”These are days you’ll remember. Never before and never since, I promise the whole world be warm as this. And as you feel it you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky. It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.”
—These are days, 10,ooo maniacs.
You know that thing where you learn a new word and then for a time you start hearing that word ALL the time even though it seems that you’d never really heard it before? You hear it on the radio, in conversations at work, on your favorite sitcom? It’s as though the universe it telling you to pay attention.
Recently this happened to me with the concept of meditation.
First I heard an ad for Headspace, which is an app that is an introduction to meditation. Then on the Happier in Hollywood podcast, I listened intently while Liz and Sarah talked about their meditation practices. My boss mentioned in casual conversation that she meditates followed by yoga daily.
Every three months our school closes for an in-service. The staff has a chance to meet and discuss Montessori philosophy and learn about tools and techniques that help support self-care and personal growth as well as better ways to support the children in our care with their own personal growth. During our February in-service Monti Pal a psychotherapist and Montessori mom taught our teaching team about mindfulness. She explained in simple terms how important it is to be present in the moment and to make mindfulness a daily practice.
Things have been a little nuts at work with a recent turn over of adults. I’ve been stressed about it and my husband surprised me one weekend by telling me he has started meditating and that I should try it too. My jaw dropped and then I listened as he described what had been working to keep him from losing his cool at work.
I decided to try meditation.
I remembered a TED talk I had seen recently in which Matt Cutts urges the viewer to try something new for 30 days. I listened to the universe and I took his advice. I did it! All 30 days.
I started with the Headspace app I mentioned earlier and I really liked the 10 day introduction to meditation. The guy has a really soothing voice and he walks you through a simple ten minute meditation each day in which there’s a little breathing, a body scan, an opportunity to let the mind wander and then bring the attention back to the body. Lastly the guide suggests a mood check to assess how you’re feeling. I added a simple step at the end by setting an intention for my day. So far I kinda like it. It feels like a really good way to start the day, especially if I follow it with yoga with Adriene.
I have missed a day here or there and that’s ok. On the days when I practice my meditation and the follow that with yoga, I feel stronger. I feel proud of myself. I feel good.
As a Montessori teacher, I help young children learn to recognize and manage their emotions. Young people often have BIG feelings and they need time and space to practice how to navigate their feelings.
My colleague, Christina of Montessoriishmom.com, wrote a terrific article about how to use mindfulness with a toddler for Motherly.com called “Ease Your Anxious Child: 6 Simple Mindfulness Exercises To Try Today“.
I recently learned about the RULER method of teaching children about feelings developed at Yale center for Emotional Intelligence. Simply put we intend to teach children to:
- Recognize emotion in themselves and others,
- begin to Understand the causes and consequences of different emotions,
- build a sophisticated vocabulary to Label a full range of emotions,
- how we Express emotion as well as external factors that influence expression,
- and then the goal is to teach the children how to Regulate their emotion.
It was a terrific lecture and I took lots of notes about how to help the children in my classroom. In fact, I mentioned it to my boss and she sounded like she might include some of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence techniques for teacher in-service in the future.
This week I added the “quiet spot” in my classroom. I wanted to provide a place where the children can have some private time to get quiet and re-set. I arranged the furniture a little differently so that the adults could supervise a child in the quiet spot and yet the child feels secluded. There’s a cozy cushion (actually it’s a dog bed kinda like this one!) and I put a little shelf next to it with some of our peace activities.
I noticed the success of the quiet spot RIGHT AWAY! I made sure the children knew that only one person could be in the quiet spot at a time and that if they saw someone there, they were working hard on finding peace and that they could not be interrupted. For several days I protected and guided the work there at all costs so that the expectation was clear. Also, if someone was particularly active, like standing up a lot or something like that or if they weren’t actually being quiet, then I would redirect them.
Sometimes a child will just lay there on the cushion and sometimes a child will take something with them from the peace shelf. Some of the things we have out right now are:
- A meditation stone (a cool-looking, heavy rock)
- An hourglass
- A worry stone (something pretty that fits in the palm of a tiny hand)
- A finger labyrinth
- Some visualization cards from A Handful of Quiet
- A “breathe deep” stone (a big, smooth river rock the child holds to his chest and takes 5 deep breaths)
All of the peace work can be used elsewhere in the classroom too. We teach some other breathing and meditation techniques that require no object at all. And then of course the adults and the older children model the kindness and compassion of helping out a friend who is struggling with conflict either internal or external.
It’s really easy to show a child how to take deep breaths and they remember to practice if they see a tangible object that reminds them to practice. Do you have a quiet spot in your home or in your classroom? How do you help the little people in your life recenter?