The practice of mindfulness has been shown to counteract the heavy toll of anxiety, stress, chronic pain, and illness on the body and mind; and if kids could learn these skills in school, they would be in great shape by the time they were adults, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a renowned proponent of applying the practice of mindfulness in schools.
Kabat-Zinn believes that in bringing mindfulness training to K–12 classrooms — what he calls “contemplative education” — students and teachers both will be able to reap the immense physiological benefits.
Kabat-Zinn is a professor of medicine emeritus and the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
He recently addressed the Harvard Graduate School of Education on this topic.
“The reason I started this work in the first place is that I thought … it would be valuable if human beings actually knew how to meditate, how to really befriend themselves in a way that wasn’t to have an effect, not to get some good feeling … but because anything else is a kind of living a diminished life,” he said.
Mindfulness “allows us to meet the full catastrophe of the human condition. Difficult things happen, terrifying things happen, unwanted things happen, but the real question is how we’re going to be in relationship to them. That’s the challenge. And that’s what mindfulness is about,” he said.
“What we’re talking about is skill development. Compassion is a skill, kindness is a skill, attention is a skill, awareness is a skill,” he said. “So it’s not just for stress reduction.
“The development of these deep, positive, pro-social qualities for interacting, for relating, for emotional intelligence, and also for all of the intellectual qualities” that can be subverted by lapses in “our capacity to pay attention, sustain attention, and penetrate to the root of what’s actually going on … to me, if you learn that in school, you’re going to be in really good shape as an adult.”
Such efforts would change not only the immediate experience of learning for students, but also their lifelong pursuit of knowledge, he added.
“Real education never ends. You’re pulling on something that’s already intrinsic inside. It’s not like putting stuff in, it’s not like filling a pail. Instead, it becomes a love affair with learning. There’s very little that’s not really interesting if you, in some sense, are grounded in who you are.”
Source: Harvard University