I have been meditating for twenty five years. It is a ritual as important to me as sleeping and eating the right food. One metaphor to describe meditation is to imagine you are looking at birds flitting between tree branches. Birds can be all shapes and sizes doing all sorts of things. Similarly your thoughts may be troubling, neutral or pleasant. When you let something that is troubling you be like another bird in the tree —neither good nor bad—you allow yourself to become free from the intense emotions surrounding that thought. Approaching thoughts this way is very freeing. In the process you can be more objective about the thoughts in your own mind. You will also find yourself making different choices, especially when you are restless or upset.
Most teachers would agree that stress and anxiety are a major cause preventing creativity and learning in the classroom. So one day I decided to introduce my students to meditation. I tried it out with my ninth, tenth and twelfth graders. I asked my students to come into the room, take their books out and simply sit there quietly. They had this time to themselves. Time to arrive and relax. I told them scientific studies have shown that sitting still and doing nothing is good for clearer thinking, improving attention deficit disorders and managing stress. I emphasized that for this to work they could not interfere with any other student in the process. They were thrilled.
After some experimentation, it soon became obvious that five minutes was too long for some students - especially those with ADHD, ADD. I felt torn as I did not want some students to be disadvantaged by meditation. We persisted over the next few months. I called our meditation time Sink and Think Meditation Snacks. Since I introduced Sink and Think™ , my students looked forward to meditating and appreciated quiet time. Most surprising of all, those students who struggled with ADD and ADHD, loved it most .
I noticed subtle shifts in my students after a short time.There was more respect between them, they listened more intently and they began engaging more in the lesson. The students themselves described their experiences as: “there's less chaos in this class”; “I feel peaceful as I enter your room”; “I am not overwhelmed when I start to work”; “I am curious what the lesson will be”; “I took 3 seconds off my personal best by meditating before the swim meet”… and the list goes on.
Sink and Think™, has been a transformative classroom experience. It has impacted both me and my students, revealing the intrinsic value that silence brings. Respect, care, curiosity, creativity, self-confidence and self-management are just a few. Perhaps the most remarkable thing I have noticed is that students who suffer from ADHD become calmer and more attentive throughout the lesson.
If you would like more information about how silence affects learning contact me here.
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"Lawrence Carroll's workshop on personal stress management, which he conducted with my Columbia Grad School class
was a huge success."
Neal Pilson, Columbia University, Former President, CBS Sports