Meditation in Schools Project – Sessions at Gordano School, Part 2

Mind Space has recently run a series of 6 meditation classes for a group of 16 year old students in Portishead, Bristol.

A unique and innovative program of guided meditations.
Students have signed up and chosen to attend the program at Gordano School.
Here is an update of how Meditation Sessions 4-6 went.

For Sessions 1-3 which appeared on the Guardian Website read here.

Updated November 21st 2011
Written by Liese Stanley 
(Liese Stanley is a Mind Space Schools Speaker based in Portishead, Bristol and is delivering
the meditation sessions at Gordano School
– Learn more about Voluntary Speaker network here.)

Session 4

A quieter class today. There seems to be a feeling of tiredness, or perhaps it is just that they are more settled and know what to expect. Again we start with a body scan – a meditation focusing on the body – that lasts about 15 minutes. I change the style of where we start and vary the content a little as it is all too easy to fall into patterns. Focus is what is needed here not comfort through repetition.

One of the students is going to an interview soon so we also cover a shorter three-minute “gathering” meditation that can be used beforehand. I point out that it can also be effective just before exams and if necessary during the exam itself.

I also encourage them to tell me how they apply mindfulness in day-to-day activities. At the electives fair where they chose which courses to do, I had caught their interest by asking them to eat chocolate mindfully. It’s a simple three-minute exercise that often gets across the idea of mindful meditation when there isn’t the opportunity to try meditation itself.

Trying to adopt triggers throughout the day to be mindful can help meditation practice and vice versa. We discuss eating, walking, listening to music, just stopping and looking around, all done mindfully.

We return to our mindfulness of breathing meditation. Again, using a count if they feel it necessary. We count as we exhale, I remind them that if they forget the count to return to 1, if they start to get distracted to accept the distraction, let it go and return to the count, if their mind wanders off, to accept the thought, let it go and return to the count. They are used to the practice now and my comments serve as reminders rather than instruction. We finish with personal visualisation allowing the mind more freedom and building an image that they can come back to when they want or need to.

Session 5

Adam, the founder of Mind Space, arrives today to interview some of the students for a video that will be used for training other teachers and also for showing to other schools etc. It changes the structure of the class a bit but this is no bad thing. I run the body scan for a shorter amount of time and we go with a longer meditation – less talking and more freedom to go deeper. Again we use a breathing count, then drop the count, then move to visualisation at the end.

The visualisation feels like a reward somehow. I recall the anecdote of meditation being akin to training a wild horse. Focusing is similar to very slowly and gently pulling on a rope to bring the horse in closer but always letting it out again as necessary. The visualisations seem to be akin to letting the rope slacken and the horse move into a wider surrounding again.

Interviews done, and reminding them of how helpful it was to hear how the sessions were going for them, we leave, calm and focused for now at least.

Session 6

Last session today. We run through body scan, 20 minute meditation and three and five minute meditations. I remind myself what my intention was at the beginning of the course. To offer meditation as a tool that they can use when and where they need it. Not necessarily now but, with a new understanding and good technique, they can return to it when they need it in the future. I do reiterate that regular practice, even 10 minute sessions, is the best way forward but I’m aware that maybe not everyone will follow this just now.

I also touch again on the possibilities of being more mindful through the day and encourage them to pause here and there and breathe!

I am happy that they all feel confident enough with their approach to meditation, the practice itself and how to integrate it into daily life either now or in the future. They are aware of resources available to them and hopefully have a fresh understanding of what it is about. It is up to them now, when and how they use meditation.

And actually that is the point, meditation is different for everyone. Once the basic understanding is there it becomes very much a personal journey.

I am incredibly grateful to and privileged to have worked with these students. I am reminded of the quote “By learning you can teach. By teaching you can learn.” I have and this experience will add to my teaching of other students.

For Sessions 1-3 (which appeared on the Guardian Website)  read here.