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@ Mindfulness at Robert C. Parker School

Here is a wonderful blog by Meg Taylor Head of Robert C. Parker School (1) on how the school is introducing mindfulness in various modes. Focusing on breathing (2) is a popular mode in the elementary grades, now being extended to the middle school.

” Learning to channel attention to productive tasks, to sustain motivation when work becomes demanding, and to handle the frustrations of sharing, learning, and communicating with peers are skills that depend on the ability to understand and manage emotions.

As one part of our effort to help children build emotional resiliency and self control, we use mindfulness techniques with them every day. Our faculty has worked with C S Rao (3), a grandparent in our school, to learn a form of breathing (2) that allows us to quickly relax and tune out distractions. He calls it ‘Counting Breaths’ (2) and it has the effect of feeding oxygen to the brain, calming emotions, clearing a busy mind, and giving a sense of peace and focus.

Teachers have adapted CS’s ideas for classroom practice. In Pre K 3, a chime is rung and children breathe smoothly and quietly, as the chime sound diminishes.

In Pre K 4, students use the image of falling leaves while they breathe.

In K-1, Liliana has adopted the language “going into your silence” as children sit quietly in both mind and body and breath slowly.

Grade 2-3’s practice taking five slow clearing breaths as do the 4-5’s. (4)

This year middle school teachers are going to teach the students CS’s method of using the fingers to count breaths. As CS says, the technique can be used anytime – when you can’t sleep at night, or if you are feeling anxious (5). And it works! I use it in the middle of the night when my mind is racing (6).

The effect with children is very positive. They have a strategy to calm themselves that they can use anywhere. It is a great tool for successfully negotiating frustrations, stress and anxiety and gaining attentiveness and focus. Having the ability to be mindful gives children confidence that they can handle difficult things (7). That is a gift for any individual.

You can read more in this complex and fascinating article “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”, in Mind/Shift (8).”

(1) Perspectives on Parker Blogspot
(2) How Can I Focus On Breathing?
(3) Suryanarayana Chennapragada
(4) Breathing breaks in the classroom – Report by Lynn Schuster
(5) Daytime practice
(6) How to Enjoy Quality Sleep and Conquer Insomnia?
(7) Benefits for Mind, Body and Relationships
(8) “Why Teaching Mindfulness Benefits Students’ Learning”  Post in Mind/Shift

Related pages
Training children

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* I am thrilled at my progress

Here is the remarkable feedback from a practitioner who attended 7 of my classes over last 4 months. It is reproduced verbatim, followed by other comments she made during the classes.

“I would like to start by saying that I am a retired hair dresser of 35 years of experience. I have diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, over weight and a lot of other issues.

I was referred to CS (Suryanarayana Chennapragada) by a diabetes educator, of all the people. I know it sounds strange but she completely understood when I told her that I had seen many dietitians over many years, that there wasn’t much she could help me with, if I did not put my knowledge of diets to work. I knew portion sizes, sugars and all of it. I was wrong. She did help me by listening to what I said. She then asked if I was open minded about talking to a man who had helped her in her life. I don’t know if it was the right time to make a change in me or if it was something else but whatever be the reason, I will be forever grateful to both of them.

CS began by explaining that if you do not give yourself time to breathe, you can not heal inside or out. Your brain needs oxygen in order to deal with life’s every day problems. He gave me some breathing techniques, as explained in his web site to try (1) and asked me to do them while I was in his office. He left me in the room alone to try them. I was amazed that I could sit still long enough to do this but I did and felt pretty good. I continued to see him on a weekly basis. I started in Oct 2011. It is now Feb 2012. I am now going every 2 weeks and I am thrilled at the progress I have made. So are my  husband and daughter.

I am not nearly as stressed about everything. I have learned that I do not have to take care of every one else in my life. I am not responsible for other people’s choices, only mine. I now understand the power of focusing on breathing. My family noticed that I am now calmer. I smile more and I laugh. I now enjoy taking a vacation. I do matter. CS gives you small things to try and that bring big results. I know that it will take time for me, to complete my journey but as CS says “Small Steps”.  I say to every one that will listen “BREATHE”.

To CS, thank you for doing what you do so well and by that I mean CARE about all of us.”

Some more developments she shared during the classes –

  • She was suffering from severe insomnia for many years, not able to sleep for more than 3 – 4 hours a night, that too a very disturbed sleep, in spite of taking strong sleep medication ‘AMBIEN’. Now she is able to sleep undisturbed, for at least 5 hours while still taking the same medication. She has now dared to asked her doctor to switch to half the dosage of the same medication. She is now determined to try this lower dose, bearing all the disturbances.
  • When she visited her endocrinologist doctor recently, the doctor spontaneously commented “You were somewhere, for past many years. You are now a different person”
  • Before practicing these techniques, she had severe anxiety whenever she had to undergo a treatment at her dentist’s office. She had to take an anti-anxiety medicine, to be able to go through the visit. But her recent visit to the dentist was all done without any such medication. She was herself surprised how this happened for the first time!
  • Before these practices, she was a compulsively controlling person. She wanted things done yesterday and her way! Now she lets others manage their affairs, as they like. She does not feel the compulsive urge to control them any more.
  • When she organized a birth day party recently, she was calmly interacting with people, unlike her usual self. This change was noticed by her family  members and they commented about it.
  • Her goal is now to “get off the insulin”. She is hopeful she can do it eventually.
  • She is surprised that she is now cooking smaller quantities and eating smaller portions. Her husband is surprised at this remarkable change.
  • Having made a beginning with going to the YMCA when her daughter gave her the gift of trial membership, she enrolled herself in the Y and going to the gym 3 days a week. She walks on the track every time she goes there. She is happy with meeting many other like minded persons there.
  • Due to more awareness and self control, she stopped snacking on chips at night. Instead she eats an apple.

Her previous feedback
My family  can’t believe the change in my attitude.

(1) How can I focus on breathing?

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* Reduced my anger, road rage ….

Received this feedback from a NY state employee who has a busy and stressful customer service job. He attended a few of my classes in May 2010.

My practices (See ref (1) for the different modes of ‘focusing on breathing’)
I practice the ‘Tip mode’ or ‘Segment mode’ to get sleep while in the bed and when I wake up during the night or in the morning and need to fall back asleep.

I practice the ‘Counting mode’ while driving or walking during the day.

I practice the ‘911 mode’ when I recognize I am getting stressed, frustrated, worked up or pent up with anger or frustration.

The benefits  I gained
These practices have improved my self control and reduced my anger. They have increased my tolerance for things out of my control. They have improved my health. I can feel the difference. I don’t have anxiety or chest pains or tightening, like I had before or nearly as frequently as before.  They have reduced my road rage. There is improvement in how I react with or accept other drivers. I have improved my tolerance and anger for mistakes and towards the “general public”. They have helped me in my job and career. I think before I react which has helped me deal with “difficult customers”.

I just have to work on making it more of a routine so that I don’t have to think about it. I don’t do it as much as I should or need to!!

I really like your Rope/Snake story (2) that you told me in the class. I just found that on the website.

I can’t thank you enough. You have helped me tremendously.

(1) How can I do it?
(2) Is it a snake or a rope?
Reducing or eliminating anger – Success stories

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