In the late 1960s and early 1970s meditation was mainly an unfamiliar terrain, explored only by few seeking a transcendental state of consciousness. Some traveled to Asia to study Eastern religious traditions in their natural settings. A decade or so later, doctors like Herbert Benson, Dean Ornish and Jon Kabat-Zinn rendered the practice more familiar and brought public attention to the fact that meditation elicited so called ”relaxation response” (a term coined by dr Benson), a state of deep rest that changes physical and emotional responses to stress.
The medical measurements indicated that during meditation our bodies needed less oxygen, utilized it more efficiently (oxygen consumption was even deeper than during sleep), and our heart and breathing rate decreased. Shortly speaking, for some ailments “non-pharmacological intervention” (means meditation) was as effective as standard medication. Over the last twenty years secularized versions of meditation has infiltrated our main culture – it has gracefully inhabited our offices, hospitals, dormitories and our homes. There is a consensus among brain scientists, mental health professionals and laymen that meditation and other contemplative practices are, from the secular point of view, techniques profoundly altering brain.
Within the last decade meditation called mindfulness found its place in the classroom. We should say – at last! Children are taught how to focus on the breath and the sensory experience (sound, smell, touch); they are encouraged not to think or evaluate what’s happening, but to plunge into an experience with an open heart and mind.
We are not really trained to be in the world this way: present, with curiosity. We are trained to think, evaluate, categorize. As a result, direct, sensory experience of being alive often eludes us. We, sometimes, forget, how to simply ‘be’. Looking at the world in the particular way – with attention, awareness and compassion – is what mindfulness teaches. We are elated that developing and cultivating the inner world of a little human-being was (finally) taken under consideration by educators. We will, elaborate on the topic in the future articles.
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