of Andy’s direction given in the 10 x 10 minute free sessions. I could tell by the immediate response on the faces of my students that the time was well spent.
This introduction was more than three weeks ago. We’ve gotten into a routine now where my students write in their gratitude journal, sit up straight, close their eyes and focus on their breathing (I say these words at the start of each class to remind them of our procedure). It’s great to see my students doing this and to feel the stillness and calm in the classroom as they are engaging in it.
Now that they can engage in general meditation, I plan to soon connect a number of important Catholic prayer practices to it. There’s a long tradition of contemplative prayer, centering prayer, lectio divina and Eucharistic Adoration within the Catholic Church and Christianity in general. Mindful breath meditation is the foundation upon which these specific practices are built.
About a week or so after I taught the students this practice, I had solid verification of the value of it. A freshman girl visited me after school and enthusiastically said, “Mr. Kohut, what you taught us about meditation really helped me today.” She went on to tell me that she’d been asked to read at the funeral service of a friend’s mom. Not surprisingly, she was extremely nervous about doing this. But, in her words: “I did the breathing and other things you taught us and I calmed down. I was able to do the reading and I know my friend really appreciated it.”
My goodness – how rarely I so quickly see the beneficial results of my teaching and have a student express her thanks for it!
I am watching my classes carefully to see how else individuals and the class community are changed by this practice. I’ll survey the students again at the end of the year to get their thoughts about what they’ve gained. I imagine though that I’ll see the benefits of the daily mindful meditation and prayer long before I hear about them in a year-end survey. I’ll let you know what I see and hear…