I have recently been introduced to and fascinated by the concept of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice which means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
In my experience we are trained as Early years practitioners to pay the majority of our attention to what has happened before (observations, etc) or considering the future (planning, next steps, school readiness, etc).
Whilst we are wondering about the future or contemplating the past we are not truly in the present. An example of this in the setting is when I go into the garden area of the setting. I look around and say, “The grass needs cutting there…… we need to plan how to use that space better…… last Tuesday the children used that area as a space rocket”. The children in the setting, on the other hand, will call over to me, “James look at this ladybird…… Lets run over there… etc”. Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we dont normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past - thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have done.
When we live in the present, without worry about past or the future we are able to interact with the children in a more meaningful way and therefore become better practitioners.
According to a study at Harvard University people spend 46.9 percent of their waking life thinking about something other than what they’re doing. So in a profession where we are constantly thinking in the past or future we will find it even harder to be in the present. This is why we need to work hard to take a few minutes every so often in the day to stop and
refocus our minds. By being mindful we can develop and train our attention skills. We can live and “be” in the moment more and see what is actually going on around us. This will help us to observe and interact with the children and be able to fully immerse ourselves in the lives of the children.
As well as helping us as professionals mindfulness can also have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing (for more information see www.nhs.co.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/mindfulness.aspx). Being present in the moment in this way means that we can enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
I propose that as early years practitioners we should consider mindfulness and be in the present as often as we can. It will have advantages on our relationships with the children, our observations, the setting as a whole but will also have advantages on our own mental well being and possible our lives.