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Meditation in Schools: A Turn Toward Mindfulness

“When your attention moves into the Now, there is an alertness. It is as if you were waking up from a dream, the dream of thought, the dream of past and future. Such clarity, such simplicity. No room for problem-making. Just this moment as it is.” ~Eckhart Tolle

An elementary school in West Baltimore was recently spotlighted by CNN for its innovative approach to discipline: the school sends kids to meditation rather than detention.

Robert W. Coleman Elementary School has set up a “Mindful Moment Room,” a calming space where kids go after moments of tension and altercation, to practice techniques like yoga and deep breathing. To skeptics, it might seem like the equivalent of a “time out” or even a reward for bad behavior. But the results speak for themselves: This inner-city school has had a marked reduction in the number of trips to the principal’s office, and zero suspensions, since it instituted its mindfulness policy.

Coleman Elementary isn’t alone. In fact, according to Vox, hundreds of schools across the country are now incorporating mindfulness meditation as part of school life. Anxiety among the young is epidemic, thanks in part to dumb policies like obsessive standardized testing: maybe this approach will mitigate their stresses a bit.

Meditation also gives children a much-needed skill to take into their adult life and the world at large. If we can all learn to find the stillness in ourselves—before we reach for anger or overreaction—we might over time change humanity for the better.

Benefits of Meditation

Forbes recently summarized some scientific data that suggests mindfulness meditation could benefit students. Among these:

  • Better attention spans—In particular, meditation seems to improve performance of children with ADHD.

  • Increased self-awareness and self-control—Students who practice various forms of mindfulness have a better capacity to understand themselves and make better choices.

  • Improved social responsibility—Kids who meditate tend to show more empathy.

  • Improved overall mental health—Meditation helps kids with anxiety, depression and other mental/emotional issues.

Preliminary but exciting studies suggest that schools that implement mindfulness programs see better behavioral patterns among their children, as well as better attendance and better grades.

We don’t hesitate to heavily medicate our children to strive for the kinds of results discussed above. Doesn’t it make sense to consider alternative approaches, such as a non-invasive, cheap practice with strong scientific support and anecdotal evidence going back thousands of years? We know the costs of having our children hooked on prescription medication. They’re not cheap. What’s the worst that could happen with meditation?

A Sidestepping of Church/State Separation?

Some critics have contended that, because mindfulness meditation has roots in Buddhism, its practice in public schools violates a 1963 Supreme Court ruling that banned religious practices, such as prayer in school. However, as the Huffington Post points out, courts have been largely silent on the issue, because schools’ mindfulness practices have taken a secularized approach: They use physical and mental techniques without teaching religious doctrines.

In fact, the argument could be made that mindfulness could fill a void left when the schools stopped addressing spirituality, and these practices could be incorporated seamlessly into many belief systems without compromising the beliefs themselves. Since meditation is simply a tool that is not owned or originated by any religion, the argument it is religious falls flat. It may seem to have roots in Buddhism. But in reality, no one knows when it began. The earliest writings about it were found in Hinduism in India and Taoism in China around 600-500 BCE.

No matter what the critics say, the practice is simply a way to bring your conscious awareness back to the now and cultivate an inner stillness when the mind wants to run rampant. In our chaotic world, this practice seems to offer a needed antidote.

Are you anxious about the mounting burden of your student debt? Mindfulness practice may bring you a sense of calm and control. And then the team at College Loan Freedom can give you practical tools to deal with your challenges intelligently. Give us a call to find out how.

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