By Dr. Jeny Rapheal
Mental health and well-being is a consequence of awareness and mindfulness. The fundamental ingredient of any clinically concerted movement –what is it?. Whether it is developing positive thinking style, habit-forming, counseling, spiritual practices, learning new skills, meditation, growing in gratitude and compassion—they all are crafted on the principle mindfulness.
Expansion of human consciousness orchestrated by evolution – is a relentless Independent agenda of creation. That is, if you like it or not, you will be dragged into it. Of course, you can resist this call for expansion of awareness and consciousness but, only by risking your well-being and equanimity of mind. Once you wholeheartedly succumb to this agenda of creation -as you acknowledge it as indispensable path– liberation from chains of ignorance and pain is ensured.
Take any action, behavior, or thought which can be deemed a “sublime”, “excellent”, or “exemplary”. If you observe closely you can see the individual behind the action has developed some degree of “self-awareness” – which will not be present in the individuals who are purposeless, who are happy with superficial ways of living, who prefer accidental mode of sailing rather than a conscious riding through life.
In the coming decades, lessons in mindfulness will gather momentum. As the science of mind is slowly drifting into the conclusion that expansion of human consciousness as ordained by cosmic evolution is possible only through mindfulness.
Introducing mindfulness in schools
According to American Psychological Association (APA), mindfulness is a state and not a trait. It can be promoted by certain practices or activities say meditation, but can never be equivalent to or synonymous with them.
This fundamental ingredient called mindfulness which promises success and well-being in life — why can’t we plant its seeds in young minds? In order to implement the practice of mindfulness in our educational institutions, we don’t need any serious investment and infrastructure in particular. What we need is a teacher who can convince each student that there are two ways of passing through his days—with awareness or without awareness —–and demonstrates the benefits (cognitive, emotional, intellectual, neurological, etc) of leading a life with mindfulness. The student must be free to choose. For, freedom of choice is a necessary condition to grow in mindfulness. We cannot thrust anybody into mindfulness. We can only open the possibility for it and cajole young minds into it.
The fact is, students need not stick to a particular technique to grow in mindfulness. For sure, meditation is one of the best tools. But practicing music, arts, drawing, will also serve the purpose provided he approaches it with the same degree of awareness, required by a typical practice session of meditation. Even simple tasks like walking talking, eating, observing, etc can be rendered as tools for mindfulness practice. In reality it is not the tool which fosters the quality of mindfulness but it is the degree of awareness with which, we go through the activity which blossoms mindfulness.
Learning with mind vs Mindfulness
The ability to evoke a state of awareness and sustain it with volition and choice—prepares an individual for experiential learning. Actually, there are two levels of learning— intellectual and experiential learning. Amassing facts and mugging them through logical or analytical repetitive gymnastics of the brain is purely intellectual activity. Learning episodes in which the involvement of the learner is total (intellectual, physical, emotional) is experiential learning. Here learner can’t help being absorbed by learning context, content and the activities involved in the process. Academic learning contexts are largely intellectual. Those learning contexts if we could transform into episodes of experiential learning the question of motivating students will not arise.
Only experiential learning can contribute to enrichment and well-being. Knowledge and skill gathered by a student need not translate into life-enhancing agents. They may ensure dexterity in his survival attempts. It is just what a good lubricant does to a machine. Intellectual gyms and related performances need not touch life in its entirety.
Hence the prospect of incorporating the practice of mindfulness in the school curriculum and thus sowing the seeds of awareness is not a suggestion or strategy for change but its a necessity. The fundamental requirement to experience anything in a learning context is sustained attention and mindfulness.
The objective of Indian education system “whole-child growth and development of children” will remain a distant dream without exercising or making use of the unique potential of human species —that is, the ability to be aware of one’s own inner world and its transactions. Hence be mindful of importance of mindfulness!!!
Author is a mathematics teacher in Coimbatore with PhD in Psychology