Educating ourselves with our attention

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

I have just spent the day at the Mindfulness in Schools Project’s ‘The Future of Mindfulness in Education Conference’ in London, and had the rare privilege of hearing Jon Kabat-Zinn speak, alongside other inspirational speakers such as Rohan Gunatillake (creator of the ‘Buddhify’ app), Chris Ruane MP (the ‘driving force’ of mindfulness amongst MPs), Cathie Paine, Oren Ergas and Katherine Weare.

The adult speakers each spoke with heart, presence and hope for the future, and I shall write more once I have fully integrated all that I learned through the day, but I wanted to share what I shall remember most clearly about the day: the voices of the children and young people – the youngest only 7 years old – who brought us to tears when telling of the difference that mindfulness had made to their young lives. 

Sixteen year old Emily told of how her mindfulness practice had helped her to come through the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in 2017.  Seven year-old Maya explained that she’s no longer nearly as arrogant as she used to be and that she has learned to manage her anger.  She led us in a petal practice, where we opened and closed our hands in time with our in-breath and out-breath, and afterwards she noted that it made little sense for teachers to tell pupils to be in a good mood and to listen well when they weren’t actually doing this themselves.  Proof, if it was needed, that the role of a teacher is not that of expert disseminator of knowledge, for this little human being had discovered wisdom all of her own. 

As teachers, we are simply midwives, helping to bring forth the innate wisdom of those we guide.

May we grow in our ability to rest in not knowing, not knowing it all, and perhaps not even knowing anything!

May we grow in our ability to let go of the need to be ‘right’.

May we let go of expert’s mind and embrace beginner’s mind, recognising the dedication required to practise this over and over again, in each moment.

May we have the wisdom to learn from our children.

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