I am an elementary school counselor in a conservative town in Georgia that is part of the “Bible belt.” This year, I have been bringing my bell of mindfulness into classrooms and inviting the bell to sound as we mindfully breathed in and out. I saw signs throughout the year that the students and teachers were enjoying the sound of the bell, that it was improving the lives of the school children and teachers, and enriching the community.
I knew I was on the right track when a second grade student told me that she had taught her two-year-old brother to breathe mindfully and think of the bell during conflicts at his day care center. She proudly told me that her brother practiced breathing mindfully when another child bit him on the nose, and her brother chose to think of the bell instead of retaliating. On another occasion, a fourth grader told me that he was upset and just wanted to invite the bell to sound in my office, breathe in and out, and go back to class to resume learning. It worked beautifully for him-he invited the bell three times, said, “Thank you, I feel much better,” and went back to class.
In the last weeks before the end of the school year, there were several instances when the bell changed the emotional climate of the school. First, teachers began asking me to download the bell sound from the webpage of the Mindfulness Practice Center in Washington, D.C. (http://mindfulnessdc.org/) in order to sound it throughout the school day so students could pause, breathe in and out, and be refreshed to help their learning.
Next, the bell sound from the computer saved a very heated parent-teacher conference in my office, as each person paused to breathe and to be more mindful of expressing their displeasure in a more respectful way. Last, the school principal, who is also a southern Baptist preacher, asked me to download the bell on his computer. He brought the bell to a faculty meeting so all the teachers could breathe together. He also reminded me to remember the bell and breathe when I was in a stressful situation.
It was beautiful to see how the bell of mindfulness and conscious breathing could transform the atmosphere of a public school into a more mindful and respectful environment for everyone, even in a small southern “Bible belt” town in Georgia. I say, “Amen!”
Ed Glauser, True Virtuous Loyalty, practices with the Breathing Heart Sangha in Atlanta and with the Unitarian Universalist Meditation Group in Athens, Georgia. Married with four children, Ed is a primary school teacher and private counselor and offers Mindfulness and Counseling workshops with his wife for the American Counseling Association.
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