Sandy Maclean explains what mindfulness is and how it relates to an educational context.
Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention. It is the mental faculty of purposefully bringing awareness to one’s experience in the present moment. It can be applied to sensory experience, thoughts, and emotions by using sustained attention and noticing our experience without reacting. Its origins sit firmly in the East but over the last 40 years it has increasingly been taught in a secular form and simplified to suit a Western context.
In the 1970s anecdotal and research findings about the ability of mindfulness practices to reduce unhealthy psychological symptoms triggered interest in mindfulness as a healthcare intervention. Since then mindfulness has become a successful mainstream influence in medicine, psychology, corporate environments and now education.
Thirty years of research and more recently, brain science, offer compelling evidence to support the use of mindfulness in education. It could be construed as the new buzz word, but it is the very opposite of ‘buzz’ and it is far from new! The turmoil, the noise and information flow in our internal and external environments will not stop – it is just a fact of life. Mindfulness is a way to cope with this using a range of techniques to achieve mental clarity.
Over the last four years CDN has run a series of events and workshops focusing on the relevance of mindfulness within an educational context with a specific emphasis on learning and teaching and supporting students. However, there is growing interest in the application of mindfulness in the workplace; particularly in relation to reducing stress, improving well-being and enabling resilience. In addition to this, research carried out in workplace settings has shown significant improvements in productivity, relationships, employee engagement, creativity, and the capacity to deal with demanding workloads.
In June we ran a half-day experiential session which provided an introduction to the key concepts of mindfulness training and its relevance to leaders or emerging leaders within organisations, illustrating how mindfulness can help us to meet the challenges of the workplace with effectiveness, curiosity, and creativity.