n 1890, William James, the pioneering American psychologist, philosopher and educator, wrote, "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will. . . An education which should improve this faculty would be the education par excellence."
This is a perfect description of the nature and purpose of mindfulness training in schools. Children who practice mindfulness show marked improvements in:
- Self- and situational awareness
Attention span and listening skills
Behavior and discipline
Participation and cooperation
Test scores / diminished test anxiety
shows that children who practice mindfulness enjoy significantly greater improvement in cognitive control of attention as compared to non-practitioners. This executive function is one of the last to mature in the brain’s development, and the one most closely linked to academic achievement. Giving children the gift of mindfulness is giving them an advantage that will last a lifetime.
It is no surprise, then, that school mindfulness programs
are spreading rapidly all over the world—in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.
The Mind-Body Approach
Mindful Skills founder George Chen with students at PS21, Yonkers, NY
employs a mind-body approach to mindfulness instruction for children.
When mindfulness classes are scheduled just before recess or lunch,
sitting still is not always possible right away. That’s why we augment
the contemplative techniques at the core of the program with other
elements from mind-body disciplines such as tai chi and aikido. Children
may engage in visualization and reflex exercises, or experiment with
the placement of attention in different areas of the body to achieve
greater strength and flexibility. These elements are
|always presented in
a safe and non-competitive manner, and drive home the point that
mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time—sitting, standing or
Emphasis on Sustained Practice
As in our adult programs, our work with children emphasizes sustained practice outside of mindfulness class. We use the buddy system, journaling assignments, bulletin boards, mindful lunch tables and other devices to promote a mindful school culture, and we work closely with teachers and staff to calibrate our program to each school’s objectives and needs.
Adult practitioners who have experienced the powerful effects of mindfulness often ask, “How would my life have been different if I had learned this as a child?” Until now, the only people who could answer that question authoritatively were monastics who had started the practice in childhood. But with the widespread adoption of mindfulness programs in classrooms around the world, that is rapidly changing.
today to begin the process of designing a fun and transformative mindfulness program tailor-made for your school.