Mindfulness at GSFS
In recent years, interest in the field of mindfulness has grown considerably. Indeed, recognition for the simple practice of being present in the ‘“here and now” has gained a foothold in fields ranging from professional sports to technology development. Perhaps most exciting is the growing presence of mindfulness in schools. And why not? Students often report feeling overwhelmed or struggling to respond thoughtfully to stressors instead of reacting impulsively. The ways in which mindfulness supports improved attention and focus also have obvious benefits in the school setting. Here at GSFS, several teachers are working to incorporate mindfulness practice in their classrooms and considering how to infuse mindfulness into the larger school community.
So how does mindfulness differ from Quaker meeting for worship? When introducing mindfulness to middle schoolers at GSFS, some wanted to know why we would set aside another time in the week to sit in silence. In Quaker silence students seek truth and contact with their inner light. They may feel moved to speak. In Mindfulness practice students are seeking something quite different. They are seeking a state of being, rather than a state of doing. They are seeking a state of mind that keeps them in the present moment. This can be done in community, but it can also be done alone, throughout the day. Mindfulness helps us to notice and respond, rather than react.
GSFS has begun its Mindfulness program by teaching useful tools in the 7th and 8th grades. Students receive specific lessons that teach students how to settle mindfully. Students practice tools such as mindful posture, mindful listening and mindful breathing. They are doing so with the guidance of our school counselor Amira, who is trained and is a mindfulness practitioner. She and Kristin, another trained mindfulness educator, are building a program to provide weekly lessons to students in the Middle School.
In the Lower School, Sandie, another trained mindfulness educator, has led workshops with faculty and staff, and incorporates mindfulness throughout the day with her second grade students. With Mindfulness, her students practice being aware of who they are, what they are feeling, thinking, saying, and doing, and what is going on inside of them and around them. Each child can develop a little more peace and joy while enhancing their communication and interconnection with their school environment, everyone and everything in it.
As we continue with the program, the goals are to see increased emotion regulation, compassion, and attention, among other things. If you see a student pausing to take a breath, bravo! They may be incorporating the skills needed to stay present and open to possibilities.