“Everyone sit up with your spine nice and straight, legs crossed or feet flat on the floor, and either close your eyes or look down. Relax your whole body. Bring your awareness inward and get ready to take three deep breaths. Everyone take one deep breath in…and out… and another breath in…and out…and one more deep breath in…and out.”
This is how our Junior School Principal Tanya de Hoog starts every weekly assembly. It’s an effective way to calm 320 students first thing in the morning, and have them focus on the “Three Be’s of Assemblies: Be Calm, Be Respectful, and Be Engaged.”
Taking centering deep breaths is an impactful way to bring one’s attention to being present in the moment. While engaged in this practice, it is common for the mind to often run off to other thoughts or worries, but people, including our Junior School students, who practice mindful breathing slowly learn to just focus on their breathing.
“Encouraging and practicing mindfulness with our students is an important skill that we hope they will practice throughout their lives. The breath is like a magic super power. It has the capacity to calm us, focus us, and unite us,” says Mrs. de Hoog.
In addition to starting each assembly with mindful breathing, Mrs. de Hoog also closes each assembly with a loving-kindness metta that she started during the last school year. The metta is a method of developing compassion and empathy for yourself and for others.
May I/you/we be well in body and spirit.
May I/you/we feel safe, connected, and cared for.
May I/you/we be filled with loving-kindness.
The words of this metta are displayed on the screen in front, and Mrs. de Hoog leads the children in saying one or up to all three versions of the metta aloud (focusing on I, you, or we).
“At first, it was an exercise that I was trying out as a monthly talk, but I quickly noticed that it created a wonderful sense of unity. I also received great feedback from the children, faculty, and parents that it created a lovely feeling and shared important messages that everyone can relate to,” says Mrs. de Hoog.
While it may sound simple enough, concentrating on deep breathing to feel calm/focused, and reciting loving-kindness words proves to offer both physical and mental health benefits that can improve the quality of life for children and adults alike. “Imagine the impact it might have if everyone around the world took some time each day to do some mindful breathing and embrace a loving-kindness metta?" says Mrs. de Hoog. "It doesn’t sound like much, but I am confident that it would make a difference like it does in our wonderful community!”
By Parveen Loodu, Communications and Marketing
From the Spring 2019 Spirit Magazine