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Guidance on Mindfulness for Children and Teens

In this interview Katherine discusses why mindfulness in school is important and shows how mindfulness makes learning more effective.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And with me today is Professor Katherine Weare. Katherine is Professor Emeritus at the Universities of Exeter and Southampton, where she's working to develop and evaluate Mindfulness in Schools programs. So wonderful work that she does. Her overall field is social and emotional learning and mental health and wellbeing in schools.

She is known as an international expert on evidence-based practice and has written some of the leading books in this area, books that have informed policy and practice in many countries around the world. So I am so, so grateful to have you as part of the summit, Katherine. Thank you for being here. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm not quite sure where here is, but my guess is here is where we are, so we're here.

We're here. We're very here. We're here now. And I would love, I love the work that you do. It's such important work.

And I would love to have you explain to our listeners what exactly your capacity is in the Mindfulness In Schools Program? So what, what role do you play in the rolling out of these, these programs in schools? Okay. Well, you've given me a nice write up at the beginning. I hope what I've got to say is as good as the write up. As you say, I'm, official title, I guess, is a emeritus professor at two universities in the UK. But in fact, I took early retirement from the University of South Hampton where I worked about seven years ago.

So I could get on with my work. I always say, and my work I decided then was going to be about mindfulness in schools. So I'm a freelance consultant really, but based in the networks around two universities, I know of lots of wider international networks. And my work is, is kind of hybrid fusion kind of things that I do. I am very interested in evidence-based practice.

I think it's important that we base what we do in what works, but I therefore do research around this, including the tough end of randomized control trials and so on. But I'm aware that evidence is much wider than that. So we work along qualitative lines and looking at people's subjective experience of mindfulness. I also teach mindfulness. I'm a properly trained mindfulness teacher, trained at the University of Exeter.

So I teach it to teachers and to a range of groups. I'm actually currently involved with developing this work for parents of adoptive children, because I have three adopted children myself. So I teach it and I work with schools that are developing this work. I also spend a great deal of time writing and advocating for mindfulness. So I'll be on committees with our Parliament, for example, who has just recommended mindfulness for the education of all teachers and all doctors.

And I was fortunate to be on the groups that helped that to happen. So I do a kind of range of things, really all around mindfulness and the wider work or wellbeing, social and emotional learning and education. I guess more broadly, you'd say I'm involved in this work for young people and for those who work with them and care for them. Yeah. Because you can't divorce the needs of the staff and the parents and the adults around young people from the needs of the young people themselves.

So it's a kind of holistic approach to mindfulness for young people in a whole range of settings is what I, what I do or what I am, I guess. And you're involved in a couple of different organizations in mindfulness, in schools, aren't you? The Plum Village and .B Program and another Mind and Life. Yes. I'm involved in through those three programs, particularly. I've advised the .B program and I'm a trained .B teacher.

.B ,as we'll probably get to shortly, is the main UK program on mindfulness in schools, which can actually be found right across the world. I am currently writing a lovely curriculum with the Plum Village monastics. This is a group who are working under the direction of Thich Nhat Hanh, who's the second most famous Zen master in the world after the Dalai Lama. And we're producing a recipe book of their basic practices for using schools because so many people will go to Plum Village or, or one of the educators retreats. And come away saying that was really lovely, I feel inspired, but I don't know what to do.

Right. So we've taken their most basic practices and we're turning it into a teaching manual. And I'm currently also getting more involved with the work of Mind and Life who, their particular slant on it is around compassion in schools and working to develop work around a curriculum called Call to Care. So that's the other, that's the third program that I'm kind of actually practically involved with. Right.

And I saw in a, in a presentation that you did recently for Mind House Park, you stated that mindfulness could be the missing key for education. Could you talk a little bit about that? Why you, why, why is mindfulness in schools so important? Well, mindfulness, as you said already Has a whole range of benefits. It's very hard sometimes to pin down exactly what it does because it literally permeates everything about life once you get into it. It's a, it's a kind of core. It's foundational.

And therefore, once you start practicing mindfulness yourself, you find that its impact has been on everything about what you do, who you are and so on. And in the same way where schools start to help their young people practice mindfulness, it's been found that there are all kinds of benefits. And what's particularly exciting for all schools is to discover that mindfulness can really help with learning. Because if we can get that across to schools, you're really starting to, to get this stuff cooking. It can help with learning by helping people to focus, to pay attention, to be,you know, with they're learning, to become aware of their own blocks and their own difficulties and to work through that.

So we know that mindfulness really can help with improving, you know, the tough stuff, like tests and examinations. So that's great. It also impacts on well-being, mental health, how you feel about yourself. So in a sense, it gets young people ready to learn. Yeah.

Because we know that if you're not ready to learn, if you're preoccupied, if you're stressed and so on, you can't learn anyway. So it also works with staff. We know that staff are better teachers, if they practice mindfulness. They actually improve their hard skills of paying attention to the class, to keeping on track, to being more tuned to their class and to remember what they're doing and to manage their own impulses, to, you know, respond to difficulties coming at them more effectively. So if you're finding teaching difficult, if the kids are playing up, you take time as you still yourself.

These are, these are basic classroom management skills. Yeah. And the great thing about mindfulness is that you don't have to turn into yet another initiative and spend, you know, hours, a week on it. There's a relatively short amount of time getting the basic skills. You can do that in six, eight sessions, and then a small amount of regular practice for you and for your class, and so on, have really big effects on all of these core things that schools are about.

Teachers sometimes worry that this is going to be a distraction from their main task. It's yet another thing to do. Yeah. We have to emphasize that this is not yet another initiative that's a kind of separate thing. It permeates everything.

So it is a key. Or another image I've used, which has been popular is, mindfulness is the WD 40 of education, a mindful WD 40. I don't know if you have it in Australia? We do, we do. It's a kind of lubricant that unsticks things and it's kind of memorable that, you know, that kind of a small burst of this really unsticks something. And I guess that's really where, where mindfulness is just so helpful.

Mmm. I like that the WD 40. And I've lived in a lot of rusty houses. So I get it. Yes, it's a simple image, but it kind of gets to the point.

This is not going to be onerous any length of time. Yeah. And, I'm, I'm curious to know Katherine, how, how your journey's unfolded. How was it that you came to mindfulness personally and, and, and then, you know, from there ended up being so interested in mindfulness in schools. Well, yeah, most people in mindfulness, you find have a, have a personal story.

I guess people stories, but there's usually some kind of trigger or whatever. Yeah. Well, I've, I've always been into yoga and tiny bits of meditation, but it was what I was going to do later when I retired, was my idea. I was going to become a guru when I moved to retire. Yep.

You know, one day, one day I'm going to become still and here. But right now I've got a lot of these emails and I've got to, you know, do something about my career. So I was, I was going along in universities really as part of management structure, pressurized job. You know, being very "successful" in commerce, academically and managerially. And then like so many people, I, I hit the buffers.

And in my case, hitting the buffers took the form of a mysterious illness, which is called CRPS, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It's a strange auto immune condition. No one knows where it comes from. It might be caused by stress and so on, but it's basically intractable. It's nothing that medical science really knows anything about doing.

And it was basically pain for which there was no analgesics and so on. So I was absolutely stuck and I couldn't even walk properly without pain. Wow. I know all the things I like doing, you know, I was a horse ride ride with a mother of three kids. I was a very active person.

All of this suddenly was becoming impossible. And it's no exaggeration to say I felt quite suicidal. I really couldn't see the point. I didn't have to go on like that. And fortunately, and fortunately, one of the consultants I was working with in the pain clinic, just off the cuff said, well, you're always going to be stuck with these pain.

Yes. It's going to completely screw your life up yet. But there is this organization called Breathworks. I've heard of who is doing something around mindfulness. I don't know what they do, but have a go.

So I kind of rushed out of there and Googled and found out about mindfulness, hooked up with a local teacher who's later to become a friend and so on, but I found, and to instantly find out about this though, I went for a session with this guy and immediately found it incredibly helpful. Yeah. And personally and went on several short courses that he ran. He ran eight week courses. And I got so into it that I wound up, as I say, taking early retirement and training myself to be a mindfulness teacher.

So that was, that was my trigger. And I'm glad to say, and I don't, I say this cautiously because sometimes people think mindfulness is a kind of panacea and will get rid of all aches and pains we experience. But for me, it hugely helped. A, with acceptance of this, but actually more hopefully, in fact, with actually reducing the pain and I really have very little pain now at all. It just doesn't interfere with my life at all.

And of course I discovered that as well as the reason why you wash up in a mindfulness center or course, it had all kinds of huge impacts on the rest of everything I was trying to do. So it was just transformative, really. So that's my journey. And then did you, so you did your mindfulness teacher training then, and then did you start teaching those same courses that you were initially a participant on? Yes. I'm trying to teach.

The mindfulness training at the University of Exeter is really quite rigorous and trained you to teach the eight week course, which is, you know, a manualized course, and I was trained to teach mindfulness based stress reduction and mindfulness based therapy. So I love the hard skills of doing those sessions. And yeah, I taught some courses and it was fantastically interesting to see people transformed. So we just, you know, if anyone out there is wondering about doing an eight week course, yeah, absolutely. It's a really good starting point.

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Yeah. Really solid stuff. Beautifully constructive and it's great.

Yeah. And I also couldn't emphasize enough to anyone who's thinking they'd like to teach this stuff to get trained yourself first, to go to a reputable program and get properly trained because it's not as easy as it looks. It can look that, but it's not. But for me, particularly, teaching the eight week course was never going to be the main thing I did. So I do teach this and I'm trained to teach the .B courses as well.

Yeah. I'm working with Plum Village to work on their practices. But I particularly, I guess spend my time awareness raising. So I do quite a lot of short things, you know. I'll do a one day awareness raising thing or a keynote or so on and be really advocating for this work in a whole range of other contexts.

Yeah. So I don't always do as much teaching of it, in the sense of that eight week structured courses. I'd like to, but whenever I get the opportunity, I'll go back and touch base again, because it is just so helpful. And then from, from that point in your journey, you ended up moving from, from teaching those programs into mindfulness in schools. What was, what was that part of the journey? Well, that part of the journey was hitting the point in the UK when this stuff was just starting really.

There wasn't much mindfulness in schools around that time. And oddly enough, when I went on the mindfulness training, it hadn't really occurred to me that this would be particularly linked with what I was doing in schools around mental health and wellbeing. Why it didn't, I don't know why. I was having a real block, but it just kind of came upon me that this was an integral part of the wellbeing agenda. And at the time I got, I got wind of a conference that was starting in the UK, the firstMindfulness in Schools program conference, which was quite small at the time.

At the school of one of the guys who was working on the program. And I was cheeky enough to email him and said, hi, you don't know me at all. But you really need me on your program and you really need me to do a conference and help people to make the link between the mindfulness you're doing with them and the wellbeing, especially most course planning I know about. So I kind of got my foot in the door by being, well, pushy really. And of course, when I got there, started making friends with people and was in on the ground floor of that particular program just as it was starting.

And that was really exciting. And I sat through the .B course several times and helped them write their guidelines and their manual and so on from the point of view of being a participant, but also someone who is used to writing curriculum and whole school materials. So that's how I started in that. Ah, wonderful. And so to delve a little bit deeper into the Mindfulness in Schools program, how, how does a typical Mindfulness in Schools program work? How regularly does it run? You know, is it over eight weeks like the other programs? And what kind of activities do, Are young people doing? Okay.

Well, as I said, I've been working three programs. Right. And I could tell you a little bit about, about, about them. Just to start perhaps with what the typical program would do because these, the Plum Village, .B and Call to Care are, you know, fairly mainstream, well evidenced well-constructed programs. So like any program, they will be based around some core practices, which particularly will focus on the breath.

Mindfulness focuses on the breath, not for its own sake, but because it's a nice little portable anchor. Yeah. So any program will do something around being with your breathing, nothing to change, but just to be with, notice the in-breath and the out-breath, and then work on more awareness in the body, getting more aware of what's happening in your body. It's sometimes called body scan, where you take your awareness around different parts of your body. There'll be practices around being in the here and now through things like eating and walking more mindfully and then spreading out into everyday life.

So you gradually invite your class to become more aware of how they eat lunch and how they eat their dinner and how they relate to the world. We know what it's like to walk a small bit of, of your daily walk to school mindfully. And gradually encourage your class and yourself to spread mindfulness into everyday life. Now that's, that's the core, I think, of any good mindfulness program. Yep.

Often with particular emphasis on getting on with other people and relationships and feeling more connected to others. More specifically though, programs for young people and .B and Plum Village are very good examples to this, we'll be making sure that it is easy and that it's fun because getting young people to sit quietly on a cushion for 40 minutes is a recipe for disaster. And a lot of adults too. Absolutely. It's interesting how many adults really rather, like, for example, the .B program, because it's kind of quicker and edgier than the classical eight week course.

So mindfulness is not all about sitting. So you might, you'll do a little practice, but with young children it would be very short. With teenagers it'll still be pretty short. And you will find ways to make it fun. For example, if you're doing the awareness of the body with the .B program, rather than kind of systematically working through the body, in that very formal, you know, from the feet up kind of way, a nice exercise is to invite them to take their awareness into the thumb of their left hand or the toe of their right foot, the ear lobe, and then get class, perhaps while they're sitting quietly to call out different bits of the body.

And, you know, the class moves awareness around it. Obviously sometimes lots of laughter because, you know, kids are kids and if they laugh being with the laughter and so on. So that would be a kind of young person friendly way of doing a body scan. Yeah. You might, if you're doing mindful eating, for example, as well as your traditional raisin, which may not go down well with your class, if they're a bit food adverse, you would probably bring in chocolate.

And that's fun looking at what happens when you say to a class, you know, wait for it. Being aware of the need to eat arising, you can imagine the liveliness that creates. And sometimes we also use hot chili, which is fun and gets the kids reacting, talking about their reactions. Some of them were saying, Oh, I'm not having that. Oh no, my mum will come down and tell you off.

Other kids are yeah, bring it on. Give me the really big one. And it's just so much grist to the middle. So you take a basic mindfulness practice, but do it in a way that's good classroom teaching. It's fun, it's lively and just keep it light.

This is not about, you know, mindfulness should not about be about being miserable. Yeah. Plum Village are very good on that. They, when they do mindful walking, it's not all about attention in the soles of the feet, taking it slowly. With a Plum Village mindful walk, you walk at a normal pace and you're in the world.

You're looking at the sights, the sounds and so on. So it's not about doing weird, introverted stuff. It's just about paying more attention to things you do naturally. Yep. And what, what happens to children when they practice mindfulness? What are the, what are the benefits? What happens to them? Well, what literally happens to them is that their brains are rewiring and actually kids like knowing about that.

It's quite interesting to get into this, partly through science and talking about physiology and neuroscience and brain scans. What is literally happening at the level of the brain is that the bits of the brain, that are connected with all things we want to be like paying better attention, like being kind to ourselves, like managing our emotions, literally grow. The neural pathways get more complex and the areas have more blood flow. And the bits of the brain that we... I won't say don't want, because we need, we need things like anxiety and concern that, you know, we're, we're prime to be prey animals.

So with the bits of the brain that are about staying well need to be activated, if you're attacked. You need to be there. But in everyday life, these get in the way very often. So those bits of the brain tend to diminish and be less reactive. So the hostility, anxiety parts of the brain reduce in size and their less easily triggered by ordinary events, which is really helpful.

Yeah. And at the subjective level, because obviously you can't see your brain rewiring, you will be experiencing those kinds of impacts. So you will be gradually feeling calmer, more in control, more able to make better decisions, to manage your impulses, to get on with other people better, to be more attuned, to, to others, to be more compassionate and to be more kind. And kids will report this and so will staff. That, that this has all kinds of impacts on their ability to sit still in class and pay attention, to learn, to manage their own behavior.

One kid said, rather memorably when he was asked what mindfulness did. He said, it stops me doing all that stupid stuff I do and I like it. Which I thought was as good as definition of what mindfulness does, if anything else, really. Yeah. And in terms of kind of, what, if you measure this, these hard outcomes with your various instruments and so on, you will be measuring improvements in learning and mental health outcomes, like depression, stress, anxiety, greater wellbeing and even side effects around sleep and eating and so on.

And this is equally true for the teachers, for the school staff as it is for the young people. So a real wide range of benefits. Yeah. And I know that a really important, I know that a really important part of the Mindfulness in Schools programs, isn't all about just teaching the kids and teenagers. It's also, I understand very much about teaching the, the teachers and the carers about mindfulness as well.

Can you talk a little bit about the importance of that and how that plays a role in the Mindfulness in Schools programs. Yeah. Starting with the staff is absolutely basic. When people come at you with, how do we teach mindfulness? They usually mean, how can I make sure someone else learns mindfulness because it'll do them good. And the first, the first thing is just to turn that around and say, well, if it's so good for the other person, perhaps it would be really good for you.

Perhaps you can start with yourself. And so those schools sometimes come to mindful waning a curriculum very quickly, you kind of help them to reflect on the kind of whole school, whole staff approach and start from where the staff are. Again, a memorable image is that of an oxygen mask. You know, if you're in an airplane and the oxygen goes, you put your own mask on first, before you put it on kid.. And it's saying you can't look up after other people, you can't help other people to be still and present and pay attention if you can't do it yourself.

It's just superficial. It's inauthentic. It just, it just plain doesn't work. Here's what we know, people who are not trained to mindfulness effectively are not good teachers. They don't have those beneficial outcomes.

If you're just reading a script or they bought a book off Amazon and they're reading it out, it just doesn't work. Yeah. So always start with the staff. Same, if a parent says, how can I teach my child mindfulness? You say, well, how about yourself first? And all the benefits that that will have for you and your family life. So you always deflect it back to the person.

And to help people to experience those benefits for themselves in their own life before they decide that it's going to be fantastic and good for other people. But, you know, as I mentioned already, that the great thing is it does impact on school stuff. Yeah. On their wellbeing, on their mental health, and also really significantly on these core things that they're trying to do, like teach effectively, manage effectively, be good leaders, get through their day in a better, more effective, calmer way. So it's absolutely foundational really for staff.

I've yet to find any staff who do mindfulness, who'd say, well, that was a waste of time. I just want to learn to teach the kids. It's very transformative once you start. Wonderful. And so that's such an important message.

And I'm so glad that we brought that up, that, you know, mindfulness is something that if you want to teach it, you really have to embody it and find out what it's about for yourself first. And for those people who hear that message and heed that message, and also would like to know some kind of potential practices or ways of teaching mindfulness to kids, are there any exercises or any tips or any other thoughts that you could offer them on that? Yeah, I'm not part of the brigade that says you must never teach anything to kids until you've done a two year diploma in this. And I'm, I'm keen that if people go on a course and learn simple little, two, three minute exercises, that they feel capable of practicing those themselves regularly, and that is the first thing to do, and then teach those to the class. So I could run through one in a moment. So there are things to do.

But I think it's quite important if you want to get into everything deeper like some people might take, say, 20 minutes, that you do train properly. Because even if it's a 20 minutes sit, can bring up all kinds of stuff that you're not expecting. And if you've not experienced from the inside yourself, all these weird paradoxes of you get there by not trying, when you focus on the emotions, sometimes it gets worse. You know, you asked me to, I thought this was going to make me feel calm and now I'm crying. Or when this brought up how I was feeling, my dog died last week.

Is that okay to think about it? And if you've not done these, these things and you don't know the deep stuff, that even at 20 minutes, it can bring up, it can be a traumatic sit . So by all means, I would say if you read a book or do a little CD, do little practices yourself, share them cautiously with your class. A big caveat, unless their teenage, unless you're a parent and they're teenagers, do which kids keep right away from this, just do it yourself and get through those years. Do not try to force teenagers. Is it from personal experience? Well, I didn't, I wasn't dumb enough to try.

I'd be very well, you know. You know, you can just tell it'll really be hard. But I do get people say, how can I teach my teenager mindfulness? And I think, don't. But with younger kids, and if you're a teacher. For me, you get into some short practices.

But if you want to do more, just you go and get properly trained by a good program. Make sure that, you know, you do. Yeah. Okay. Wonderful.

And so do you have a practice, that you could share with us? I do, I do. That would be wonderful. Yeah. It's very simple. And this, this, I think would be an example of something that you would find it hard to trigger terrible problems with.

I say that cautiously because yeah. But it's, it's very simple. Yeah. So, you know, a reasonably safe thing. It involves having two hands.

So I guess, you know, like most people do, but if, for some reason you don't, some other way for what is needed. But yeah. And actually that's a serious point that obviously if you're teaching a class, you do need to be aware of any difficulties people have or disabilities, but it's assuming that that's, you know, you've got people in front of you with two hands, with 10 fingers. This practice is a very simple stilling one. And it involves, first of all, also do it with me, Me,lissa.

Do it with me. I got my two hands ready. Okay. Your hands are ready. Let's start that with feet on the floor.

So nice sense of feet flat on the floor, feeling contact between your feet and the floor. Bottom in contact with your chair and feeling that sense of just being here now and all those points of contact. And you can, if you like, and you have already Mellissa, shut your eyes, but if you're watching this, just shut your eyes or have a soft gaze. And you're taking your right hand and your index finger. What we're going to do is to gently run the index finger up the outside of starting with the left thumb on the in-breath, and then down the inside of the thumb on the out-breath.

And we're going to carry this on across the fingers. So up the outside of the index finger on the in-breath. And down on the out-breath. In-breath, middle finger. Out-breath down the other side of the middle finger.

And now carrying on at your own pace. So however your breathing is for you. In-breath. Out-breath. And just as we have time, changing when you get to the end of one hand to the other hand.

Moving up the outside of the little finger or the thumb, doesn't matter, and down the other side. So five more breaths. If you're watching this and you're finished, just putting your hands quiet in your lap. But no hurry. Then when you're ready, just opening the eyes.

If you want to stretch your fingers and have a wiggle, that's fine. Move around. Very simple that one. Just one hand, if you've already got less time. Hmm.

That's a lovely practice. It's very grounding. What people quite like about that practice is that it anchors the mind and the breath to something concrete, to the fingers. Yeah. Sometimes being asked to simply sit and count your breath or follow your breath, you can lose it by breath two really, if you're..

Yeah. Well, I was going to say if you're not practiced, but actually even if you are, you get distracted. Whereas something about combining breath, the finger, there's the movement. Most people manage to kind of keep it together for that. Yeah.

And it's great. You can do it under the desk if you're in a meeting and you do... You just need a moment. You just want to spend the time more productively than listening to somebody go on. So you've got your breath.

You've got somewhere in your body that you can focus on. Very terribly simple, finger breathing. Finger breathing. I like it. Finger breathing.

I'm going to use that. And so I just have two more questions for you. And the first thing that I would like to know is just for any, you know, young people, teachers, parents out there who want to know more about bringing mindfulness into their schools, where could they find some more information about that? Yeah. Well, it would depend obviously what country you're in. Right.

There's a very good mindfulness group online called the Mindfulness in Education Network, MIEN. Mindfulness in Education Network. Okay. Yeah. Mindfulness in Education Network.

So if you Google that, and if you're in a part of the world where there's not much going on and you could ask a question, say, Anybody know what's happening around here? Yeah. And it will put you instantly in touch with folks who are around the world or in your country who are working on that. Now, if you were in the UK and you Googled Mindfulness in Education or Mindfulness in Schools, you would come straight up with the ,B program, and that's a good place to start. Although there are others. You might find it harder for example to dig around and find Plum Village.

So I think going on that network will put you in touch with whatever's appropriate in your area and give you immediate access to people. If you said, what's the most basic books or I've got five-year-olds. You know, you will, in my experience, be quite overwhelmed with the kindness of people who are really keen to welcome you into that mindfulness community. And so, and give you a bit of direction, because there's a lot of stuff out there and it's confusing. So I would recommend start with the Mindfulness in Education Network and just asking your question, see what happens next.

Great. I just have one final question for you, which is, you know, it's being said that mindfulness has the capacity to change the world from the inside out one person at a time. And I'm wondering from your perspective, I know that you've done a lot of, you know, looking into the evidence-based research on what's happening, what's happening in, not only people in schools, but people of all ages and drawing on your own experience of what's happened to you in your life. What do you think the world would be like if mindfulness really truly went mainstream, and I'm talking, you know, a billion, 2 billion people practicing mindfulness. What kind of a world do you think that would create? Well, if people were really practicing mindfulness and I don't mean mindfulness, the commodity, you know, mindfulness, the I'm doing this to get on further in my job and be better focused.

Someone's called it mindfulness. So real mindfulness, real authentic mindfulness, which brings kindness and compassion as well as focus, I think would be absolutely transformative. I think it would be built around, you'd have a world well built around a sense of connection, with people realizing that the other person is just like them, that there are no barriers. There is.,that these artificial distinctions we make of age and race and country are, in a sense, just words and that we are all human beings. We all have the same needs.

We have the same wants. And it would really help to build that sense of responsibility and connection between people and other people and I think between people and the planet, really. People and other sentient beings, that sense of connection with life and how precious this world is. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen master I was talking about, when he's asked about whether he, as a Buddhist, believes in reincarnation and so on. And he says, I don't know about that.

I don't know about any other worlds. I just know about this one and I'm on this planet now and I want to make this planet the best it can be. And I think that's a really useful way to think about, about this building empathic connection with others and with the whole world really. Thank you so much. I think that's a beautiful note to end on.

And I'm so, so grateful for your time. I really appreciate it. And it's been wonderful connecting with you. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the listeners before we close? No, I think that's probably all that's, you know, it'll do. All sorts of things will occur to me later, but just to wish everyone out there all the luck and all fun with their practice.

and just one final thought. Just keep it light. This should not be a chore. If it's a chore, just go do something else. You know, don't don't, don't get into it.

Just, just enjoy. Just keep it fun and let the practice do the work. This is not a struggle. This is not striving. This is, this should be fun.

Beautiful. Thank you so much, Katherine, for the work that you do and for your time, I wish you all the best. Thank you. And look forward to connecting again, sometime in the future.

Talk

4.8

Guidance on Mindfulness for Children and Teens

In this interview Katherine discusses why mindfulness in school is important and shows how mindfulness makes learning more effective.

Duration

Your default time is based on your progress and is changed automatically as you practice.

I'm your host Melli O'Brien. And with me today is Professor Katherine Weare. Katherine is Professor Emeritus at the Universities of Exeter and Southampton, where she's working to develop and evaluate Mindfulness in Schools programs. So wonderful work that she does. Her overall field is social and emotional learning and mental health and wellbeing in schools.

She is known as an international expert on evidence-based practice and has written some of the leading books in this area, books that have informed policy and practice in many countries around the world. So I am so, so grateful to have you as part of the summit, Katherine. Thank you for being here. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm not quite sure where here is, but my guess is here is where we are, so we're here.

We're here. We're very here. We're here now. And I would love, I love the work that you do. It's such important work.

And I would love to have you explain to our listeners what exactly your capacity is in the Mindfulness In Schools Program? So what, what role do you play in the rolling out of these, these programs in schools? Okay. Well, you've given me a nice write up at the beginning. I hope what I've got to say is as good as the write up. As you say, I'm, official title, I guess, is a emeritus professor at two universities in the UK. But in fact, I took early retirement from the University of South Hampton where I worked about seven years ago.

So I could get on with my work. I always say, and my work I decided then was going to be about mindfulness in schools. So I'm a freelance consultant really, but based in the networks around two universities, I know of lots of wider international networks. And my work is, is kind of hybrid fusion kind of things that I do. I am very interested in evidence-based practice.

I think it's important that we base what we do in what works, but I therefore do research around this, including the tough end of randomized control trials and so on. But I'm aware that evidence is much wider than that. So we work along qualitative lines and looking at people's subjective experience of mindfulness. I also teach mindfulness. I'm a properly trained mindfulness teacher, trained at the University of Exeter.

So I teach it to teachers and to a range of groups. I'm actually currently involved with developing this work for parents of adoptive children, because I have three adopted children myself. So I teach it and I work with schools that are developing this work. I also spend a great deal of time writing and advocating for mindfulness. So I'll be on committees with our Parliament, for example, who has just recommended mindfulness for the education of all teachers and all doctors.

And I was fortunate to be on the groups that helped that to happen. So I do a kind of range of things, really all around mindfulness and the wider work or wellbeing, social and emotional learning and education. I guess more broadly, you'd say I'm involved in this work for young people and for those who work with them and care for them. Yeah. Because you can't divorce the needs of the staff and the parents and the adults around young people from the needs of the young people themselves.

So it's a kind of holistic approach to mindfulness for young people in a whole range of settings is what I, what I do or what I am, I guess. And you're involved in a couple of different organizations in mindfulness, in schools, aren't you? The Plum Village and .B Program and another Mind and Life. Yes. I'm involved in through those three programs, particularly. I've advised the .B program and I'm a trained .B teacher.

.B ,as we'll probably get to shortly, is the main UK program on mindfulness in schools, which can actually be found right across the world. I am currently writing a lovely curriculum with the Plum Village monastics. This is a group who are working under the direction of Thich Nhat Hanh, who's the second most famous Zen master in the world after the Dalai Lama. And we're producing a recipe book of their basic practices for using schools because so many people will go to Plum Village or, or one of the educators retreats. And come away saying that was really lovely, I feel inspired, but I don't know what to do.

Right. So we've taken their most basic practices and we're turning it into a teaching manual. And I'm currently also getting more involved with the work of Mind and Life who, their particular slant on it is around compassion in schools and working to develop work around a curriculum called Call to Care. So that's the other, that's the third program that I'm kind of actually practically involved with. Right.

And I saw in a, in a presentation that you did recently for Mind House Park, you stated that mindfulness could be the missing key for education. Could you talk a little bit about that? Why you, why, why is mindfulness in schools so important? Well, mindfulness, as you said already Has a whole range of benefits. It's very hard sometimes to pin down exactly what it does because it literally permeates everything about life once you get into it. It's a, it's a kind of core. It's foundational.

And therefore, once you start practicing mindfulness yourself, you find that its impact has been on everything about what you do, who you are and so on. And in the same way where schools start to help their young people practice mindfulness, it's been found that there are all kinds of benefits. And what's particularly exciting for all schools is to discover that mindfulness can really help with learning. Because if we can get that across to schools, you're really starting to, to get this stuff cooking. It can help with learning by helping people to focus, to pay attention, to be,you know, with they're learning, to become aware of their own blocks and their own difficulties and to work through that.

So we know that mindfulness really can help with improving, you know, the tough stuff, like tests and examinations. So that's great. It also impacts on well-being, mental health, how you feel about yourself. So in a sense, it gets young people ready to learn. Yeah.

Because we know that if you're not ready to learn, if you're preoccupied, if you're stressed and so on, you can't learn anyway. So it also works with staff. We know that staff are better teachers, if they practice mindfulness. They actually improve their hard skills of paying attention to the class, to keeping on track, to being more tuned to their class and to remember what they're doing and to manage their own impulses, to, you know, respond to difficulties coming at them more effectively. So if you're finding teaching difficult, if the kids are playing up, you take time as you still yourself.

These are, these are basic classroom management skills. Yeah. And the great thing about mindfulness is that you don't have to turn into yet another initiative and spend, you know, hours, a week on it. There's a relatively short amount of time getting the basic skills. You can do that in six, eight sessions, and then a small amount of regular practice for you and for your class, and so on, have really big effects on all of these core things that schools are about.

Teachers sometimes worry that this is going to be a distraction from their main task. It's yet another thing to do. Yeah. We have to emphasize that this is not yet another initiative that's a kind of separate thing. It permeates everything.

So it is a key. Or another image I've used, which has been popular is, mindfulness is the WD 40 of education, a mindful WD 40. I don't know if you have it in Australia? We do, we do. It's a kind of lubricant that unsticks things and it's kind of memorable that, you know, that kind of a small burst of this really unsticks something. And I guess that's really where, where mindfulness is just so helpful.

Mmm. I like that the WD 40. And I've lived in a lot of rusty houses. So I get it. Yes, it's a simple image, but it kind of gets to the point.

This is not going to be onerous any length of time. Yeah. And, I'm, I'm curious to know Katherine, how, how your journey's unfolded. How was it that you came to mindfulness personally and, and, and then, you know, from there ended up being so interested in mindfulness in schools. Well, yeah, most people in mindfulness, you find have a, have a personal story.

I guess people stories, but there's usually some kind of trigger or whatever. Yeah. Well, I've, I've always been into yoga and tiny bits of meditation, but it was what I was going to do later when I retired, was my idea. I was going to become a guru when I moved to retire. Yep.

You know, one day, one day I'm going to become still and here. But right now I've got a lot of these emails and I've got to, you know, do something about my career. So I was, I was going along in universities really as part of management structure, pressurized job. You know, being very "successful" in commerce, academically and managerially. And then like so many people, I, I hit the buffers.

And in my case, hitting the buffers took the form of a mysterious illness, which is called CRPS, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It's a strange auto immune condition. No one knows where it comes from. It might be caused by stress and so on, but it's basically intractable. It's nothing that medical science really knows anything about doing.

And it was basically pain for which there was no analgesics and so on. So I was absolutely stuck and I couldn't even walk properly without pain. Wow. I know all the things I like doing, you know, I was a horse ride ride with a mother of three kids. I was a very active person.

All of this suddenly was becoming impossible. And it's no exaggeration to say I felt quite suicidal. I really couldn't see the point. I didn't have to go on like that. And fortunately, and fortunately, one of the consultants I was working with in the pain clinic, just off the cuff said, well, you're always going to be stuck with these pain.

Yes. It's going to completely screw your life up yet. But there is this organization called Breathworks. I've heard of who is doing something around mindfulness. I don't know what they do, but have a go.

So I kind of rushed out of there and Googled and found out about mindfulness, hooked up with a local teacher who's later to become a friend and so on, but I found, and to instantly find out about this though, I went for a session with this guy and immediately found it incredibly helpful. Yeah. And personally and went on several short courses that he ran. He ran eight week courses. And I got so into it that I wound up, as I say, taking early retirement and training myself to be a mindfulness teacher.

So that was, that was my trigger. And I'm glad to say, and I don't, I say this cautiously because sometimes people think mindfulness is a kind of panacea and will get rid of all aches and pains we experience. But for me, it hugely helped. A, with acceptance of this, but actually more hopefully, in fact, with actually reducing the pain and I really have very little pain now at all. It just doesn't interfere with my life at all.

And of course I discovered that as well as the reason why you wash up in a mindfulness center or course, it had all kinds of huge impacts on the rest of everything I was trying to do. So it was just transformative, really. So that's my journey. And then did you, so you did your mindfulness teacher training then, and then did you start teaching those same courses that you were initially a participant on? Yes. I'm trying to teach.

The mindfulness training at the University of Exeter is really quite rigorous and trained you to teach the eight week course, which is, you know, a manualized course, and I was trained to teach mindfulness based stress reduction and mindfulness based therapy. So I love the hard skills of doing those sessions. And yeah, I taught some courses and it was fantastically interesting to see people transformed. So we just, you know, if anyone out there is wondering about doing an eight week course, yeah, absolutely. It's a really good starting point.

Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Yeah. Really solid stuff. Beautifully constructive and it's great.

Yeah. And I also couldn't emphasize enough to anyone who's thinking they'd like to teach this stuff to get trained yourself first, to go to a reputable program and get properly trained because it's not as easy as it looks. It can look that, but it's not. But for me, particularly, teaching the eight week course was never going to be the main thing I did. So I do teach this and I'm trained to teach the .B courses as well.

Yeah. I'm working with Plum Village to work on their practices. But I particularly, I guess spend my time awareness raising. So I do quite a lot of short things, you know. I'll do a one day awareness raising thing or a keynote or so on and be really advocating for this work in a whole range of other contexts.

Yeah. So I don't always do as much teaching of it, in the sense of that eight week structured courses. I'd like to, but whenever I get the opportunity, I'll go back and touch base again, because it is just so helpful. And then from, from that point in your journey, you ended up moving from, from teaching those programs into mindfulness in schools. What was, what was that part of the journey? Well, that part of the journey was hitting the point in the UK when this stuff was just starting really.

There wasn't much mindfulness in schools around that time. And oddly enough, when I went on the mindfulness training, it hadn't really occurred to me that this would be particularly linked with what I was doing in schools around mental health and wellbeing. Why it didn't, I don't know why. I was having a real block, but it just kind of came upon me that this was an integral part of the wellbeing agenda. And at the time I got, I got wind of a conference that was starting in the UK, the firstMindfulness in Schools program conference, which was quite small at the time.

At the school of one of the guys who was working on the program. And I was cheeky enough to email him and said, hi, you don't know me at all. But you really need me on your program and you really need me to do a conference and help people to make the link between the mindfulness you're doing with them and the wellbeing, especially most course planning I know about. So I kind of got my foot in the door by being, well, pushy really. And of course, when I got there, started making friends with people and was in on the ground floor of that particular program just as it was starting.

And that was really exciting. And I sat through the .B course several times and helped them write their guidelines and their manual and so on from the point of view of being a participant, but also someone who is used to writing curriculum and whole school materials. So that's how I started in that. Ah, wonderful. And so to delve a little bit deeper into the Mindfulness in Schools program, how, how does a typical Mindfulness in Schools program work? How regularly does it run? You know, is it over eight weeks like the other programs? And what kind of activities do, Are young people doing? Okay.

Well, as I said, I've been working three programs. Right. And I could tell you a little bit about, about, about them. Just to start perhaps with what the typical program would do because these, the Plum Village, .B and Call to Care are, you know, fairly mainstream, well evidenced well-constructed programs. So like any program, they will be based around some core practices, which particularly will focus on the breath.

Mindfulness focuses on the breath, not for its own sake, but because it's a nice little portable anchor. Yeah. So any program will do something around being with your breathing, nothing to change, but just to be with, notice the in-breath and the out-breath, and then work on more awareness in the body, getting more aware of what's happening in your body. It's sometimes called body scan, where you take your awareness around different parts of your body. There'll be practices around being in the here and now through things like eating and walking more mindfully and then spreading out into everyday life.

So you gradually invite your class to become more aware of how they eat lunch and how they eat their dinner and how they relate to the world. We know what it's like to walk a small bit of, of your daily walk to school mindfully. And gradually encourage your class and yourself to spread mindfulness into everyday life. Now that's, that's the core, I think, of any good mindfulness program. Yep.

Often with particular emphasis on getting on with other people and relationships and feeling more connected to others. More specifically though, programs for young people and .B and Plum Village are very good examples to this, we'll be making sure that it is easy and that it's fun because getting young people to sit quietly on a cushion for 40 minutes is a recipe for disaster. And a lot of adults too. Absolutely. It's interesting how many adults really rather, like, for example, the .B program, because it's kind of quicker and edgier than the classical eight week course.

So mindfulness is not all about sitting. So you might, you'll do a little practice, but with young children it would be very short. With teenagers it'll still be pretty short. And you will find ways to make it fun. For example, if you're doing the awareness of the body with the .B program, rather than kind of systematically working through the body, in that very formal, you know, from the feet up kind of way, a nice exercise is to invite them to take their awareness into the thumb of their left hand or the toe of their right foot, the ear lobe, and then get class, perhaps while they're sitting quietly to call out different bits of the body.

And, you know, the class moves awareness around it. Obviously sometimes lots of laughter because, you know, kids are kids and if they laugh being with the laughter and so on. So that would be a kind of young person friendly way of doing a body scan. Yeah. You might, if you're doing mindful eating, for example, as well as your traditional raisin, which may not go down well with your class, if they're a bit food adverse, you would probably bring in chocolate.

And that's fun looking at what happens when you say to a class, you know, wait for it. Being aware of the need to eat arising, you can imagine the liveliness that creates. And sometimes we also use hot chili, which is fun and gets the kids reacting, talking about their reactions. Some of them were saying, Oh, I'm not having that. Oh no, my mum will come down and tell you off.

Other kids are yeah, bring it on. Give me the really big one. And it's just so much grist to the middle. So you take a basic mindfulness practice, but do it in a way that's good classroom teaching. It's fun, it's lively and just keep it light.

This is not about, you know, mindfulness should not about be about being miserable. Yeah. Plum Village are very good on that. They, when they do mindful walking, it's not all about attention in the soles of the feet, taking it slowly. With a Plum Village mindful walk, you walk at a normal pace and you're in the world.

You're looking at the sights, the sounds and so on. So it's not about doing weird, introverted stuff. It's just about paying more attention to things you do naturally. Yep. And what, what happens to children when they practice mindfulness? What are the, what are the benefits? What happens to them? Well, what literally happens to them is that their brains are rewiring and actually kids like knowing about that.

It's quite interesting to get into this, partly through science and talking about physiology and neuroscience and brain scans. What is literally happening at the level of the brain is that the bits of the brain, that are connected with all things we want to be like paying better attention, like being kind to ourselves, like managing our emotions, literally grow. The neural pathways get more complex and the areas have more blood flow. And the bits of the brain that we... I won't say don't want, because we need, we need things like anxiety and concern that, you know, we're, we're prime to be prey animals.

So with the bits of the brain that are about staying well need to be activated, if you're attacked. You need to be there. But in everyday life, these get in the way very often. So those bits of the brain tend to diminish and be less reactive. So the hostility, anxiety parts of the brain reduce in size and their less easily triggered by ordinary events, which is really helpful.

Yeah. And at the subjective level, because obviously you can't see your brain rewiring, you will be experiencing those kinds of impacts. So you will be gradually feeling calmer, more in control, more able to make better decisions, to manage your impulses, to get on with other people better, to be more attuned, to, to others, to be more compassionate and to be more kind. And kids will report this and so will staff. That, that this has all kinds of impacts on their ability to sit still in class and pay attention, to learn, to manage their own behavior.

One kid said, rather memorably when he was asked what mindfulness did. He said, it stops me doing all that stupid stuff I do and I like it. Which I thought was as good as definition of what mindfulness does, if anything else, really. Yeah. And in terms of kind of, what, if you measure this, these hard outcomes with your various instruments and so on, you will be measuring improvements in learning and mental health outcomes, like depression, stress, anxiety, greater wellbeing and even side effects around sleep and eating and so on.

And this is equally true for the teachers, for the school staff as it is for the young people. So a real wide range of benefits. Yeah. And I know that a really important, I know that a really important part of the Mindfulness in Schools programs, isn't all about just teaching the kids and teenagers. It's also, I understand very much about teaching the, the teachers and the carers about mindfulness as well.

Can you talk a little bit about the importance of that and how that plays a role in the Mindfulness in Schools programs. Yeah. Starting with the staff is absolutely basic. When people come at you with, how do we teach mindfulness? They usually mean, how can I make sure someone else learns mindfulness because it'll do them good. And the first, the first thing is just to turn that around and say, well, if it's so good for the other person, perhaps it would be really good for you.

Perhaps you can start with yourself. And so those schools sometimes come to mindful waning a curriculum very quickly, you kind of help them to reflect on the kind of whole school, whole staff approach and start from where the staff are. Again, a memorable image is that of an oxygen mask. You know, if you're in an airplane and the oxygen goes, you put your own mask on first, before you put it on kid.. And it's saying you can't look up after other people, you can't help other people to be still and present and pay attention if you can't do it yourself.

It's just superficial. It's inauthentic. It just, it just plain doesn't work. Here's what we know, people who are not trained to mindfulness effectively are not good teachers. They don't have those beneficial outcomes.

If you're just reading a script or they bought a book off Amazon and they're reading it out, it just doesn't work. Yeah. So always start with the staff. Same, if a parent says, how can I teach my child mindfulness? You say, well, how about yourself first? And all the benefits that that will have for you and your family life. So you always deflect it back to the person.

And to help people to experience those benefits for themselves in their own life before they decide that it's going to be fantastic and good for other people. But, you know, as I mentioned already, that the great thing is it does impact on school stuff. Yeah. On their wellbeing, on their mental health, and also really significantly on these core things that they're trying to do, like teach effectively, manage effectively, be good leaders, get through their day in a better, more effective, calmer way. So it's absolutely foundational really for staff.

I've yet to find any staff who do mindfulness, who'd say, well, that was a waste of time. I just want to learn to teach the kids. It's very transformative once you start. Wonderful. And so that's such an important message.

And I'm so glad that we brought that up, that, you know, mindfulness is something that if you want to teach it, you really have to embody it and find out what it's about for yourself first. And for those people who hear that message and heed that message, and also would like to know some kind of potential practices or ways of teaching mindfulness to kids, are there any exercises or any tips or any other thoughts that you could offer them on that? Yeah, I'm not part of the brigade that says you must never teach anything to kids until you've done a two year diploma in this. And I'm, I'm keen that if people go on a course and learn simple little, two, three minute exercises, that they feel capable of practicing those themselves regularly, and that is the first thing to do, and then teach those to the class. So I could run through one in a moment. So there are things to do.

But I think it's quite important if you want to get into everything deeper like some people might take, say, 20 minutes, that you do train properly. Because even if it's a 20 minutes sit, can bring up all kinds of stuff that you're not expecting. And if you've not experienced from the inside yourself, all these weird paradoxes of you get there by not trying, when you focus on the emotions, sometimes it gets worse. You know, you asked me to, I thought this was going to make me feel calm and now I'm crying. Or when this brought up how I was feeling, my dog died last week.

Is that okay to think about it? And if you've not done these, these things and you don't know the deep stuff, that even at 20 minutes, it can bring up, it can be a traumatic sit . So by all means, I would say if you read a book or do a little CD, do little practices yourself, share them cautiously with your class. A big caveat, unless their teenage, unless you're a parent and they're teenagers, do which kids keep right away from this, just do it yourself and get through those years. Do not try to force teenagers. Is it from personal experience? Well, I didn't, I wasn't dumb enough to try.

I'd be very well, you know. You know, you can just tell it'll really be hard. But I do get people say, how can I teach my teenager mindfulness? And I think, don't. But with younger kids, and if you're a teacher. For me, you get into some short practices.

But if you want to do more, just you go and get properly trained by a good program. Make sure that, you know, you do. Yeah. Okay. Wonderful.

And so do you have a practice, that you could share with us? I do, I do. That would be wonderful. Yeah. It's very simple. And this, this, I think would be an example of something that you would find it hard to trigger terrible problems with.

I say that cautiously because yeah. But it's, it's very simple. Yeah. So, you know, a reasonably safe thing. It involves having two hands.

So I guess, you know, like most people do, but if, for some reason you don't, some other way for what is needed. But yeah. And actually that's a serious point that obviously if you're teaching a class, you do need to be aware of any difficulties people have or disabilities, but it's assuming that that's, you know, you've got people in front of you with two hands, with 10 fingers. This practice is a very simple stilling one. And it involves, first of all, also do it with me, Me,lissa.

Do it with me. I got my two hands ready. Okay. Your hands are ready. Let's start that with feet on the floor.

So nice sense of feet flat on the floor, feeling contact between your feet and the floor. Bottom in contact with your chair and feeling that sense of just being here now and all those points of contact. And you can, if you like, and you have already Mellissa, shut your eyes, but if you're watching this, just shut your eyes or have a soft gaze. And you're taking your right hand and your index finger. What we're going to do is to gently run the index finger up the outside of starting with the left thumb on the in-breath, and then down the inside of the thumb on the out-breath.

And we're going to carry this on across the fingers. So up the outside of the index finger on the in-breath. And down on the out-breath. In-breath, middle finger. Out-breath down the other side of the middle finger.

And now carrying on at your own pace. So however your breathing is for you. In-breath. Out-breath. And just as we have time, changing when you get to the end of one hand to the other hand.

Moving up the outside of the little finger or the thumb, doesn't matter, and down the other side. So five more breaths. If you're watching this and you're finished, just putting your hands quiet in your lap. But no hurry. Then when you're ready, just opening the eyes.

If you want to stretch your fingers and have a wiggle, that's fine. Move around. Very simple that one. Just one hand, if you've already got less time. Hmm.

That's a lovely practice. It's very grounding. What people quite like about that practice is that it anchors the mind and the breath to something concrete, to the fingers. Yeah. Sometimes being asked to simply sit and count your breath or follow your breath, you can lose it by breath two really, if you're..

Yeah. Well, I was going to say if you're not practiced, but actually even if you are, you get distracted. Whereas something about combining breath, the finger, there's the movement. Most people manage to kind of keep it together for that. Yeah.

And it's great. You can do it under the desk if you're in a meeting and you do... You just need a moment. You just want to spend the time more productively than listening to somebody go on. So you've got your breath.

You've got somewhere in your body that you can focus on. Very terribly simple, finger breathing. Finger breathing. I like it. Finger breathing.

I'm going to use that. And so I just have two more questions for you. And the first thing that I would like to know is just for any, you know, young people, teachers, parents out there who want to know more about bringing mindfulness into their schools, where could they find some more information about that? Yeah. Well, it would depend obviously what country you're in. Right.

There's a very good mindfulness group online called the Mindfulness in Education Network, MIEN. Mindfulness in Education Network. Okay. Yeah. Mindfulness in Education Network.

So if you Google that, and if you're in a part of the world where there's not much going on and you could ask a question, say, Anybody know what's happening around here? Yeah. And it will put you instantly in touch with folks who are around the world or in your country who are working on that. Now, if you were in the UK and you Googled Mindfulness in Education or Mindfulness in Schools, you would come straight up with the ,B program, and that's a good place to start. Although there are others. You might find it harder for example to dig around and find Plum Village.

So I think going on that network will put you in touch with whatever's appropriate in your area and give you immediate access to people. If you said, what's the most basic books or I've got five-year-olds. You know, you will, in my experience, be quite overwhelmed with the kindness of people who are really keen to welcome you into that mindfulness community. And so, and give you a bit of direction, because there's a lot of stuff out there and it's confusing. So I would recommend start with the Mindfulness in Education Network and just asking your question, see what happens next.

Great. I just have one final question for you, which is, you know, it's being said that mindfulness has the capacity to change the world from the inside out one person at a time. And I'm wondering from your perspective, I know that you've done a lot of, you know, looking into the evidence-based research on what's happening, what's happening in, not only people in schools, but people of all ages and drawing on your own experience of what's happened to you in your life. What do you think the world would be like if mindfulness really truly went mainstream, and I'm talking, you know, a billion, 2 billion people practicing mindfulness. What kind of a world do you think that would create? Well, if people were really practicing mindfulness and I don't mean mindfulness, the commodity, you know, mindfulness, the I'm doing this to get on further in my job and be better focused.

Someone's called it mindfulness. So real mindfulness, real authentic mindfulness, which brings kindness and compassion as well as focus, I think would be absolutely transformative. I think it would be built around, you'd have a world well built around a sense of connection, with people realizing that the other person is just like them, that there are no barriers. There is.,that these artificial distinctions we make of age and race and country are, in a sense, just words and that we are all human beings. We all have the same needs.

We have the same wants. And it would really help to build that sense of responsibility and connection between people and other people and I think between people and the planet, really. People and other sentient beings, that sense of connection with life and how precious this world is. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen master I was talking about, when he's asked about whether he, as a Buddhist, believes in reincarnation and so on. And he says, I don't know about that.

I don't know about any other worlds. I just know about this one and I'm on this planet now and I want to make this planet the best it can be. And I think that's a really useful way to think about, about this building empathic connection with others and with the whole world really. Thank you so much. I think that's a beautiful note to end on.

And I'm so, so grateful for your time. I really appreciate it. And it's been wonderful connecting with you. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with the listeners before we close? No, I think that's probably all that's, you know, it'll do. All sorts of things will occur to me later, but just to wish everyone out there all the luck and all fun with their practice.

and just one final thought. Just keep it light. This should not be a chore. If it's a chore, just go do something else. You know, don't don't, don't get into it.

Just, just enjoy. Just keep it fun and let the practice do the work. This is not a struggle. This is not striving. This is, this should be fun.

Beautiful. Thank you so much, Katherine, for the work that you do and for your time, I wish you all the best. Thank you. And look forward to connecting again, sometime in the future.

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