Meditation progress in the Intensive English Programme: Keeping it traditional, don’t reinvent the wheel

Lately mindfulness in the classroom is a popular topic, and it’s easy to see why. We’ve become so inundated with technology that most of our minds are racing a mile a minute. As a result of this many schools and organisations are teaching mindfulness. When it comes to teaching mindfulness there are endless schools of thought and techniques. What is mindfulness though, and how can we quantify it? These questions are easy for expert meditators to answer, in some cases they might not even answer you verbally, instead you’ll get a knowing smile exuding a confidence and understanding that needs no further explanation; or maybe a short poem or work of art that better represents their levels of achievement where words can not enter.Defining mindfulness is always a good place to start from. Mindfulness is being aware of the contents of the mind, and also being able to keep the mind focused on a one-pointed object. Once this one-pointed concentration is sustained long enough, without interruption, this act of observing then becomes a meditation. However without the practice of sustained concentration, there is no meditation and mindfulness practices become vulnerable to being labeled buzzwords and fading trends. Until mindfulness can make the metamorphosis into sustained concentration practices that lead to meditation, it will remain a mysterious fad at best, and like any shooting star, die out.The way to remedy this is through developing and teaching regular practice techniques that are rooted in ancient mindfulness curriculums. The ancient teachings of meditation have been tested and proven over centuries, they work, and things that work don’t need to be fixed.

IEP gr. 8 – 9 students practicing walking meditation.

Our IEP students are working very hard on their meditation practices, they have all been making progress in walking and sitting meditations for more than three terms now, and recently they’ve started meditation journals using Google Docs. The act of journaling is another great way to practice English and tie it into meditation practices through the process of reflection. Students have increased their walking meditation times from ten minutes, to twelve and fifteen minutes, which is no small task. The average length of a student’s seated meditation session is between fifteen and twenty minutes. The journaling then gives students the opportunity to reflect back on their practice in an interactive way, observe their progress, and gain new insights. Students can observe difficult moments, happy moments, and when they observe these states of mind through their written words, it becomes easier to see the transient nature of mind. Many traditional schools of meditation incorporate this act of journaling as part of their discipline and reflective process.

Sometimes in class we discuss certain aspects of practice, but mostly we just practice. Mindfulness practice is like putting money in the bank, the more you practice, the more mindfulness you save up. Indeed theory is important, it serves as a type of road map for the practitioner, but in the IEP programme students are taught to practice in a disciplined manner, that theory is no substitute for practice, and to log their minutes.

In an increasing age of information we’ve all become overloaded with thoughts, the walking and sitting practices of meditation provide solutions: students are learning to concentrate, quieten their minds and lighten their stress loads. These are all tools necessary when developing a second language, healthy education and social life.

IEP students from grades four through nine practice a total of six periods per week, as always parents and members of the PREM community are welcome to join our practice sessions.