Gather your group to sit in a circle at their desks or find a space on the floor.
Announce to your group that you will soon lead them through a brief exercise to help them relax and focus.
Follow the prompts provided in one of several sample scripts (see Resources tab.)
Facilitate the meditation step by step, making adjustments according to the needs of your group.
Conclude the meditation by gently inviting your group back.
If desired, invite your group to reflect on their experience.
How To Play Narrative
Many contemplative traditions start meditation with mindful breathing.
Mindful breathing is an opportunity to help you and your group relax and focus on the physical sensations of your breath and body.
As Pema Chodron says, “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”
Be sure to review the many tips and strategies as described in the Leadership Tips tab before you jump into these exercises.
Once you’re ready to get started, go to the Resources tab to download one of several full meditation scripts and how-to instructions.
Practical Leadership Tips
Meditations need not be complex or difficult. To help you get started, check out the three scripts we have uploaded inside the Resources tab.
Avoid getting it ‘right.’ Help your group understand that the practice is to keep coming back to the breath every time you notice yourself getting distracted.
Explore different languages, meditation/seated positions, and props depending on age group.
Be sure to mention early on that this is a safe space to relax and to put their worries aside for a moment.
You can mention distractions as a way to normalize, relate, and connect to your group. Everything from thoughts about the stress of how, to it being hard to focus on meditation, feeling left out, worried about family life, etc.
Invite others to lay down if they don’t feel comfortable sitting, especially young children. You can also invite them to put a stuffed animal or object on their bellies to watch and notice. As a focal point, instead of saying “in” and “out” you can say “up” and “down.”
Remind your group of the strategy to say “in” and “out” to help focus their attention on their breathing.
You can include meditative music or aromatherapy during these sessions.
The key to this activity is meant to create a safe space for your group to practice mindfulness.
Be sure to allow time to invite your group to reflect on what they experienced before and during the activity. A check-in scale of how stressed out they feel from 1-10 before and after may be helpful.
Check-in conversations about your group’s experience with breathing/meditation, and how they feel before and after the activity are all great conversation starters. Take a look at the questions described in the Reflection Tips tab for starting points.
You could integrate Mindful Breathing as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group identify and manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Controlling One’s Emotions
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Regularly attending to mindful practices is a powerful way to improve your wellbeing. Studies have shown that mindfulness is linked to greater life satisfaction, better sleep, stronger resiliency and improved physical health.
Accordingly, mindfulness is highly correlated with the development of positive social and interpersonal skills (see Social-Emotional Learning tab.) Integrating mindful practises into our programs helps participants to improve their attention spans, regulate their emotions and become more aware of self and others. These practices also help people cope with frustration and develop empathy for others. Be sure to review the questions described in the Reflection Tips tab as potential starting points to help you squeeze the most value from this mindful breathing exercise.
Equal Counts Breath: This is a wonderfully balanced breathing practice for your group (see Resources tab to download sample script.)
Anchor Breath Script: This meditation script will guide your group to anchor their breathing to calm their focus (see Resources tab to download sample script.)
Body Scan Script: A step-by-step, gentle meditation that will release tension and support your group’s nervous system (see Resources tab to download sample script.)
Multiple Foci: You can lead many meditations to achieve a range of health and wellness outcomes, including to:
– Become mindful of your inner world and emotions,
– Calm your nervous system and stress response,
– Relax before a big test,
– Become mindful of a future vision or life’s goals,
– Support the achievement of goals, and
– Support idea generation, creativity and imagination.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
All of these breathing practices can be done virtually but to help your group prepare for their experience, ask them to switch off their phones and invite them to sit or lay down.
You can use the chatroom to invite the sharing of the check-in scale before and after meditation, eg “On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, write in the chatroom how stressed you are feeling at this moment.”
You can have the group turn their video off if they feel more comfortable.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Note: It may be helpful to share your experience with mindfulness if your group is relatively new to these exercises. For example, if you are new to this practice yourself, be authentic and share what worked and what didn’t work for you in the beginning.
Mindfulness and meditation are great tools to help you become better friends with your body and mind…
Just like playing sports, the more we practice mindfulness, the better we are at paying attention and feeling our best. Mindfulness has been shown to help you relax before a big test or game…
We have a ton of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that happen within us and around us. If we can train ourselves to breathe through the distractions without control, we can feel more at peace and connected…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading this gentle mindfulness exercise:
What did you like most about this activity?
What did you notice in your body?
What did you notice in your mind?
How did you feel before and after the activity?
Where did you notice tension?
Where did you notice ease?
What’s one word that describes your experience?
Where can you see yourself using this practice?
What did you find helpful about it?
What did you find hard about the activity?
Did your mind feel quiet or busy?
How long did it take for you to feel relaxed?
The inspiration for Mindful Breathing was sourced from the book Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland, with thanks.