Wednesday, 17 October 2012

mindfulness for schoolchildren

I think this is very interesting. It's a programme for schoolchildren, offered, at a price, by the Hawn Foundation. There are some cross, and some not very rational, comments from teachers in the USA about this programme, on YouTube. And in fact the comments, too, are interesting. 

All respect to the point about the money the programme costs compared with the fact that one reason why a of lot children can't concentrate is down to material factors (e.g. no real breakfast...) But mindfulness meditation is a material factor, in that it can change children's behaviour, calm them down, help them concentrate, help them - if they need it - to feel better about themselves. It develops the way the brain works; so does a good breakfast. 

Changing a young brain's characteristic patterns can be done in many ways - playing violent video games, for example - or doing a little meditation to help them in their school work. But it's all material - electric currents and hook-ups, chemical changes.

For some people, we need to keep saying: it's not a religion, it's not based upon religious faith.  The changes in people's patterns of thought when they meditate are observable via the usual electronic kit they stick on your head to measure brain waves, or in more detail via MRI scans. It's not a matter of faith. (Though naturally, if you believe it is helping you, it's more likely to do so.)

You might have your own views on how much it helps to have Goldie Hawn's name behind this programme. You may extend little sympathy in her direction because she was one of those who helped to develop the "dumb blonde" stereotype beloved of sexist comedians and saloon-bar wits; but those were her acting jobs. She's certainly trying to do something here that seems to me very worthwhile.

I always like the criticism "it's all touchy-feely." a) it isn't. b) would it be better if it was all done in a macho sort of way, more football coach than meditation teacher?

Children who are more proficient at being in the present, at being mindful, may perhaps grow up more able to accept their own mortality, be less death-haunted and more death-accepting, better able to accept that life is risky, impermanent, and precious because it ends. I would have thought, in a culture where many are obsessed with death-fantasy, with the idea that you can kill all the bad guys one day, with the idea that God is on our side - that a mindful child is a precious asset.

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