“Loka smastha sukhino bhavantu” is a Sanskrit chant often recited in Indian schools. Put simply, it means, may the entire world be happy and peaceful. It germinates from the belief that all of us, the entire world is a huge family and every event is interconnected creating a ripple effect of good or bad across the universe. It debunks the old idea of survival of the fittest and upholds the win-win mindset that covey details in ‘Seven Habits’. Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrated this month on 2 October, serves as a powerful reminder of this yogic way of life. In his autobiography, he speaks of how his spiritual practice of meditation transformed him from a restless, self-seeking youth to a peace-seeking revolutionary.
Meditation as a classroom management technique
Just as we need to clean our bodies and houses regularly, likewise we must consciously clean our minds and restore our energy every morning. The most practical and effective way of renewing the mind and energy is through meditation, often referred to as “mindfulness” in recent times. Beginning each day with even 15-20 minutes of quiet introspection and conscious breathing is sufficient to break bad habits, develop a deeper sense of responsibility, and even maximize brain capacity. Researcher and Neuroscientist, Gaelle Desbordes from Harvard Medical School (2012) demonstrated through MRI how meditation can rescue people from depression, improve decision- making and increase self-awareness. There are many such scientific studies, which have prompted schools to use meditation/mindfulness as a classroom management technique for many hyperactive children addicted to technology and processed food. The choice to be inward-looking so that the outward persona can improve has been a way of life in India for centuries. It is time to learn from our cultural heritage and revive these ancient and proven methods of wellbeing within our learning programmes.
Emotional wellbeing of teachers
Teachers face unimaginable levels of stress and anxiety. They have to be always in control of their emotions and yet be emotionally generous in embracing and accepting children of different temperaments. This dichotomy and daily pressure to keep it together takes a toll on teachers. It is no wonder that many teachers either throw in the towel or choose to suffer in silence. Creating opportunities for yoga and meditation within the school timetable enables teachers and support staff to pause and focus on self-care. Even a few minutes of conscious breathing at different intervals during the busy school day can have a phenomenally positive impact on the stress levels of staff. It also goes a long way in preventing teacher burnout, enhancing productivity and increasing the happiness quotient of staff. Needless to say, happy teachers create happy classrooms effortlessly. The reverse is equally true.
Overcoming modern-day parenting challenges
Parenting holds a new surprise every day for all parents, no matter what age group. As parents, we have to guide and discipline while we enable children to make their own choices and, more importantly, prepare them to deal with the consequences. This requires a huge amount of emotional stability and clarity. Our children are always watching and learning. Therefore, before we check them on bad language, temper tantrums, and time management, we need to role model the right behaviour ourselves. Otherwise, all our preaching will be ignored and our children become alienated, permanently damaging the relationship most precious to us. The daily practice of mediation by parents reduces family confrontations and changes the very energy of the domestic space. This synergy between the domestic and school space strengthens the child’s capacity to cope with life’s challenges, making him/her a more resilient human being.
Essentially, emotional wellbeing through daily self-reflection enhances an individual’s perception, allowing one to see beyond superficial differences of skin color, language, religion, gender orientation, culture or ethnicity. Schools that wish to create future global citizens who are able to combine brainpower with compassion, must start by focusing on their own emotional wellbeing as well as their students and the adults around them.
“He who is steadfast in meditation becomes firm and clear.” – Mahatma Gandhi