Breathing for Mindfulness

Mindfulness, the self-managed ability to focus on the present, is a useful skill in a complex world.  As Patricia Broderick, PhD writes in her book Learning to Breathe,

Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions.

As one part of our effort to help children build emotional resiliency and self control, we use mindfulness techniques with them every day.  Our faculty has worked with CS Rao, a grandparent in our school, to learn a form of breathing that allows us to quickly relax and tune out distractions.  He calls it Counting Breaths and it has the effect of feeding oxygen to the brain, calming emotions, clearing a busy mind, and giving a sense of peace and focus.

Teachers have adapted CS’s ideas for classroom practice.  In Pre K 3, a chime is rung and children  breathe smoothly and quietly as the chime sound deminishes.  In Pre K 4, students use the image of falling leaves while they breathe.  In K-1, Liliana has adopted the language “going into your silence” as children sit quietly in both mind and body and breathe slowly.  2-3’s practice taking five slow clearing breaths as do the 4-5’s.

This year middle school teachers are going to teach the students CS’s method of using the fingers to count breaths.  As CS says, the technique can be used anytime – when you can’t sleep at night, or if you are feeling anxious.  And it works!  I use it in the middle of the night when my mind is racing.

The effect with children is very positive.  They have a strategy to calm themselves that they can use anywhere.  It is a great tool for successfully negotiating frustrations, stress and anxiety and gaining attentiveness and focus.  Having the ability to be mindful gives children confidence that they can handle difficult things.  That is a gift for any individual.

You can read more in this complex and fascinating article Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning, in Mind/Shift.

Meg Taylor, Head