Session 2-“A Practice of Perception” A session with Amy Edelestein, The Inner Strength Foundation

 

Reflections from Amy on the importance of meditation in schools:

  • Mindfulness is great stress reduction, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a medication for your wounded self.
  • Kids are terrified to be with their thoughts and feelings. This practice teaches them that “I can be myself” “I can be vulnerable with my thoughts without someone disciplining me or getting mad about it”. The key to this mindfulness practice is to not freak out about anything that happens, and what helps create this space is not reacting.
  • Best way to approach this practice is telling students we are working on them reaching their higher potential.
  • It can be better to bring in someone from the outside to practice mindfulness. Students are so tied into what you have been bringing, and what you ask them to do they have to do. You also have to maintain a certain level of discipline. It is important that it is brought in from the outside, more of something they want to do.
  • No matter how many thoughts you have in your head, the sky is still there, there is still empty awareness regardless of how many objects are in it. When you start letting thoughts drop into the background and allow consciousness to move to foreground you realize there is infinite space.
  • With mindfulness parts of yourself you might not want to have had come to light comes out. It is important to be able to recognize these and not necessarily react to them. This includes when having difficult conversations around being mindfully aware of prejudice and stereotypes, and not necessarily interpreting or reacting to people’s reactions/statements/judgments but cultivating the space for perception and patterns of thinking to come to the surface will cultivate responsibility for our own thoughts.

Strategies for doing Mindfulness with students:

  • Ask your students: “How do you feel?” This objectifies the feeling and brings the stress level down. It doesn’t mean that as the teacher you have to get involved in the story. It creates space for the child, you haven’t solved their problem and that’s ok because it’s not your role. However, this allows the student to feel more calm and then re-enter the activity or lesson.
  • Have your students put their hand over their eyes and think of the hand as a negative thought or feeling (e.g. The teacher who I’m mad at, what happened at home yesterday or this morning). Then have them open their eyes and to notice that they cannot see anything because their perception is clouded by the emotions. Prompt them to spread their fingers a little bit, now they can notice some details about the hand but still cannot see too well around them. Prompt them to spread their fingers even more as they slowly move their hand away from their face. They can now see the wall and what’s around them in small chunks. Not everything at once, which encourages the practice of perception and filtering the stimuli around them.
    • Kids have face so much stress and sometimes they don’t understand why something has happened. Without any space to process these emotions, thoughts can paralyze them. They don’t have the maturity yet to create distance for themselves. As teachers we get the blacklast because they will try to muscle anything in their way to create space (e.g. repeated negative responses to classroom activities).
  • With kids start getting them to focus on the space between them, encourage their awareness to be outside of themselves. Usually they focus on: me and him, me and her, am I in the ingroup or the outgroup. Get them to pay attention to the mood of the room. What is the class culture, what does it feel like? Not just the rules, but the vibe of the room and the feel of the room.   With mindful practice you become more aware of the space. This can create unity even when there are a lot of cliques.
    • For younger kids: have them dance the vibe of the room. Is it energetic, is it flowing, is it moving fast, is it moving slow?

 

Local Programs to check out:

Inner Strength Foundation (Amy’s Foundation) Check out info here

Mindfulness through movement (Grade school level) Check out info here

Transcendental meditation at Visitacion Valley School, San Fransisco

Other Resources:

Arts Holding Hands and Hearts:  Info here

 

Shareout: Biggest Classroom Issues

  • 5th grade, a lot of my frustration is them knowing right or wrong times to talk or when I need their attention.
  • I am often annoyed because the kids are often so boring to me. There is a sense of entitlement that if they don’t find something fun then they are not going to engage in it and the teacher has to make it fun before they will think about engaging. Where is their curiosity? Where is their effort?
  • Peer interaction and the appropriateness of their interaction with each other.
  • I have a hard time getting them to speak to each other respectfully. Since day one we’ve been talking about it and what else do I try? In thinking about the space and what it feels like to come is hard because they are so mean to each other it’s not a great environment.
  • Students don’t come in remotely happy and there are real limits within my power of the classroom in what I can do to change their mood. They all have different schedules on how to get them dialed down and in a place where they can engage and even look me in the eye. Paramount feature of this classroom is that it starts out angry. The environment is not giving the children space to breathe and I’m interested in how to facilitate more connection in the classroom.
  • I often get frustrated with my peers. And I wonder how mindfulness can cultivate better colleague to colleague interactions.

Additional Links:

 

 

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