A large number of people think about giving a try to mindfulness meditation, but it can be really hard sometimes to know where to begin. It is simple if you make up your mind to do it. All you have to do is take a comfortable seat, pay attention to the breath and when your attention strolls, return.
But the big question arises whether mindfulness is necessary in classrooms or not? There are many schools who teach mindfulness meditation to their students. They show them how to start, feel better about themselves, reduce stress and enjoy this life a little more.
Such an effort was made by the English teacher Argos Gonzalez who lives in New York city to help dropped out or fallen behind students get through sufferings.
This is the story based on his incredible effort. Go through it and let us know what you think about it.
A five-minute walk from the rickety, raised track that carries the 5 train through the Bronx, the English teacher Argos Gonzalez balanced a rounded metal bowl on an outstretched palm. His class—a mix of black and Hispanic students in their late teens, most of whom live in one of the poorest districts in New York City—by now were used to the sight of this unusual object: a Tibetan meditation bell.
“Today we’re going to talk about mindfulness of emotion,” Gonzalez said with a hint of a Venezuelan accent. “You guys remember what mindfulness is?” Met with quiet stares, Gonzalez gestured to one of the posters pasted at the back of the classroom, where the students a few weeks earlier had brainstormed terms describing the meaning of “mindfulness.” There were some tentative mumblings: “being focused,” “being aware of our surroundings.”
Gonzalez nodded. “Right. But it’s also being aware of our feelings, our emotions, and how they impact us.”
Arturo A. Schomburg Satellite Academy is what is known in New York City as a transfer school, a small high school designed to re-engage students who have dropped out or fallen behind. On the day I visited, one of Gonzalez’s students had just been released from jail; one recently had an abortion; one had watched a friend bleed to death from a gunshot wound the previous year.
The slightly built, 30-something Gonzalez, who wears a wide smile and a scruffy beard, first learned about mindfulness from his wife, a yoga teacher in schools around the city.
“First, sit up straight, put your feet flat on the ground. Let your eyes close.” Gonzalez demonstrated as he instructed. Most of the 15 or so students followed suit—though a few scribbled surreptitiously to finish overdue assignments. “Take a deep breath into your belly. As you breathe in and breathe out, notice that your breath is going to be stronger in a certain part of your body.”
It may not be the typical way to start an English class, but Gonzalez’s students were familiar with these five-minute mindfulness exercises—from counting breaths and focusing on the sensations of breathing, to visualizing thoughts and feelings—that he uses to help train their attention, quiet their thoughts, and regulate their emotions.
Mindfulness has also been harnessed in increasingly diverse contexts beyond health care—some uses more legitimate than others. Last year, the Congressman Tim Ryan introduced mindfulness into weekly staff meetings on the Hill, Timepublished a cover story on the topic, and CNN’s Anderson Cooper dedicated aprimetime segment to showcasing his own transformative experience at a mindfulness retreat center.
Even when the concept of mindfulness was created it was slightly nebulous; now, as it is reappropriated and circulated in the media, it has become even more so. The lack of a universal definition for mindfulness, along with its increasing association with celebrity and vague implications of spirituality, health, and happiness leave some skeptics dismissing it as a superficial, hokey fad.
Mindfulness is widely considered effective as a treatment for children and adolescents with aggression, ADHD, or anxiety.
It improves attention, reduces stress, and results in better emotional regulation and an improved capacity for compassion and empathy. This strong base of research, along with a growing body of supporters, are fueling the momentum behind mindfulness. And as Gonzalez demonstrates, it’s now spreading to schools, where it could potentially have an impact on students’ well-being; a quarter of American adolescents suffer from a mental disorder, according to a 2010 Johns Hopkins study.
The first major effort to use mindfulness in schools began in the UK in 2007 with a series of fixed lesson plans delivered in classrooms across the country. Interest in the movement has picked up pace since. More than a dozen similar initiatives have sprouted in the U.S., grassroots programs that train teachers in mindfulness and generate their own curricula.
Efforts to implement mindfulness in classrooms haven’t always gone smoothly. Some parents and administrators have challenged its use in schools based on its religious roots—and in at least one instance even managed to shut a program down. As mindfulness is used more routinely in the medical sphere, these belief-based critiques are becoming less common. But the lack of evidence demonstrating the long-term academic impact of mindfulness has raised concerns about its role as an educational tool.
Qualitative evidence touting the benefits of mindfulness in the classroom—like Mindful Schools’ encouraging survey results and uplifting anecdotes fromparticipants—is easy to come by, and several short-term research studies onelementary– and middle-school students have shown positive results. But serious questions remain about the overall efficacy of such programs on non-subjective measurements of well-being and academic performance, such as test scores, graduation rates, mental-health referrals, and overall life outcomes.
Back in the Bronx, after a minute or two of the day’s mindfulness exercise, his own eyes also closed, Gonzalez ran through a list of emotions: Happy. Sad. Excited. Mad. Bored. Loving. Worried. Jealous. Silly.
Schomburg two years earlier. “I didn’t know anybody. I was very depressed. I didn’t want to be in school,” she told me in a hushed voice at the end of class. Shortly before transferring to this school, her favorite big brother had been hit by a car.Now, she writes in perfect, neat script as she fills out a worksheet to accompany the day’s mindfulness exercise. But she told me she wasn’t always so eager to participate.
“I used to write, ‘I hate this, I don’t want to do this.’ I ripped those papers up,” she said. But one day when she was in a particularly dark mood, something clicked. “Argos told me to close my eyes. Then he said, ‘Connect to your breath.’ He always used to say it, but I never really did it until then.” Gonzalez told me that his Mindful Schools training had specific segments dedicated to working with trauma.
Another student told me she was skeptical about mindfulness but admitted that it could be helpful. She told me that she initially refused to do the exercises, sitting defiantly while others participated. Some of the tasks—like tapping your thumb to each finger individually, to narrowly focus attention on your fingertips—did nothing but irritate her. Eventually, though, she realized she was alone in her resistance, and she began to go through the motions, largely because she likes and respects Gonzalez.
Beyond the issue of scientific evidence, bringing mindfulness into classrooms raises other questions: How does it fit into the traditional teaching model?
“My intention as a mindfulness instructor is to give students some very simple and basic tools so they can learn to self regulate. That’s the beginning and end of it.” Gonzalez says.
By the end of Gonzalez’s morning class, the quiet, focused tone had long faded. Several students stood up from their desks, leaning over each other, laughing, knowing that personal challenges await them outside the classroom, just as they always have.
Over the chatter, the student with the glossy pink lips told me that hearing Gonzalez say the word “sad” triggered a flashback to all of those overwhelming memories of grief and pain she has been working to move beyond, but that it was okay. “Those feelings are there, but they won’t kill me,” she said. “I still have my days where it’s not easy, but mindfulness helps me a whole lot. Honestly, I feel like if I’d had this before, it would have been easier.”
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