Archives for October 2015

Refueling the mind and body: Refocusing our Attention

Refueling the mind and body: Refocusing our Attention

Refocusing our Attention is the final part of our Mindful Midday Series. After refueling our minds and bodies through nutritious lunch choices and movement, it is time to refocus our attention for the rest of the day ahead of us. When we move and leave the classroom environment, it is easy and natural for us to get distracted. We use mindfulness to bring us back into the present moment so that we can be our best selves wherever we are.504975350_c4efb5c515

There are many ways to refocus the attention when coming back into the classroom from your lunch break. Some of the ways we have learned before are: Mountain Pose, Senses Ladder Activity, Body Awareness Activity, Tree Pose, and even Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present from our Mindful Mornings series. If any of those activities worked well for you in the past, you can go ahead and try them out to see how they work as an after-lunch activity. It’s okay to try different ones each day until you find what is right for you. On some days, your teacher might want everyone to practice the same activity together, as a community. In this case, it is best to listen to your teacher’s instructions, and follow that practice the best you can.

Teacher’s Tip: The following is a group exercise than can be used to Refocus Attention. Reading the Mountain Pose post may be helpful, but it will be instructed briefly in this exercise as well.

Refocusing your Attention

Begin by standing up tall, with your feet as wide as your hips, and your palms facing forward. Mountain Pose is a wonderful way to become grounded in the present moment, so we will begin our exercise here. Notice your feet pressing into the floor below you, your fingers spreading wide, and the crown of your head lifting up high to the sky. Allow your eyes to gently close, and begin to breathe in and out through your nose.

See if you can direct your breath to the tips of your toes. Notice how it feels to move your breath and attention there. Now begin to slowly move your breath and attention up through the feet- pausing here, through the legs- pausing at the knees, into the hips- taking a few extra breaths there, the belly and low back- breathing in deeply, the chest and upper back- breathing deeply here too, and up through the throat to the very top of your head. We start at the feet so that we can feel centered and connected to where we are at this moment, both in the body and the mind.

Begin to notice the sounds in the room around you. Seeing if you can hear the sounds that are farthest away and the quietest first, and eventually listening for sounds that are really close by- like your own breath. As we bring our attention back in, notice how you are feeling now compared to when we started.

Take a moment to write or draw one reflection before we start our afternoon lesson.

Student’s Tip: You can use this practice anytime you would like to bring your attention back into the present moment, not just after lunch. Remember that there are many other activities you can use too, like the ones mentioned earlier in this post, and the best way to see what works best is to try them!

Refueling the mind and body: Move your Muscles

Refueling the mind and body: Move your Muscles

Have you ever noticed how nice it is to take a big stretch in the morning when you wake up? If not, try it tomorrow morning! After lying down in one place, it usually feels really good to move your muscles a little bit to help wake up your body and your mind. This can also be true after a long morning of sitting down at school. You can hit the refresh button for the mind and body during your Mindful Midday by Moving your Muscles after your Mindful Lunch Choices. Mindful Lunch Choices will give you the energy to Move your Muscles and wake up your mind and body so you’re totally refueled and ready to finish up your school day.sport-927759_640

There are so many different ways to Move your Muscles, depending on how much time you have and what you like to do. You can look at some of our past activities for ideas, which include: Walking Nature Meditation, Tree Pose, Mindful Steps, and our Mindful Movement activity.

What are some ways you like to move that we haven’t learned in this blog?

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If you eat a big lunch, and plan on moving a lot, it is probably a good idea to wait a little bit before you Move your Muscles so that you can digest. Leaving time to digest is important so your body can take in all the nutrients from your Mindful Lunch Choices.

Notice how you feel before and after you Move your Muscles. If you feel good, it looks like you’ve found a way to move that is right for you. If something you tried out didn’t make you feel very good, try something different tomorrow, or the next time you’re at school. Every day is different, and our bodies might need to move in different ways depending on how much energy we have, and how much lunch we’ve had too!

Teacher’s tip: if you know there are resources available like basketballs, soccer balls, hula hoops etc., consider suggesting that more athletic students help their peers learn how to play these games to Move their Muscles. This can be a good team building activity, and an alternative for students who don’t want to practice the suggested activities, or don’t know what to try.

Student tip: it can be fun to Move your Muscles with your friends. Playing a team sports game or even going for a walk around the field while you talk can be great ideas.

Refueling the mind and body: Mindful Lunch Choices

Refueling the mind and body: Mindful Lunch Choices

Remember how we talked about the importance of choosing Power Foods for breakfast to jump-start your day? We can think of breakfast as our jump-start meal, and lunch as our refuel stop. Lunch-time is usually around the middle of the day, when we have burned off our Power Food fuel, and need some more energy to stay mindful and focused for the last half of the day. The kind of lunch you eat, and when you eat your lunch, will affect your ability to concentrate and your mood later in the day.

Just like every meal, your Mindful Lunch Choices are about being balanced and healthy. The food you put into your body equals the energy you get out of it! Mindfulness is all about finding balance in the mind AND body. If you eat too much, you might feel sleepy and foggy. If you eat too little, you might feel easily annoyed and like you can’t concentrate very well either. Take some time to digest after you eat. Our body can take a few minutes to catch up and realize we’re full.

Another way to make our Mindful Lunch choices is based on the kind of energy we need later in the day. For example, if we know that we will be playing sports later, we want to be sure to stay hydrated and eat foods that will give us energy for a long time. The number one thing we want to stay away from at lunch-time is food that is high in sugar. Sugar will make you feel great and give you lots of energy for a VERY short amount of time. Once the sugar wears off, you might even find yourself with less energy than you started with!640px-Lunchbox_for_tour

Can you think of some balanced, Mindful Lunch Choices that you can make at school to refuel?

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Teacher’s Tip: You might put up a poster of healthy lunch foods so that the kids have a visual reference.

Student’s Tip: Now that we’ve created a list of Mindful Lunch Choices at school, think about some Mindful Lunch Choices you can make at home too.

Mindful Middays Series: Staying Present in the Middle of it all!

Mindful Middays Series: Staying Present in the Middle of it all!

Do you ever have those moments where you just wish you could take a nap after lunchtime instead of going back to the rest of your day? If so, you’re not alone. It can be really hard to stay motivated after a midday break, and we’re about to learn how to be mindful in the journey. The following are important tools to have Mindful Middays:

  1. Refueling the mind and body: Mindful Lunch Choices
  2. Refueling the mind and body: Move your Muscles
  3. Refueling the mind and body: Refocus your Attention

By being mindful with these choices and actions, we can keep our bodies and minds energized for the rest of the day ahead of us. This Mindful Middays series is meant to be followed in order to bring you ba4181572000_5e9d1a6ae4_bck to the present moment.

Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present

Waking up the Brain: Becoming Present

Now that your body and belly are awake, we can work on waking up your brain. One way we can wake up the brain in the morning is by Becoming Present. Becoming Present is an important practice once you get to the place you will be spending most of your day (like school or sports games). If it is a school day, Becoming Present is especially important because this practice will get you in the right mindset for the day ahead.

Becoming Present means that we are gathering all of our attention and bringing it to the place we are right here in this moment. You can think of it like gathering firewood to make a campfire. You need enough wood and kindle to get the fire started, and then have to keep gathering more wood for the fire so it will stay strong. Our mind can be like an unlit fire sometimes, especially in the mornings. Have you ever felt like nothing is going on in there? When we need kindle for our thoughts, there are some tools for Becoming Present that we can practice to get our mind fires going.

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So how do we become present? Well, you already practiced some of the first steps: Moving with the Breath and eating Power Foods. Now we will learn a practice for Becoming Present. Find a comfortable seat or standing position wherever you are. We will Become Present through three layers: Breath, Body and Mind. Let your eyes gently close if that is comfortable and begin to tune into your breath. How are you breathing today? Are your breaths long or short? Deep or shallow? Begin to make your breath longer and slower, like you are trying to take the slowest, biggest breaths possible. Inhale through the nose, exhale out the nose.

Begin to move your breath all through your body, as you notice how your body is feeling in this space right here, right now. How do your feet feel on the floor… your hands if they are touching your body… your lungs as they breathe in air? Take note of how your muscles feel. Are any of them sore? Move through your body from the top of your head to your feet and go down a checklist in your head about how everything feels. It’s okay if you miss something, just do your best.

Now we will Become Present in our minds. Noticing our bodies and breath helps us Become Present in our minds. Once we breathe into all the parts of our bodies that are taking our energy and attention, we can move to the part of our body that doesn’t always get our attention so easily: our minds. Clearing out tightness in the breath and body makes our minds open and ready to take on the day.

Use your breath and mind to bring your awareness into the very place you are sitting now. Imagine you are gathering all of your thoughts -one-by-one- like firewood, and building up a powerful fire in your mind to fuel the attention you will need for the day ahead.

When you feel like you have a steady fire in your mind, slowly begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, waking up your body to come back into the room.