The first thing I saw as I walked up to the Walgrove Elementary School in Venice, CA on November 30th was a flyer for LAUSD’s Attendance Campaign.
The campaign says this slogan “signifies our hope to empower each student to rise, attend every day, and create a life of meaning and purpose.” It occurred to me that we are all ultimately after the same thing. We want to see a world where our children thrive and feel a deep sense of self worth. At Worthy Beyond Purpose, we consider mindfulness to be an integral part of the solution to many of the struggles our current educational system faces.
Our wish is for every child to be able to recognize their worth, to feel like they matter, independent of life’s circumstances. We believe every child is born with an innate purpose - a mission. Through mindfulness and meditation practice, we aim to empower kids to uncover this mission.
On so many days, this can feel like an uphill battle. On one level, technology has connected people in ways they have never been connected before. On another level, our children are growing up in a world where personal connections are losing out to comment threads on Social Media. So much is directing us away from what’s happening in the present moment and towards unattainable ideals of what we should be doing or how we should feel or should look. Mental health issues like low self esteem and anxiety are on the rise in today’s youth.
Before opening that front door, my mind was whirling with all of these thoughts.
I took a deep breath.
I reminded myself why I was there in the first place. I was there, on this particular day, to meditate with Ana Lima’s 3rd grade class. In a way, I was there to talk to these kids about how something as simple as taking a moment to breathe can have a much bigger effect on their lives than they might think.
I’m so glad I took that breath.
The front office was filled with information about the school’s goals, focused on education and student well-being. Miss Lima, as her students call her, came cheerfully out to meet me. She brought along one of her 3rd graders and he was tasked with giving me a tour of the school.
He walked me to an area outside that they called The Wildlands. As we strolled around, he told me stories about the jewelry his mother made and the garden he planted here at Walgrove with his brother and sister. He showed me chickens and rocks and talked about mindfulness exercises they had done in class using GoNoodle. And when the recess bell rang, he brought me to meet his classmates.
Miss Lima gave me a short introduction. At first, her students seemed most fascinated with my tights which were covered in unicorns. I admit this was a very purposeful outfit selection!
Once everyone was seated at their desks, we began. I had my singing bowl and did an exercise that I’ve done many times at the YMCA and Girls and Boys Club. I tap the side of the bowl and everyone raises their hands when they cannot hear the sound anymore. Kids love this exercise! I moved to 3 different places in the room so the students could see what the difference was depending on where they were situated in relation to the bell. The class became silent and all the wiggles left over from recess seemed to dissipate as they intently listened.
Some of the students asked why they felt more relaxed after the exercise. We talked about focus; about how focusing your attention on something brings you into the present moment and helps quiet the normally chatty mind.
We discussed what it actually meant to be present and what mindfulness is, where it could help them whether it was with focus or interpersonal relationships or even sleeping. I followed this up with an exercise called Hot Cocoa breath which you can read about in my 5 Mindfulness Activities for the Winter Season blog. It was amazing to be a part of because the class was truly engaged in the discussion and excited to participate.
We ended with 60 seconds of breath meditation. 60 seconds with everyone’s eyes closed. 60 seconds coming back to the breath when the mind wandered. It sounds easy but if you really think about it, almost everything in our modern world is designed to pull our attention away. So even a short exercise like this can be difficult for adults, let alone 3rd graders!
Afterwards the class went over how they felt and what they may have seen in their mind’s eye. Not only were they eager to share but there were also so many questions! So many that Miss Lima promised I could come back and answer them later if there was time!
I visited 2 more classes that day, another group of 3rd graders and the Special Ed. class. When I returned to Miss Lima’s class, we took a “Mindful Walk” through The Wildlands.
As I left, I was filled with joy in my heart. I took a moment to reflect on how for some unknown reason I had been worried when I arrived. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what had triggered the anxiety. Maybe just a desire to contribute to these kids’ lives in some way. I felt so blessed to have had the wisdom to stop and take a breath. Reset. Get present.
In the present moment, the day was such a beautiful reminder to me of all the work that is being done. The students were truly interested in the activities. The teachers were actively integrating mindfulness into their classrooms already and wanting more. There is still work to be done but I know for certain that these practices are resonating with youth . They want to relate. They want happiness and purpose just like us adults do. I absolutely believe that this is The Way. As we start getting our children connected to themselves, a world of compassion, empathy and joy for others will open up.
Just another day at the office…transforming the world one mindful kid at a time!