Current media is flooded with scientific research confirming the benefits of meditation. With the advent of brain-imaging technology and advances in physiological testing, scientists are able to measure how meditation can significantly increase brain growth, reduce stress, enhance cognition, boost the immune system, and promote self-regulation, empathy, and emotional intelligence. These reports have triggered an astonishing movement around the globe; as though professionals were just waiting for substantiated proof that would legitimize using ancient meditation methods in their field of work.
The research has caused leaders in parenting, education, and mental health to not only learn meditation for themselves, but help their patients, children, or students. To meet the demand there has been an outpouring of innovative and helpful programs, which are rooted in traditional methods of meditation. The programs are called a number of names, IMBT (Integrated Mind-Body Training), Mindup, Mindsight, MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), each introducing a particular way of meditating. Some use music, combined with relaxation techniques; others use mindfulness in everyday activities or breathing techniques, visualization, and repetition of words, and positive thinking. In 2004, Britain's medical world officially accepted MBCT (Mind-Body Cognitive Therapy) to treat depression. Reports from these programs seem to share similar outcomes – after practicing meditation, children and adults feel healthier, perform better, learn more quickly, and enjoy more happiness.
So how is meditation affecting our world? In the field of education, we are seeing changes in how we educate children using more introspective, mind-developing curriculum. There is a renewal of what education always meant to be, “A cultivation and strengthening of a person’s mental and physical faculties.” In schools, new skills are being taught aimed to develop the student’s brain like attention, comprehension, memory, cognition, and even compassion. Children are practicing daily meditation in the classroom to foster self-esteem, promote self-regulation, and enhance mental health, emotional intelligence, patience, and social skills. Studies are now concluding that a person’s success in life will depend less on academic learning, and more on inner development, clear-thinking, self-confidence, social compatibility, creativity, and focused brainpower. Because of the many benefits that meditation gives a person, it is quickly becoming an accepted addition to curriculum in the primary and secondary grades up to college and university levels.
The rapidly spreading awareness about meditation has taken the world by storm. Overnight, it seems that everyone is hearing about it, talking about it, and asking about it. Many have now a clear understand how turning one's focus inwardly and being calm could help kids, especially those suffering from some degree of attention deficit or for those dealing with some addiction. But many do not know where to start. Parents and teachers, and even doctors, are asking, “How do I teach my children? To whom should I refer my patients? How do I learn for myself? Where do I start? Which is the best technique? Are there any dangers? How soon will I see results?”
In response to these questions, a deluge of helpful information is posted on the Internet and books on beginner meditation are being published than ever before. What had once been an obscure thing to do by a handful of eccentric “seekers”, has now become a popular, almost trendy sport. So trendy in fact, mindfulness and meditation have become buzzwords. However, if one were asked what meditation is or what it means, he or she may be unable to explain. With all this commotion and availability of information, a novice may get overwhelmed and give up before even experiencing the benefits.
Heidi Thompson has been practicing meditation for over 28 years. She knows how meditation has benefited her in all areas of her life; whether that role was as a mother, wife, artist, or teacher. She says, “Once you experience how meditation helps you feel happier and healthier, there is no question about continuing. Any books or controversy opposing it couldn't change my mind. For me, daily meditation is essential for my well-being and happiness in my personal and family life and also in my creative endeavors.”
Thompson wanted to help others experience the benefits of meditation. She emphasizes, “When you feel happy, you want others to be happy as well.” In the 1990’s she created a program called Advanced Attention Development and began teaching a simple meditation technique, called Breath Awareness, to children. Thompson says, “Breath awareness is one of the most fundamental and effective focus-training techniques available. It requires a person to simply observe the touch of breath. Because of breath awareness’s effectiveness at developing calmness and focus, it is an ideal exercise for young people.” Thompson was invited to conduct breath awareness programs in public and private schools in Vernon and Vancouver. This interest may have been triggered by an increase in ADHD among children, combined with a lack of holistic alternatives to helping them with these “newly discovered” hyperactive disorders.
Thompson's unique program attracted media attention and was featured on CBC’s Spilled Milk and was also written about in Common Ground , a Vancouver magazine. Thompson received a flood of letters from parents, teachers, principals, physicians, and child-care professionals all requesting more information on how to learn breath awareness and teach it to children. Although the meditation courses where Thompson had initially learned the technique were available around the world, she thought that a book would be helpful for those not able to attend these 10-day Anapana and Vipassana retreats.
Thompson was inspired to create a comprehensive lesson guide that could easily be used to both learn how to do breath awareness, and then how to teach it to children. For several years, Thompson compiled her lessons, stories, teaching instructions, and strategies into an easy-to-use manual, which later became her book, Calm Focus Joy.
Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness – A Practical Guide for Adults and Children will be released April 30th, 2012). The book offers a ten-step, easy-to-follow program aimed at helping adults and children learn breath awareness. Breath awareness is one of today’s most effective focus-developing and mind-calming techniques. It is fundamental to almost every stress-reduction therapy and meditation method taught today. The book includes lessons for adults, read-aloud instructions for children, enlightening stories, answers to questions, current research, and everything needed to organize and teach a breath awareness program in one’s home, school, or community.
“Calm Focus Joy is an engaging manual that all children should be exposed to. Thompson’s strategies present a clear and plainspoken guide for all ages. I would highly recommend it to teachers and parents for their students and children.”—Dr. Bob Chaudhuri, Psychotherapist and Medical Educator, University of Toronto
CALM FOCUS JOY: The Power of Breath Awareness
A Practical Guide for Adults and Children
by Heidi Thompson
$19.95 USD / $21.95 CAN (273 pgs. Softcover ISBN: 978-09698147-
$34.95 USD/CAN (273 pgs. Hardcover ISBN: 979-09698147-
Order from Coldstream Books
DeVorss & Co., Ingram, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon
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Coldstream Books is a small publishing company in Vernon, B.C. It was recipient of the VanCity Book of Excellence award for its book, Recapitulation, A Journey by Sveva Caetani. It has also published a Little Bear Book journal for children, and has recently released its latest title, Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness by Heidi Thompson