by Kayla Reetz
When we were younger, our parents always told us to “Be careful”, “Watch your step”, “Look out”, or- my personal favorite- “listen to your gut”. Little did we know back then our parents were trying to teach us to be more mindful.
When looking up the definition of mindfulness, I found two definitions. The first is “the quality or state of being consciously aware of something”, which may be where our parental figures’ catch phrases come from.
The second definition was: “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations…”. As a trauma informed parent and educator, I feel this definition in my soul. This is what we strive for in ourselves when a child is in their lowest state and working through it. And, boy, is it hard to achieve even for us adults.
I taught music in public school systems from grades PreK-12 for almost ten years of my life. What I have come to notice most is the behaviors we see in schools are, typically, directly related to trauma. What I saw the most in my last years of public education were students who were in that first level of awareness. Their body and mind were so wrapped up in the stimulus of the moment, their bodies did the only thing it could- react in the fastest and quickest way possible. As we know, the quickest and fastest way is not- usually- the best way.
So how do we teach young minds to not only be aware, but be present? What if we could teach children to be aware and accept the feelings and thoughts of each moment? What if we joined them on that journey? How much safer would they feel to know they are not alone?
I return to a quote from the Dalai Lama that is the center of Challenge to Change, Inc’s purpose in schools. If you ever visit their studio in Dubuque, IA, it may be the first thing you see before opening the door: “If every 8 year old in the world was taught mindfulness, we would eliminate violence within one generation.”
This is why I created the Mindfulness in Elementary Schools Curriculum for Challenge to Change, Inc. It is another opportunity for a trained Mindfulness Guide to come into your classroom and teach a deeper understanding of mindfulness to students. It gives them opportunities to become aware of their own bodies through feelings, emotions, and reactions, as well as opportunities to learn the world through various perspectives. Students and teachers learn supplemental emotion regulating techniques to enhance what they are already teaching and not detract from it .
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In doing this, we promote proactive behavior instead of reactive behavior. We practice techniques that notice and acknowledge our reactions before we respond, giving each person more control of the outcome. In doing this, we promote self-control, self-advocacy, and self-assurity. In short, we teach how to “listen to your gut”. Now imagine if the students in your community were able to have that for themselves and how it might alter the future. What a world that could be!
I see you. I honor you.