In Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind and whispered, ““Pooh!” “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”” Sometimes just being there for somebody is enough.
Winnie the Pooh stories are filled with acts of mindfulness. Being present is a gift we can all give and there are many ways we can practise this. From walks in the fresh air to device free days, being present with our children strengthens our bonds and helps us to connect with them. By choosing to slow down, savour the moment and remain focussed on one task, we can begin creating true presence.
Our children are growing up in a world full of swipes, scrolls and clicks. We need to help them learn how to switch off, be still and be mindful in the moment, so that they can appreciate the world around them and maintain a healthy balance of mind.
I have been reflecting about our recent Remembrance Service, which took place on the school field. For the first time ever we had the entire school community outside during the two minutes’ silence and it raised in me some very strong emotions. For 120 seconds all of us stood still and simply listened; we heard the birds, the wind, some traffic and the occasional plane flying overhead. But what was powerful was the sense of freedom from our everyday lives, for there was nothing else to do but listen and think.
There are times once the children have all left the school building when there is an eerie silence at Yateley Manor. Schools are busy places and rightly so. Education is a people industry and our foundations are based on relationships. Sometimes, when the school is quiet, I walk around the site and just listen, taking in the air. The stillness and lack of distraction can be very powerful in clearing my head and grounding myself.
Children need this mindfulness too. A Yateley Manor day is non-stop, with a myriad activities to challenge and support them across so many areas of learning. If I should happen to visit Nursery just after lunch I am faced with children having their quiet time. They remove their shoes and, with curtains closed and soothing music filling the air, they lie down for a few minutes. I think there is something in this, perhaps an initiative to introduce across the entire school. As Piglet suggested, sometimes we just need to slow down and be conscious of each other as well as ourselves.
Scanning the internet for mindfulness activities for children I chanced upon one from the BBC. In the list was one called “Legs up the wall.” It suggests the following:
“Grab a blanket and a pillow, take a seat with your side against the wall and enjoy some time out. Roll onto your back, slide your legs up the wall, arrange the pillow under your head and drape the blanket over you for comfort. Now let your body flop and drop, the whole length of your legs held by the wall. There is nothing to be done right now and nowhere else to be.”
I had one of those déjà vu moments when I read this because I distinctly remember doing exactly the same at home as a young boy. And yes, it really did have a positive impact on how I felt. Whilst I am not certain I would actually be able to get out of the position on my own if I tried it today, I am sure that providing children with opportunities to relax, be conscious of themselves and others, and clear their minds is a good thing, particularly in their very busy lives nowadays.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” (Jack Kornfield)