This month saw a Westminster Hall debate over whether mindfulness meditation should be taught in schools. In the debate, education minister Edward Timpson warned: “Children cannot unplug from their online world, and that is changing the shape of many of their relationships and the pressures that they come under at a much more tender age”.”
The move is part of a concerted effort by MPs to review the potential for the meditation practice to improve the mental health of society, in particular within schools and workplaces.
A parliamentary report released last year called ‘Mindful Nation UK’ discussed issues surrounding mental, as well as physical, health. The preface to the report states: “On a number of issues ranging from improving mental health and boosting productivity and creativity in the economy through to helping people with long-term conditions such as diabetes and obesity, mindfulness appears to have an impact”.
So what is mindfulness?
According to renowned mindfulness scholar and practitioner Joe Kabat-Zinn, the seven attitudinal factors involved in mindfulness meditation are:
- Non-judging – the ability to take a neutral outlook on the actions of others
- Patience – to be ‘completely in each moment, accepting it in its fullness’
- Beginner’s mind – not allowing your beliefs or prejudices to influence the present moment
- Trust – being able to trust one’s own experience, feelings, and intuition
- Non-striving – not to let your relentless quest for gratification get in the way of enjoying the present moment
- Acceptance – accepting things as they are, and not wishing your circumstances to be something else
- Letting go – releasing your emotional hold on material objects and possessions, as well as negative thoughts and memories
Those arguing for the introduction of mindfulness meditation in schools point towards these practices and changes in mindset. They believe that stress related issues get in the way of a child’s ability to take in new information, and to live healthy and productive lives. Mindfulness meditation is one solution that is being touted to improve the well-being of kids all over the UK.
It is telling that in this age of relentless networking and interfacing, one of the most effective remedies seems to be to find a quiet place, relax, and breathe. In the words of Kabat-Zinn: “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”