Stress! As an educator I feel it. Meeting tight deadlines, converting to online learning due to COVID-19, finding appropriate learning resources, marking assignments, and addressing student needs can contribute to my stress levels.
Just as I feel stress, so do my students. Some experience stress as they are trying to adjust to learning in the western educational system and getting their heads around PBLA and CLBs. Some students feel a time pressure to complete their English quickly to focus on other educational or career goals, while others might have faced trauma in their lives and carry it with them. Students can feel stress in their social networks, workplace, or personal lives. More recently, we all are trying to cope with the rapid changes of the coronavirus and strict measures to protect ourselves and others.
Students who experience stress may feel overwhelmed and exhausted, physically and mentally. Feelings of low self-esteem and low motivation may fester. This can contribute to negative academic performance.
So how can we help students (and ourselves) relieve stress? How about through meditation?
What is Meditation?
As I have learned over several years of studying and practicing it, meditation is the practice of deep reflection. It is about being quiet, clearing the mind, focusing on breathing, to gain a state of relaxation and calm (Ward, 2001). It is an internal practice that can be done alone or within a group. Emphasis is placed on posture to allow the breath to flow smoothly in and out of the body at a steady pace. In breathing deeply, the meditator can focus and cleanse the body and the mind.
Examples of Meditation
- Concentrative meditation is focusing attention on one’s breath, an image, or a mantra (a sound or word). When focused on breathing, the mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. The process of breathing becomes slower and deeper, allowing the mind to become calm and aware (Indianetzone Meditation, 2011).
- Mindfulness meditation is being consciously aware of thoughts and feelings as they pass through the mind. The breath is used to anchor the mind in the present moment to become an observer of everything that passes before one’s attention (Indianetzone Meditation, 2011).
- Visualization meditation is the process where the mind thinks with visuals or mental pictures (Headspace, 2020). It involves visualizing a feeling, a place, or an object in the mind. While breathing in and out slowly, the visual becomes clearer in the mind to the point where it becomes real.
Mindfulness and relaxation activities have been effective to help broaden and deepen learning, gain insight, and create learning environments that are open and inclusive (Qi, 2019). Further, many studies have reported positive impacts of meditation on mental and physical health, including reducing worry, distress, and reactivity (Lin & Mai, 2018), which can strengthen learners’ concentration. Specifically, meditation
- provides time to “take a break” from daily demands to refresh and focus
- creates feelings of calmness and relaxation
- improves sleep, self-esteem, and self-regulation
- fosters mental alertness to manage stress and anxiety (Lin & Mai, 2018).
Ways of Incorporating Meditation in Learning
How can we incorporate meditation into the learning process? Here are a few ways:
- listen to meditation audio that focuses on concentrative, mindfulness, and visualization meditation
- engage in guided imagery
- do breathing exercises to reduce nervousness or anxiety and build concentration
- do stretches or yoga
- participate in circle time to relax or engage in quiet reflection
Meditation can be implemented into the curriculum in modules focused on health, education, holistic learning, or physical and mental education. Or just through a daily practice in a lesson or outside of it. Once students know how to meditate, they can use meditation at any time, any day, and anywhere to calm themselves.
Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are at a time where stress levels have ramped up. Fear of getting ill, limitations on social interactions, disruptions in daily routines, adjusting to new demands from school or work, or worries of income and job-security have made many us of nervous and anxious. Meditation could be an effective method to helping reduce or manage these stressors. It may be a suitable method to provide relief, and help gain concentration, maintain tranquility, generate self-awareness, and produce enlightenment during these unsettling times.
Headspace. (2020). Visualization meditation. https://www.headspace.com/meditation/visualization
Indianetzone Meditation. (2011). Types of meditation. http://www.meditationinfo.net/1/types.htm
Lin, J. W. & Mai, L. J. (2018). Impact of mindfulness meditation intervention on academic performance. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 55(3), 366-375. doi: 10.1080/14703297.2016.1231617
Qi, S. (2019). Eastern thoughts, Western practices: Meditation and mindfulness relaxation activities for learning and well-being in adult and higher education. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education. 2019(161), p45-55.
Ward, T. (2001). Meditations and dreamwork: Create a better life through the power of inner reflection and dreams. London, UK: Arcturus Publishing