TIPS FOR TEACHING MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING
Have your own mindfulness practice. This will make you more confident and effective at teaching mindfulness. We can only offer what we have developed ourselves.
Choose a time for mindfulness. We are creatures of habit! Try to always practice mindfulness at the same time. Many teachers find mindfulness helps their class settle down after recess or after lunch. Of course, you may do it more than once a day.
Create the environment. Make it clear that mindfulness is a special time: clear off desks, perhaps move to the carpet, or have all chairs face the front of the room. Ask students not to take toilet breaks and refrain from talking and moving for a little while.
Get the students involved. The best way to make sure you remember to do mindfulness is to enlist the help of your students. Create a rotation schedule for “who gets to ring the mindfulness bell.” (Or the “Mindfulness triangle, if you don’t have a special bell). If you practice mindfulness at the same time every day, pretty soon you won’t have to remember—whoever’s turn it is will remind you!
You share. Because children respond well when we relay our own experiences, you can share with the students if, how, and when you are using mindfulness in your life. If you share a recent story of when you were overcome with emotion or used mindfulness to help you deal with an emotion, they can hear how it is applied.
They share. Many young students like to share what they’ve noticed or experienced during mindfulness, or maybe something that was challenging or distracting. Sharing also allows others to be aware of things to notice while practicing mindfulness that they may not have heard otherwise. If students have memories, images, thoughts or even imaginary events while they are doing mindful breathing, this is all normal, and can be shared if they want to. 100% focus on the breath is not likely, even for people who practice mindfulness every day! If a student has a sad or difficult memory during mindfulness practice, that is often OK, and even healthy. If you sense it is not OK, that the student doesn’t want to have those memories, suggest that next time they keep their eyes open a bit, looking down at their hands on their belly; and/or take a few deeper breaths, breathing out as slowly as possible.
Practice every day! The sooner you begin integrating mindfulness exercises into your daily classroom routine, even for just a minute at a time, the quicker it will become a part of the classroom culture.
Use the instructions and script on the next page for a daily mindfulness lesson; it can be done in just one or two minutes. If you like, you can get more creative and add more in-depth lessons, or practice for longer periods. You can do the same thing every day. A simple lesson to repeat daily is one minute of mindful listening and one minute of mindful breathing.
THE CORE PRACTICE:
MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING – INSTRUCTIONS
The more times you can do this during the day – even for one – to three minutes at a time – the more you will embed the practice as a normal part of the school day, and you will be establishing Mindfulness of Breathing as a life-skill you and your students will always have available. Practice with your students – with softly open eyes.
1. “Please get into your ‘mindful bodies’— slowly rocking your spine into a relaxed upright posture, perhaps putting a hand on your tummy, nice and quiet, eyes closed.”(This can also be done lying down. If any student feels uncomfortable closing their eyes, allow them to open their eyes a little, looking down at their hands on their stomach.)
2. “Now place all your attention on the sound you are about to hear. Listen carefully as you can until the sound is completely gone.”
3. Ring a ‘mindfulness bell’, or ask a student to ring the bell. Use a bell – or a triangle or rain-stick with a sustained sound – to encourage mindful listening. (Ring the bell mindfully – not too hard and loud – or you will startle everyone!)
4. “When you can’t hear the bell any more, focus on your breathing, noticing your breathing. Feel how your tummy moves in and out under your hand. (Optional: “Maybe you can also feel the air going in and out of your nose or mouth”.)
5. You can help students stay focused during the breathing with reminders like, “Just breathing in … just breathing out …” Not too often – keep it mostly silent.
6. (Optional – useful for practicing for longer than one minute) Reminder: “If thoughts, pictures, feelings come, that’s OK – just notice them and gently let them go, and come back to focusing on your breathing”.
6. Ring the bell again to end and say: “Keep listening as long and carefully as you can. When you can’t hear the sound any more, slowly raise your hand. Then gently open your eyes. Please stay still and quiet.”
7. (Optional but recommended to do at least once or twice a week) Ask: “What did you notice while you were listening and breathing. Would anyone like to tell us?” Use your own words. It is important that whatever students share is accepted and ‘normalised’.