Children are our future leaders. They will be running countries, corporations and our local communities, so how can we support them and give them what they need to thrive?
Education is among the most important gifts we can give to younger generations—that and a healthy planet. But currently, education is lacking in compassion, self-love, and a mindful, global mentality. Without these, we are not investing in the future to our fullest potential.
Bringing mindfulness into classrooms is a practice that is gaining popularity in the US and around the world. Students, teachers and parents are feeling the positive effects of mindful practices and stress management techniques, and the results are quite fascinating.
To learn more about what exactly this means and how it can be done, we spoke with NYC public high school teacher and Earth Citizen Organization representative, Mané Andreasyan. She has brought mindfulness into the classroom at her school in New York City and is watching, in real-time, the shifting of perspective amongst her students.
Andreasyan began as a full-time history teacher and taught yoga as an elective for students who didn’t want to take gym class or participate in other extracurricular fitness options. After a short time, it was evident that the high school kids not only enjoyed the mindful time spent on the mat, but they also craved more, and were ready to understand the deeper meaning of what they were experiencing mentally and physically.
After discussions with experts in the field and presenting a plan to school officials, Andreasyan introduced a required seminar class for sophomores called “Earth Citizenship | Mindful Leadership and Character Education”. With three core principles, this course has proven to positively change the mentality and lives of the students.
Intentional: Human Character
Starting with the basics, the high schoolers were introduced to simple but powerful mind-body exercises that activated their ki energy and deeply connected their consciousness to their physical bodies.
“They have to actually experience it,” says Andreasyan,” I can’t tell them what to feel, I can only tell them how to do it and they have to follow that and feel it for themselves.”
Exercises like toe tapping before bed to reset deeply or whole body tapping in the morning to energize were introduced to the teenagers and after practicing them on their own, had stories of disbelief and success application. These principles not only help with sleep and energy, however, they are also powerful tools to calm the mind and better manage daily stress, bring stability to the fluidity of emotions, and improve how children interacted with each other.
The high schoolers not only learned stress management techniques, but also learned how to develop their characters. They were coming to class as kinder, more considerate individuals and even shared stories of teaching friends and family the powerful techniques they’d been learning. This class helped the students root down to the energy of the earth with a good personal foundation so that their lives could flow more easily.
They understood why they needed to be responsible for themselves and their own actions and took intentional steps to adjust their lifestyle to reflect that.
Mindful: Global Perspective
In the sophomore class, Earth Citizenship | Mindful Leadership and Character Education, the book Earth Management: A Dialogue on Ancient Korean Wisdom and Its Lessons for a New Earth is used as the primary text. This book, co-written by Ilchi Lee and Emanuel Pastreich, Ph.D, is equal parts education and call to action.
Students discover and learn details about why the betterment of humanity and the planet should be at the forefront of our minds—and at the forefront of education. Due to our loss of connection to source, in every sense, students are learning to reestablish that connection and appreciation through mindful education with a global perspective. This program is encouraging the development of a well-rounded generation that will honor and respect our home and its people.
Andreasyan teaches the children to consider and express gratitude to all the hands that touched the products they wear and use and to the food they eat. Their scope of what is important is widening from their own lives to include others and the planet. This all-encompassing viewpoint is vital for the future because there is no longer separation between the self and the world around. These conscious, awake and compassionate children will grow to be adults with even more wisdom to extend to humanity, the earth and the subsequent generations.
Alternative: Future Leaders
The students are beginning to understand their impact on the health of the planet, and their interconnectedness to it and all things—including themselves and each other. In Korea, this concept is actually an ancient philosophy called Hongik (to think and act for the benefit of all others, in addition to yourself and planet). It is taught at a young age and adopted as a universal belief—forming a sense of responsibility and compassion at an early age.
In order to educate the future leaders of the world, they must first understand that with power comes great responsibility. And this requires an alternative way of thinking.
As homework, Andreasyan assigns random acts of kindness. While she can’t assess this or give a grade, students regularly come to class with a story of something they’d done that helped another. Parents have even shared what their children have done and the changes they’ve seen in them. They are learning to be leaders of the own lives and, in turn, are extending these lessons to those around them.
Although they may not perform a random act of kindness each day, this idea is planted as a seed in their minds and hearts in how to interact with those they encounter.
This approach to education encourages children to be more conscious of their own energy, actions and environment. It teaches them that they are in fact the rulers of their universe and that with the right tools, they can take steps that will bring about their desired outcome.
Andreasyan and teachers around the world are observing the following benefits in their children and students:
Better control of emotions
Less likely to act out in class in a rude manner
More management of daily stress and responsibilities
Ownership of own words and actions
More respectful of peers, authority figures and self
Use of techniques to find peace in chaotic or charged situations
More regard for humanity and the planet
Deep mind-body connection
Fortunately, Andreasyan isn’t the only teacher going in an alternative direction. By making a global conscious effort, together we can provide our children with the type of education they need to thrive and assist them in adopting a compassionate global perspective.
—even global change—starts within.
Are you a proponent for mindfulness in the classroom? Do you know anyone (children or teachers) practicing this alternative form of education? Please share your experience and opinion with us in the comments below.
To learn more about how the Earth Citizen’s Organization impacts schools, communities and the planet, click here