One of the joys and rewards I find delight in about teaching and sharing mindfulness is when it really begins to organically stick with my students.
I used to think that I was the only one jumping up and down, excited about teaching mindfulness practices, especially during the early days when I had just begun to share it. Despite initial bland expressions and responses when I first introduced mindfulness to my students, I stuck with it over the months and years as I was so passionate about it. I began to check in more frequently with the students in regards to how they felt about the different mindfulness practices we had worked on and over time I started to hear more and more of their thoughts. At times they expressed things that they loved about mindfulness and other times what they didn't like about it which was great feedback for me.
They surprised me with their honest reflections. For example, a student once opened up that she was so busy during the week that she was stressed out. She said that mindfulness practice was the only time that she could relax because her after school schedule was jammed up every day with either piano, Mandarin, English, or violin lessons. She said that if she was lucky, she would some times have Fridays off to play.
Another student upon reflection said he thought mindfulness was a waste of time. Trying not to react in defence, I asked him to explain why he felt it was a waste of time, so that I could better understand his thoughts.
He then went on to explain that his mother always said to him that in order to be productive and to improve himself, he had to do extra math, English, and Mandarin, so his interpretation of mindfulness was that it was 'doing nothing', therefore useless to him. I did not judge his response instead try to understand his point of view.
Receiving regular feedback from my students about how they feel about mindfulness allows me to personalize and provide choice in regards to the practice itself. For example, I often use eye-pillows with my students during the mindfulness sessions. One of my students prefers not to be still and lay down, so I allow him to quietly walk around helping me to place the eye pillows gently on the other students.
I have another student who has difficulty remaining still but still likes to take part in the activities. However, instead of remaining still, he quietly rocks back and forth or side to side as he listens. After one session he thanked me and told me that he could see what was going on in his mind. He said that he cannot be still in his head because it's like ten giant screens playing images all at once. This was a great first step to personalize my practice for him in order to help him quiet his mind.
Ending my mindfulness sessions with time to reflect is a valuable tool as it allows my students' voices to be heard. We always purposely pause and listen to one another's thoughts and opinions about the mindfulness practice.
Although they all don't fully embrace it, having done mindfulness with my students for four years now has allowed me to see that many of them are really beginning to understand the value that the practice can bring to their lives in helping to calm them, reduce anxiety and lower stress.
How happy I am to water the seeds of mindfulness in these young and beautiful minds.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily