Note: The mindfulness teacher has needs. S/he needs meditation practice, time for studying the precepts, listening to others on the path, reading the greats who have shared their knowledge. S/he needs to be ready to offer mindfulness whenever and wherever.
Class Relax was founded in order to bring mindfulness into the classroom, to offer teacher and student the chance to disconnect from outside stimulation, to take the time to notice the body, the breath, thoughts and emotions.
Hence, this past Thursday, after Sukkot break, a break that was rich with study for me, but also heavily filled with daily bad news in the country, I came to Nofei Habsor with the intention to bring a fresh eye and a replenished mind.
I entered the 9th grade “Telem” class (a special extra-supportive framework) to offer them Class Relax.
The class was noisy and chaotic. Their homeroom teacher was out of school for an intensive Math teacher seminar. The day before, they’d been shuffled from place to place with or without teachers. That particular morning, the bomb squad had been called to school to neutralize a suspicious object left on a bench outside the school gate. (It turned out to be harmless, but still, before it could be addressed, school buses had brought pupils right into the school grounds so that they could disembark directly into a sheltered building.)
As I walked into the classroom, I heard the voice of G, the teacher conducting the ‘Good Morning’ session. Her voice was shrill in the attempt to gather the attention of the pupils.
I watched the class as they slowly realized she was talking to them. They put away their phones, stopped chattering and began to settle in. The longer they took, the less time we’d have for our mindfulness session. I used the time to notice my feet on the floor and pay attention to my own breathing, as I glanced at the faces before me.
Finally, it was my turn to conduct the session. I reminded them that we were going to do a short exercise together. We’d disconnect from past events of the morning, and set aside any thoughts of what might be. This was our time to be in the present moment.
We noticed our feet on the floor, our bodies on the chair.
Q:‘Should I take off my shoes?’
A, No need, we can do this exactly as we are.
Q,’Should I sit cross-legged?’
A, You don’t have to, you can stay as you are!
These questions delighted me! They were looking forward to this. They wanted to do it ‘right’!
We straightened our spines imagining a thread attached to the top of our heads pulling us up to the ceiling while we kept awareness of our feet on the ground. Shoulders relaxed, we exhaled.
We would count five breaths, silently, in our own rhythm. We could use our fingers to count.
I invited them to close their eyes if they wished and we began. Big exhale, inhale, exhale – One!
Inhale, exhale- Two! And then they each carried on.
My eyes were lowered. I felt the silence in the room.
After a minute or so, I invited them to slowly come back, open their eyes, sense their bodies and stretch.
I invited G, the teacher, to stretch with me. I have seen that if someone only does the stretching routine, it’s enough to seriously center the mind and body. We stretch symmetrically resulting in an instant balancing effect.
We slapped our knees, clapped our hands and wished ourselves a ‘wonderful day.’ We were all smiling. They thanked me. G thanked me. Then she contributed the fact that many schools begin their days with mindfulness. Yes, indeed!
Three-minute Mindfulness, including prelude, breathing and stretching with a verbalized positive wish.
So simple, so effective! Because I felt so good, I did a similar exercise with my Seventh grade pupils as we started our lesson. They participated and several asked for more.
The calming effect is clear, but also, there’s something in the communal act of each of us paying attention at the same time that enriches the atmosphere and unifies the room.
Class Relax offers any teacher, anywhere an easy way to incorporate mindfulness breaks into the lesson, before or during. Let’s spread the word!
If you’d like to join us, please comment below!