Thoughts from Dr. Schwartz

Let's Have A Mindful Year


This year one of my professional goals is to help our students to be more mindful while a personal goal I have is to be more mindful myself. For those of you who are not familiar with mindfulness, it represents a way of being and thinking that includes paying attention, on purpose, and without judgment to what is happening at the moment. Mindfulness is a way of focusing on our experiences that helps us live our lives in a healthy way. It is a way of deliberately slowing down to take notice of what is going on both inside of us (our thoughts and feelings) and outside of us (in our environment.) Being mindful means to turn off our auto-pilot and actually pause and be aware of what is happening in the moment. We often instruct our children to "pay attention" but we also need to teach them how to do that. There has been a great deal of research done to show that a well-rounded education needs to include social-emotional learning, including mindfulness. Learning self-regulation skills has been shown to improve social and emotional skills as well as academic performance. At Jackson, we practice a mindfulness exercise twice daily when we all stop what we are doing for peaceful breathing.

Kindergarten Lessons

MindUP: Brain-Focused Strategies for Learning-and Living

This year I am piloting the MindUP curriculum with our Kindergarten classes with bimonthly push-in lessons. The curriculum includes a set of social, emotional, and self-regulatory strategies and skills.

The MindUP curriculum has been shown to help children:

· Improve focus, concentration, and academic performance

· Reduce stress and anxiety

· Handle peer-to-peer conflicts

· Manage emotions and reactions

· Develop greater empathy toward others

· Choose optimism

The first lesson I shared with the students focused on the different parts of the brain because in order to be mindful, it helps if we understand how our brains respond to stress. In future lessons, the students will learn how to create a calm mindset which will in turn help them with their decision-making and problem -solving skills.

Being present: Elizabeth Acevedo at TEDxFoggyBottom

Listen to poet Elizabeth Acevedo talk about being present in the moment.

A Mindfulness Exercise

Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness:

  • Holding - First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb. Focusing on it, imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life.
  • Seeing - Take time to really see it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
  • Touching - Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture, maybe with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.
  • Smelling - Holding the raisin beneath your nose, with each inhalation drink in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise, noticing as you do this anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
  • Placing - Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the object in the mouth, without chewing, noticing how it gets into the mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments exploring the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
  • Tasting - When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in the mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment, as well as any changes in the object itself.
  • Swallowing When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
  • Following Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how the body as a whole is feeling after completing this exercise in mindful eating.

Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.