It seems very obvious that we should treat the mind and the body as a mutually inter-related system. However, many aspects of society seem to be built on the premise that they are separate and unrelated. A major offender in this respect are the conventional education systems of the world.
One of the best teachers that I ever saw (during a 20yr career as a high school teacher) is a maths teacher who gets her learners to do 5 mins of finger exercises before they start their maths learning. The finger exercises are a form of kinesthetic meditation. The exercises calm the mind, move the attention away from external monitoring to internal awareness, and promotes a sense of peaceful inner self assuredness. After the exercises the learners are in the perfect frame of mind for learning maths, or any other subject area.
The scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation grow on a weekly basis, I have written in this column before about the cognitive and emotional gains of meditation. We are now even seeing the development of “well-being” as an area of concern in education. I have been pleased to see Dan Harris (a US News Anchor) espousing the benefits that meditation brought to his life (after he experienced a panic attack live on air). You can learn more about his story, and watch his Big Think interview here.
The evidence for Yoga also having significantly beneficial effects on mental and physical well being is also growing (for example see this study, and this research from Harvard on the efficacy of yoga as a treatment for depression & anxiety). I’ve recently been reading Karen Armstrong’s biography of Buddha, she notes that there were at least 100-150 yrs between Buddha’s death and the first written recording of his teachings in the Gandharan (the oldest Buddhist manuscripts). Scholars have asked how Buddha’s teachings were remembered with such detail. The answer seems to be that the first Buddhist monks practised yoga every day, and with great commitment. This devotion to their practice significantly increased their memories which helped them to remember long tracts of Buddha’s teachings.
Back to modern education: teachers, and their political masters, have been grappling with ‘bad behaviour’ in schools for a very long time. Many solutions and strategies have been tried, some with great costs attached (financial, social & emotional). Most of these strategies are of little benefit to the student, their learning, and wider society. Why not give a free method a try ? Why don’t schools encourage meditation periods at the beginning of each lesson ? It costs nothing, and has been scientifically shown to have significant benefits.
It seems an obvious go to solution to me…,