As a mindfulness trainer, I’m a big fan of promoting greater mindfulness in the classroom. However, it’s interesting to me that those who seem to be the most thoughtful and passionate proponents of mindfulness in education are the ones most likely to be trapped by their limited thinking.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I praise those who introduce silence, stillness and contemplation among students. I applaud those who explain the concept of mindfulness and invite their charges to explore the wonder of watching the mind in action. I celebrate the teachers who use “mindfulness" as an everyday word in their lessons.
But why stop there?
In the name of recess, field trips, and all that kids hold holy in school, can’t we make mindfulness FUN?
By using bells to signal silence and having kids close their eyes in order to be mindful, we’re sticking to the tried-and-true meditation model.
Could kids settle peacefully in their chairs at the sound of a kazoo? Would they benefit from an eyes-wide-open approach to mindfulness that allows them to be active? Can they develop heightened awareness and concentration while playing—with words, music, numbers, colors, shapes, textures and smells?
We learn best when we’re enjoying the process. Teaching kids to meditate? Great. But we are unnecessarily limiting the possibilities for greater awareness by preaching—er, teaching—that meditation is the only path to paying attention.
Kids—like the rest of us—want shortcuts. They love games. They remember the things that make them laugh. They pay attention to processes that allow them to be their natural creative selves. Kids see oddball connections and they are extremely resourceful when it comes to playing with even the most mundane objects and concepts.
So, let’s let them play. Something tells me they’d approach this differently if it were up to them.
I encourage teachers to include mindfulness training in the classroom, but I urge them to release their attachment to the notion that it has to be done so SERIOUSLY.
Mindfulness is about noticing new things, drawing distinctions, shifting perspectives, and staying fully present. It is the very essence of having fun.
The truth is that it’s impossible to have fun UNLESS you’re fully present. So, it seems to me that kids already have an innate tendency to be mindful.
With a little guidance, plenty of humor, and a blast of creativity, good teachers can become great mindfulness trainers.
As long as they’re having FUN.
Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she teaches fun, creative and powerful eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit http://www.MassageYourMind.com