Tag Archives: Mindfulness and Education

Educating from the Heart, Transforming Education

by Marilyn Webb Neagley

My role as director of the Talk About Wellness initiative since 2004 had focused on  inspiring contemplative and inner life programs in public schools.   This year the new goal has been to bring the message of our book, Educating from the Heart, and the lessons of mindfulness-based meditation to wider audiences.

While still working in partnership with the South Burlington Wellness and Resilience Program and other school districts we have been offering workshops, lectures and in-service instruction to such organizations as:

The Mindfulness Center Conference in Norwood, MA; Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children; The Vermont Association of School Counselors; Champlain College; The Woodruff Institute Institute and soon Middlebury College, Dickinson College and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference.  My co-editor, Aostre N. Johnson received a Fullbright Fellowship this year and will be extending the message of the book to schools in Ireland.

Whenever possible, I bring another presenter, usually from the South Burlington program, who has been trained to use mindfulness practices for various grade levels in public school settings.

Talk About Wellness has funded instruction from Linda Lantieri, Daniel Rechtschaffen, Patricia Broderick and has connected to the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and Parker Palmer through retreats, lectures and/or workshops.

The goal of Talk About Wellness has been to bring an “inner life” dimension to education through contemplative practices such as mindfulness but still include other elements such as time in nature, reflective writing, art, music, friendship, play, gratitude, and kindness.

Mindfulness-based Education in K-12 Public Schools, “Educating from the Heart” – Marilyn Webb Neagley, Ferris Buck Urbanowski and Sheri Rand

Hear and learn about the outcomes of the district-wide Wellness and Resilience Program held in South Burlington, VT. through attending this conference breakout session. In its third year, 160 educators have participated in the training and implementation. The program has ongoing support in mindfulness skills, has compiled research data, and has developed a “training of trainers” program to
enable greater outreach. Anyone who is interested in bringing mindfulness-based education to public schools would be interested in this session.

Planting Seeds: The Power of Mindfulness

A film for parents and educators combining comic book animation, documentary footage, and classroom materials.

“Planting Seeds” The Power of Mindfulness, the film’s working title, is based on the book, Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children, by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community
 and draws from Plum Village’s thirty years of mindfulness and compassion work with children, parents and educators. The film offers tried-and-true meaningful, fun, and engaging activities that kids can do in any setting and either self-guided or led by an adult. Key practices
presented include mindful breathing, mindful walking, inviting the bell, pebble meditation, the Two Promises or ethical guidelines for children, eating meditation, and dealing with conflict and strong emotions.

“Planting Seeds” will be shot this July in Plum Village, France, during the month-long Summer Retreat, in which thousands of families from all over the world learn how mindfulness can enrich and heal people of all ages. Throughout the month, parents, teachers, childrens, monks, nuns, and Thich Nhat Hanh let us into their experience and share their stories and practice of mindfulness. The result is that this feature documentary and animated film gives everyone an embodied experience of peace and wellbeing and effective tools for creating peaceful, happy lives long after the film is over.

You can learn more about the project, read updates from the film team, or donate to the project, at http://www.indiegogo.com/plantingseedsfilm.

We invite you to participate in one of our UCSD CFM education-based mindfulness Youth and Family Programs; Stress Reduction Program for Teens or A Course in Mindful Parenting.

If you are an educator please consider joining us for our popular  Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workshop for Educators Saturday, November 3, 2012, 9am-3pm.

We are also  happy to keep you up to date on all the exciting developments taking place around our upcoming  Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference February 1-3, 2013, Catamaran Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA. Stay informed about Jon Kabat-Zinn’s benefit lecture and very special 3-hour workshop on Mindful Parenting with his wife Myla Kabat-Zinn on the conference website and through liking the conference Facebook Page.

Making Happiness a Habit through Mindfulness

Susan Kaiser Greenland, JD, Author, Educator, is the developer and co-founder of the Inner Kids mindful awareness program for children, teens and their families. She is author of The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate (Free Press, 2010). Susan teaches children, parents and professionals around the world and consults with various organizations on teaching mindful awareness in an age-appropriate and secular manner. We are grateful to have Susan Kaiser Greenland delivering the opening keynote address The Mindful Child: Teaching the New ABCs of Attention, Balance and Compassion at our Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth Conference. Her keynote will explore the development of greater concentration, mindfulness and compassion with children and young adults.

What if happiness was a habit that we could teach children? We can. Qualities that lead away from happiness (strong negative emotions) and qualities that lead toward happiness (ethical actions) are all rooted in habits developed in the past. Mindfulness helps children and teens recognize the habits that lead to happiness and break the ones that don’t.

Habits are easy to make, hard to break and everybody has them. Some habits are physical (cracking knuckles and twirling hair), some are verbal (using certain words or phrases) and some are psychological (worrying, daydreaming, judging and over-analyzing). By repeating a habit we reinforce the brain circuits associated with it and make the habit stronger. The stronger the habit, the stronger the neural pathways, and the stronger the effort and determination required to break it. If teenagers check their Facebook pages first thing in the morning, every morning, checking Facebook will soon become their default, automatic response to waking up. If they hike or meditate first thing in the morning, every morning, hiking or meditating will soon become their default, automatic response to waking up. The more a habit is repeated the stronger it becomes and the more likely it is to become a person’s automatic response to a specific experience.

There is a well-established, evidence-based curriculum that uses mindfulness to develop life-skills that make people happy. It rest on three universal qualities attention, balance and compassion. Countless parents and educators, who have tried this curriculum themselves, are now passionate about teaching mindfulness to youth. They form the basis of an emerging grassroots movement to bring mindfulness to education.

Mindfulness is a refined process of attention that allows children to see the world through a lens of attention, balance and compassion. When children learn to look at the world with attention, balance and compassion they soon learn to be in the world with attention, balance and compassion.

Making compassion a habit.
To make compassion a habit all kids need to do is promise that everything they do will be kind and compassionate and keep that promise. Sound easy? Anyone who has ever taken a vow, and then tried to keep it, knows that saying you’ll speak and act in a certain way is easier said than done. The best way to keep a promise is to make it a habit and that’s where mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is the mental quality by which children and teens remember to check-in with themselves throughout the day and make sure they are on track. Mindfulness helps kids remember their intention to be kind and compassionate and notice if they’re acting and speaking in accordance with it. We don’t expect children to be perfect, any more than we expect perfection of ourselves, but using mindfulness to notice when they swerve off track and away from their intention allows them to correct their course.

Making concentration a habit.
Concentrating on one thing and nothing else is a crucial skill in school. Students who have the capacity to direct their attention toward what they’re studying, and keep it there, have an obvious advantage over those who are easily distracted. To develop concentration, and make it a habit, students use mindfulness to periodically check-in and make sure they are still paying attention to their chosen object. “Has my mind wandered or become dull?” “Am I paying attention to my homework, or am I thinking about the past or future? ” “Am I alert or have I faded into a sleepy state of mind?”

Making balance a habit.
Once children and teens use mindfulness to develop compassion by remembering to check-in to make sure they’re actions are aligned with their intentions, and refine their attention by checking-in to make sure they’re paying attention to their chosen object, they are ready to use mindfulness to develop emotional balance. The strong and stable faculty of attention that children and teens develop practicing concentration becomes more refined when they use it to see what’s happening in, to and around them clearly even when what’s happening is emotionally upsetting or charged. Like developing attention and compassion, when developing balance students check-in periodically and notice what they’re attending to. Mindfulness in developing emotional balance goes deeper by developing discernment a powerful quality of wisdom through which children and teens notice, among other things, patterns and habits of action and speech.

Hope motivates change.
I’ve worked with parents around the world and they have one thing in common: Parents want to be happy and they want their children to be happy. They’re worried that the current educational system doesn’t teach the life skills necessary to solve the myriad problems their children will surely inherit. Many parents feel hopeless. When they learn that mindfulness training is – an evidenced based curriculum; with a long, reliable track record; universal in its approach; and taught in a secular way – they feel hopeful again. Hope motivates change and explains the growing, grassroots social-action movement for mindful education.