Mindfulness is often described simply as awareness. “Awareness of what?”, one surely asks. “All things rooted in the present moment, in fact, including thoughts, body sensations, sounds, smells, feelings. The present moment, the only moment that truly exists, and the moment that contains all of the universe”, a teacher might respond. But for beginners, and seasoned practitioners as well, it’s useful to start with the breath, our trusty companion. There is a special strength and catharsis in just focusing on our breath, which connects us to the present, and can produce a still, quiet mind, not to mention relaxation. I hope you’ll find this modest page on mindfulness useful.
The Graded School Student Wellness Summit
In September, 2016, I was fortunate to visit Graded School Sao Paulo on behalf of an invitation from my friend and Head of School, Richard Boerner. The work Rich and his team are doing at Graded is truly inspirational.
Graded played host to 70+ high school students and advisors from like-minded international schools in Brazil for a student leadership retreat. I was asked to lead the event through the lens of mindfulness. The first day centered on self-care, where we practiced breathing techniques, mindful walking, and a loving kindness meditation. We unpacked the “soft skills” necessary for effective leadership. The second day was again filled with mindfulness practices, including mindful eating, standing yoga, and the body scan (otherwise known as the “have them fall asleep” activity). The day’s focus was how we could make wellness pervasive in today’s high schools, and each school left with energy and specific strategies they would attempt to put in place.
It was inspirational to see students empowered by their commitment to wellness (their own and for others), believing high school could be a place where students could be happy, healthy, and could achieve academic results. It proved to me that mindfulness has a place in school (beyond just a class or unit placed in the schedule, or as an after-school activity). Young people will embrace mindfulness. This was proven when we were able to get 400+ high school students in a packed auditorium to hold a silent and still posture for almost ten minutes.
I’m happy to share the Google Slides presentation from the two days.
While at Graded, I carved out time for a morning “Mountain” meditation, as well as a two-part Happy Teacher workshop, for we need to take care of our teachers as well. Here is the Google Slides presentation from this.
Finally, I ended my time at Graded with a parent presentation. The topic was “school stress”, which I drew from my days in the U.S. and my affiliation with Denise Pope’s Challenge Success initiative out of Stanford University. I find the advice coming out this work on point, and the 125 parents were quite receptive. Here is the slideshow.
The Mindfulness Summit (link)