A Journey of Mindfulness

A Journey of Mindfulness

I was introduced to mindfulness seven years ago at a point in my life when I was experiencing stress and anxiety. I was a busy Early Years educator and a mom of two young children while studying in the evening for my undergrad degree and feeling extremely overwhelmed. At that time, unknown to my peers or colleagues, mindfulness silently became part of my daily routine. For me, mindfulness was a simple practice to allow myself a few moments in the morning where I would take a few deep breaths and just be in that present moment. On occasion, I would use my senses to guide and ground me when I was starting to feel overwhelmed.

In the evening, I would practice gratitude by simply bringing someone or something to my mind’s eye that I was thankful for. All these simple practices allowed me to become less reactive to people and situations and to become more responsive in both my personal and professional life. It was a practice I kept hidden for a long time for fear others would judge me harshly. At the beginning, I shared my mindfulness practice with a friend. I will never forget her response to me: “you are away with the birds”.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and once our Early Years’ service reopened in June 2020, I observed children, families and educators presenting with more stress and anxiety than before. Consequently, I began to consider could mindfulness be used as a strategy to help negate some of these stressors?  When I introduced mindfulness into the Early Years service it was received with some hesitancy from the educators at the beginning. Through collaborative practice, we  worked through some of the barriers such as educators belief in their ability to practice mindfulness with young children and put in place appropriate mindfulness training and mentoring support.

Mindfulness in practice in Early Years settings

Over a period of three months, mindfulness practice shifted from a set of activities to complete with the children to a pedagogical practice. Before my eyes, I could see some of the educators engaging with their colleagues with more kindness and openness. The educators shared how they used mindfulness at home with their own children and could see the benefits by creating those mindful moments to just stop and be in the moment with their families. Within the service, while the children were always responded to with loving kindness, the educators were extra aware that children were supported to express their feelings  through the variety of mindfulness resources. Some children held preference for stories and puppets, others enjoyed creating gratitude flowers and feeling wheels, whilst some children leaned towards the variety of breathing meditations. All children were supported in their autonomy and to develop their own mindfulness journey. Over time, the children were observed to self- initiate mindfulness practice, some demonstrating empathy, recognising emotions in themselves and other children while enacting loving kindness to their peers.

With mindfulness striving to become “a whole school approach” in the service, the next step as we progress is to share practice with parents and afford each family the opportunity to experience mindfulness themselves. It is envisaged that parents and families will experience the benefits of mindfulness first hand, as a means of empowering themselves as individuals, empowering them as parents and for mindfulness to become a shared practice across both home and the early year’s service.

Mindfulness practice in the Early Years has been explored by researchers as having the potential to foster well-being in adults to help negate the impact of stress and anxiety (Behan, 2020). Furthermore, there is a growing interest on how mindfulness practice can be utilised with young children (Singh and Singh Joy, 2021) as a vehicle to enhance wellbeing. Today, I say to that friend I am happy to have embedded mindfulness into my personal and professional life, I have seen the benefits and I sit here content in the present moment away with the birds.

References

Behan, C. (2020). The Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness Practices during Times of Crisis Such as COVID-19. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 37, pp. 256-258.

Singh, N.N., Singh Joy, S. (2021) Mindfulness-based interventions with children and adolescents. USA: Routledg

About Leesa Flanagan

Believing in the importance of quality early years education for all children, Leesa anchored her career in community childcare empowering educators and families since 2005. During the COVID- 19 pandemic, Leesa observed the negative impact on educator and children’s well-being and focused on strategies to negate these stressors. Leesa completed her Masters in Leadership and Advocacy and continues on that trajectory exploring mindfulness in the early years within her current PhD in DkIT. Through her teaching at TUS on the ECEC programme, Leesa’s mission is to organically nurture future leaders and educators while continuing to advocate for and empower young children and families.

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