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Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

Photo: Atlanta Black Star

CBS News recently had a story on how a Baltimore school and its children are benefiting from meditation.

“During the morning rush,” CBS reports, “Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is as bustling as any other school. But after the buses arrive and the kids pour in, the usual classroom chatter comes to a complete stop.

“The students here learn to seek their inner peace. Every day begins with what the school calls a ‘mindful moment’ – a 15-minute blend of yoga and meditation.

“It’s not what you’d expect from a school in West Baltimore, but it’s the dream of two brothers from right here in the neighborhood, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

“Twice a day, more than 300 students take part in the ‘Mindful Moments’ program. They learn to breathe, stretch and block out distractions.

“Principal Carillian Thompson said this has made a ‘huge difference.’ … ‘We’ve had zero suspensions,’ Thompson said.

“When students fight or misbehave at Coleman, they aren’t sent to the principal’s office. Instead, they are sent to the ‘mindful me’ room, where they’re taught to resolve conflicts peacefully and teach each other what they’ve learned.

“ ‘When I was breathing, all the things that’s been happening, I passed that on — all the problems, I passed that on and worried about… what’s more important,’ Sierra said.

“The program is the vision of Ali and Atman Smith, who grew up nearby in one of Baltimore’s most volatile neighborhoods.

“ ‘There’s violence going on in the neighborhoods, there’s drug abuse in the neighborhoods, so it’s just, there’s all these things just getting dumped on these kids and they need a way to kind of deal with it,’ said Ali Smith, co-founder of Holistic Life Foundation. …

“ ‘We’re teaching kids at a young age to try to really make a change in our community as far as how conflicts are resolved,’ said Atman Smith.”

More at CBS News, here.

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John-E-tughole

An article by Gretchen Reynolds at the New York Times “Well” blog details new research on the stress-reducing effects of walking in nature.

Reynolds writes, “City dwellers [have] a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses than people living outside urban centers …

“Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.

“But just how a visit to a park or other green space might alter mood has been unclear. Does experiencing nature actually change our brains in some way that affects our emotional health? That possibility intrigued Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University.

In his “new study, which was published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mr. Bratman and his collaborators decided to closely scrutinize what effect a walk might have on a person’s tendency to brood. … Such rumination [is] strongly associated with increased activity in a portion of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex.”

The results: “As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged. But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.” More here.

As we used to chant to our overexcited dog when we picked her up after a grooming, “I’m calm, you’re calm.”

Try out this Derek Wolcott poem for your walk in the woods. It is read on SoundCloud by my husband’s college classmate, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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I have enjoyed Maria Popova’s reviews of children’s books at Brain Pickings and have been moved to buy quite a few.

This is the first picture book for grown-ups I’ve seen at her site, a kind of meditation on living life, with watercolors of an Everyman thinking about things.

Popova writes, “French-born, Baltimore-based artist Jean-Pierre Weill explores in The Well of Being (public library) — an extraordinary ‘children’s book for adults,’ three years in the making, that peers into the depths of the human experience and the meaning of our existence, tracing how the stories we tell ourselves to construct our personae obscure the truth of our personhood, and how we can untell them in order to just be. …

“Weill dances across the Big Bang, the teachings of the 18th-century Italian philosopher and mystic Ramchal, evolution, 9/11, and life’s most poetic and philosophical dimensions. He tells the lyrical story of a man — an androgynous being who ‘represents Everyman and also Everywoman,’ as Weill explains in the endnotes — moving from the origin of the universe to the perplexities of growing up to the mystery of being alive.”

Here’s a passage:

Is the world not whole? Is it not beautiful?

For now, let’s consider well-being a choice, something you can try on and wear. When we put on the hat and coat of well-being we incline towards joy without special occasion.

More at Brain Pickings, here.

Art: Jean-Pierre Weill 

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I blogged a while back about a prison arts program that seemed to help some offenders discover a more positive, less antisocial side of themselves. Today I have a similar story, this one from England.

“Allowing prisoners to take part in art [projects] can help cut reoffending rates in half, according to a report commissioned by the Arts Alliance. The group of charities has voiced concern that in tough economic times such projects may be cut.” Nick Higham of the BBC reports in a video clip here.

I admire people who have the faith in human nature to try to reach society’s lost souls with arts or yoga or meditation or any other enrichment.

My second cousin, Alex, went to college in Cambridge, Mass., and did an internship teaching meditation techniques to some serious cases at the Suffolk County jail. She loved it and was inspired to go to graduate school and work with others in trouble.

Her mother tells me her latest internship is with a social services agency an hour and 20 minutes away. “She is managing several extremely challenging cases and spends a lot of time making home visits in dismal housing projects. Her days include fighting for housing for her clients, calling the police when bruised and beaten women answer the door, mediating confrontations between single moms who are managing 3-9 children and school officials who won’t let a child ride the bus due to behavioral issues. Her clients have been victims of domestic and other forms of violence and most have substance abuse issues. Her job is to find resources to rehabilitate troubled families. She is learning fast how to be the ultimate problem solver, confidante and counselor.  Most of all, she is extremely happy and energized by the challenge.”

I am in awe that this tough work makes Alex happy and energized. We are lucky to have people like that on the front lines.

 

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