Mind-Training Goes to School

Many innovative efforts having been bringing mindfulness, yoga, and compassion into school systems and into the lives of young people. The majority of programs are gaining momentum and expanding because of significant positive results. Parents, teachers, coaches, and others working with youth are seeing a multitiude of changes in children and teenagers. They report witnessing kids with a greater ability to focus, with more resilience to stress and anxiety, and with more problem solving skills. School systems see results in less detentions, better classroom environments, more focused students, and greater teacher resilience. And some students are coming home and teaching their parents how to practice mindfulness.

This week, I intend to highlight three amazing organizations that are creating real changes for kids, teachers, parents, and educational systems. There are many other organizations doing great work in this field as well.

MindUP™ is a program of the Hawn Foundation, founded in 2003 by Goldie Hawn. Goldie wanted to support educators in improving student focus and engagement. One of her aims was to bring joy back into the classroom. MindUP™ is designed to help reduce stress and anxiety so kids can both enjoy and improve engagement in their learning. MindUP™ is now taught on 5 continents and in over 12 countries. It has reached 6 million school kids.

Goldie has told me that her intention is not just about helping teachers and kids to improve learning, but also about supporting people to live with open hearts.

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Holistic Life Foundation was founded in the inner-city schools of Baltimore, MD, by three incredible men, who embody unconditional love. Brothers Ali & Atman Smith and Andy Gonzales founded the organization to help students cope with the anxieties and stresses in their lives. As schools began to adopt the program, they found incredible results. In some schools, detention was eliminated because students where sent to Mindful rooms instead of the Principal’s office. Schools use a Mindful Moment 15 minute meditation to help kids get into focus at the beginning of their school day. The program provides meditation and yoga practices and is now in 22 Baltimore schools and growing.

The non-profit has expanded by teaching other people from across the world how to bring these programs into their schools and by providing teacher trainings for their approach and curriculum. In addition, they employ students, who had participated in their program and have graduated, creating new jobs in the inner-city.

Recently, my wife and I had an opportunity to enjoy a desert adventure with their joyful presence.

IBme, Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, was founded by Jessica Morey as a way to help take students deeper: into themselves, into community and relationships, and into vulnerability & authenticity. iBme’s programs introduce young people to transformative practices and activities that foster self-awareness, compassion, focus, and better communication. They have a variety of programs and retreats, including a one week wilderness experience that provides students with mindfulness practices within the context of Mother Nature.

Having recently attended an event with Jessica and some students who had attended iBme’s programs, I was impressed by the presence, self-awareness, and composure of these teens. Here are some comments made by the participants of iBme:

“My experience was life-changing.”

“What you experience is a deep familiarity with yourself.”

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”

“It gives us time when you are really just allowed to be silent, and it’s ok.”

“Surrounded by people who appreciate and don’t judge you.”

I have briefly mentioned three examples of innovative efforts that are providing mind-training to our youth. Currently, the most comprehensive study of integrating mental fitness, wellness, and compassionate character into K-12 education is The Compassionate Schools Project in Louisville, KY. I intend to highlight their efforts in the future.