By Ora Nadrich
Students are starting to anticipate the coming school year, and it looks more and more as if the coronavirus pandemic will continue to disrupt the normal learning environment. As students and teachers both try to cope with stress and frustration on the ongoing disruption, an important way to ease the aggravation and engage students is utilizing a code of behavior based on Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a basic human ability to be fully present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing with acceptance and non-judgment.
Teaching Mindfulness to students, whether in the classroom or through remote learning, is a promising way for them to learn what it means to not only be more present in their lives, but to be present with kindness and compassion. It connects them to their feelings and keeps them better grounded through the difficult changes in learning brought on by the pandemic. Learning Mindfulness practices will prepare them for the many challenging situations that they’ll face out in the world as they become more independent.
When discussing challenging or upsetting topics like the COVID pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the presidential election in class, they can apply their Mindfulness skills to handle whatever surfaces in their own feelings or those expressed by others. They will be able to process the information and make decisions from a much more grounded, aware state of mind.
Mindfulness gives students a code of behavior for thinking about the words that leave their mouth and the actions in which they engage. They will learn to take a necessary pause in order to choose more thoughtful words and deeds when conveying their thoughts and feelings.
Teach students these Mindfulness basics as a way to establish a new code of behavior to help the entire class cope:
1. Focus on the present – When your thoughts wander to the past, which has come and gone, or the future, which is not yet here, bring your awareness back to what you’re experiencing right now.
2. Breathe mindfully – Use the breath as a center of focus to bring your concentration and awareness back to the present moment.
3. Be in the moment – Become aware of the actual moment.
4. Connect to core values – Connecting to your true core, or who you really are inside. Are you showing up in this moment as your most genuine self?
5. Practice non-judgment – This is being with your thoughts and feelings without categorizing them as good or bad. All of your feelings have a purpose, and you must allow yourself to experience them. Try to observe and accept whatever arises in your consciousness with an open mind. By doing this with yourself, you can extend this non-judging attitude to others.
6. Stay fully present – You are aware of whatever you’re experiencing in the present moment as you go through your day. What do you feel in your body? Connect to your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling or doing right here and now?
7. Remain curious – Rather than shutting out your feelings or emotions because you think you can’t handle them, observe what you’re experiencing with curiosity. Let whatever you’re feeling arise, and be aware that the next moment is an opportunity to be completely different. This helps you create the mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings without reacting negatively.
8. Accept things as they are – You don’t try to force or change anything into what you think it “should” or “has” to be, but you accept it as it is in the moment. You extend this acceptance to others. Don’t expect others to be what you want them to be, but allow them to be who they are.
9. Recognize connection – You feel connected to all living things and to nature, recognizing that you are part of a larger whole. You feel grateful for your life and acknowledge that, just like you, all human beings want to feel happy. You see into others’ hearts and know that we all have similar needs and desires.
10. Go with the flow – Try not to hold onto experiences, expectations or resentments. Acknowledge that life is a constant flow, and that attachment comes from fear, which is the basis of suffering. Try to view life as waves in an ocean, and try to surf each wave the best you can. Go with the flow and be confident in your ability to adapt to change.
11. Embrace peace and serenity – You remain calm and poised, not getting swept up in life’s highs and lows. You know that life is constantly changing, and you flow with those changes with non-attachment. You stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. You practice understanding, and live each moment with a peaceful and accepting heart towards yourself and others.
12. Pause – Take frequent breaks from all of the busyness and “doing.” Get off your devices. Enjoy a moment of stillness. The more moments of stillness you allow, the more balanced your life will be and the happier you’ll become.
13. Show compassion – You are gentle, kind and patient with yourself and others. You are a mindful listener, and try to understand your own and other people’s feelings, experiences and suffering. You employ compassion in all of the moments of your life.
Mindfulness is a skill that everyone can develop and use. It has enormous value through all the benefits it can bring into our own and others’ lives. Teaching it to students is one of the most important things we can do to spread peace and compassion in the world. It teaches them more than just what they need to learn academically. It exposes them to a reality beyond what they see on social media. Mindfulness will lead young people to adopt a code of behavior that guides them to become good citizens of the world — something we need more than ever.
* * *
Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, named in the 100 Best Mindfulness Books of All Time by BookAuthority. She is a certified life coach and min