Most people identify so strongly with their minds e.g. the “I am my mind and my mind is me” concept that they think they are their minds and thoughts. Our thoughts and feelings are constantly changing. If we were really our thoughts, we could change as often as they do! ‘Mindfulness techniques to release stress’ simply means observing the mind without judgment as it changes, as it chatters and repeats it’s fear based patterns of thinking.
Two helpful techniques are mindful breathing and mindful movement.
Mindful breathing is the first port of call for any mindfulness practice.
Breathing can help us focus and relax in order to observe our mind chatter without our body reacting to the stress and anxiety that our thoughts can trigger in us.
This is an exercise that can be practiced by children with their parents or by teachers with the children in their classes.
1. Call class/child to attention and remove all physical distractions e.g. books and pencils off desk, T.V. off.
Have children gently close eyes- focusing on a point on the floor ahead of them is also acceptable to children who do not wish to close their eyes (there are many reasons why some children find this hard so it is good to give an option here to begin with)
2. Signal the beginning of the practice, a chime, bell, drum or tone all work well, as does telling the children you are about to begin.
3. Have children breathe normally, noticing how the breath feels as it enters their body, where it goes and how it feels when it leaves.
4. Draw their attention to the temperature of the breath.
5. Draw their attention to the muscular and skeletal system.
6. Tell them they will have 30 seconds to observe their breath, and that if their mind wanders, to just gently bring their attention back to the breath. (30 seconds can be extended as children gain confidence and ability)
7. Signal the end of the practice- 3 chimes/dings/drum beats/tones is an excellent way to complete the session.
8. Give children time if they need it to come back properly- they may just settle peacefully back to work though!!
Moving Mindfully- Labyrinth Walking
One form of ‘mindful’ movement that we train teachers to use with children is walking the Labyrinth. (See RCC Teacher Training) Labyrinths are pathways that have been around for many thousands of years. Labyrinth walking meditations can help focus our minds help us problem solve. When we are stressed and worried our thoughts can manifest continued anxiety in our bodies and outward behaviour. The labyrinth experience allows us to reflect on our life journey in a calm and peaceful way, to let go of stress and anxiety in reflective and purposeful ways.
Great to use for ‘special’ school days like; Yr 6 Graduation, leadership days, spirituality days or even something like a ‘friendship” day!
How to walk the labyrinth with children..
1. Tell the children what a LABYRINTH is used for and its history
Brief history of the Labyrinth: Labyrinths have been around since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. A labyrinth is similar to a maze although there are no tricks or dead ends, there is just one way in and one way out. In the middle ages they were sometimes crafted into the floors of the cathedrals like the Chartres Cathedral, Paris which is one of the most famous. They were very popular in Christian communities and were used when it was too dangerous to travel to the Holy Land and Sacred Places. There are a number of different patterns of labyrinth.
2. Begin with a refection or prayer and play gentle music to enhance the children experience. (We recommend Celtic Dream Time- Putemao Kids- AVAILABLE SOON)
3. Set the PURPOSE /INTENTION for the labyrinth walk. Talk about the layers of the Labyrinth and how to walk mindfully with your intention or prayer.
Discuss how to do this mindfully. Model how children might walk prayerfully and mindfully.
Children then practice walking slowly around the perimeter of the labyrinth in bare feet to give the children a sensation of what it feels like to walk silently and mindfully. Instruct children that they may have to wait patiently for others to walk ahead of them!
Create some reflection stations to move around before/ after their Labyrinth walk that will maintain children’s interest and allow for meaningful reflection.
For more information on Labyrinth walking with children see our Teacher Training page.