I had an extraordinary trip to the States recently.
It seemed to tie in with how I feel (strongly) about teaching kids and young people meditation.
I am a passionate advocate for meditation becoming a natural part of the school day. It should be introduced into the school curriculum in the same way that we include the sciences and the arts.
When it (eventually) is introduced (hopefully in my lifetime) it will help both the stressed-out teaching staff and the overwhelmed students.
- It would increase academic results. Young people would find it easier to study and learn – meditation helps the brain to become less stressed and this helps it to retain information more easily.
- It would calm down reactive behaviours (aggression, anger). It would help teach young people how to engage their pre-frontal cortex which in turn helps them to self regulate. When the executive functioning of the brain increase, it encourages the hemispheres of the brain to have a clearer and more effective neural connection. This helps with decision making and developing creative responses.
- It would reduce young people’s stress levels. Young people are overwhelmed with life. Overstimulated, they find themselves in the fight/flight/freeze response and reacting to life rather than living it. It doesn’t help that they try to switch off with drugs, alcohol or electronic devices. “In 2014, figures were published suggesting a 70% increase in 10-14 year olds attending A&E for self-harm related reasons over the preceding 2 years.” Self harm statistics >>>
- It would improve their energy levels – in a recent study we’ve taken part in, one of the most common reasons young people wanted to meditate was to help improve their sleep. Meditation nurtures the ‘alpha’ frequency of the brain – the precursor to deep, refreshing sleep. In our overstimulated society, young people find it increasingly difficult to ‘switch of’f or access their alpha state.
- Less teaching staff will leave the education system because of stress. “A preliminary online survey of 3,500 members of the NASUWT teachers’ union revealed stress and poor mental health. It found 67 per cent of teachers said their job was having an adverse effect on their mental health. The report, which is to be published at the union’s annual conference over Easter, found 76 per cent of teachers said they are “seriously considering” leaving their job in the last year, compared to 69 per cent in 2014. Separately, 68 per cent said they considered leaving the profession entirely.” The Telegraph, March 2015
So… my trip to the states was amazing, because I am involved in a ‘movement’ to introduce these meditation life skills into the school education system. First Scotland… then the world (hopefully).
I happened to find myself in Concord, home to many authors but in particular the home of Louise May Alcott (author of ‘Little Women’) and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The latter wrote a book called ‘Nature‘ and he was involved in the Transcendentalist movement.
Louise May Alcott’s father was also the founder of this movement. This movement helped changed the American education system by lobbying that children would be given recess time in the school day. In other words their minds would be given a break from study and they were given the chance to be in nature, play and create art (all mindful activities by the way). Do you see how striking the ‘co-incidence’ is?
I have many teachers and head teachers who attend the courses we teach. I know of the wonderful work by other organisations such as the Mindfulness Association. We are all working towards bringing this into the school system. Not to replace school learning or subjects, but to enhance young people’s abilities to learn. To give them the life skills (emotional intelligence) to help them cope with the challenges they face in their future – with a stronger constitution; healthy mind, body and emotional wellbeing.
The evidence is growing. The facts are coming to light how important it is that we do this. We must do this to help young people do more than survive in the future – that they learn to thrive.