Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, Lower School teacher Robert Ley says you practice mindfulness all the time. “Mindfulness is just paying attention to anything that’s happening in our experiences. It means showing up fully in every moment with an open heart,” he says.
Mr. Ley, who underwent two years of training through the Mindful Schools organization, incorporates the practice into his second-grade class. Students strengthen their mindfulness “muscles” with brief, playful exercises, such as focusing on the sound of a ringing bell or fixing their gaze on an object while Mr. Ley tries to distract them. Mr. Ley also offers an optional mindfulness practice for students and teachers a couple of days each week before school.
“Research indicates that mindfulness increases self-awareness, improves attention and emotion regulation, and decreases stress and anxiety,” says Director of Student Services Nicole Neal. “In our work focusing on the overall health and wellness of our students, mindfulness is an important element.”
“It’s a slow process,” Mr. Ley says. “It’s something you have to do every day—a couple of minutes here, a couple of minutes there.” But the practice is paying off. Over the past few months, students have noticed significant improvements in their ability to sustain focus and process emotions, which translates into deeper learning.