The experience of loss slips into our consciousness only when confronted with the inexplicable. The tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX is a shocking reminder of how fragile and emotionally stressful school environments are today. In addition, teachers feel the stressors of a job, from the pandemic-driven upheaval of classrooms and digital alternatives to the lingering acceptance of the Big Quit as an ongoing reality. In many ways, the list unfurls like a scroll of heartache and disappointment across the front yard of U.S. education.
U.S. school children and their parents have endured loss steeped in permanency for lives and experiences changed forever. The response from the industry indicates an uptick in exploring new and previously misunderstood or characterized support mechanisms that might just stick around this time.
Mindfulness in Education
Mindfulness resides in the corner of many education circles that are not yet mainstream for the curious. Research continues to mount, illustrating a powerful connection between mindfulness practice and healthier, happier students and teachers.
According to a recent article in Learning for Justice, there is a growing popularity among K-12 educators in implementing mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety, improve emotional regulation and increase compassion with students. Yet, Barbara Dray, lead consultant with Transforming Practices in Education points to the importance of trained experts to send the right message to students.
Without a teacher trained in both meditation and cultural competency, students may unwittingly accept inequity and injustice as usual. “In schools, we need to have a whole recognition of the different situations creating the suffering of our children,” says Dray.
Trouble arises when a teacher without adequate training faces complex responses and questions from students according to the reporting. Rona Wilensky, director of mindfulness programs at the Colorado-based nonprofit PassageWorks, recognizes that an experienced teacher is fundamental to the process. According to Wilensky, teachers can train themselves in mindfulness meditation to better guide their students.
The Professional World
The same elements hold true regarding mindfulness in the adult world of parents and business. These environments are seeing more coaches bringing leadership skills training, including mindfulness activities and practices.
Like young people who might come to mindfulness training through tragedy, adults can arrive at the same destination through similar dark paths.
James Peters, a Transformational Mindset Coach coach, never thought he would work with professionals on mindfulness practices, but the loss of his young son created a new branch of human connection for himself and those he consults. For individuals suffering loss, his guidance helps empower them to move on to a future after adversity.
“A great deal of the mindset surrounds retraining and rewiring the brain. It’s about unpinning some of the patterns and programs people run into in adult life that remained since childhood,” says Peters. “There are many tools like meditation, visualization and breathing techniques, that are powerful to change physiology and the mind, both quickly and effectively.”
Presenting a relatable story is essential in the healing process, and Peters sees the loss of a son and father at close intervals as part of the journey he shares with clients. “I try to be a beacon of hope, “ says Peters. “To show people going through difficult, traumatic experiences in life that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s about being an invitation and example for others and not the imposition.”
Certified and trained under the methodologies of Jay Shetty, Peters provides clarity, motivation, and an empathic unconditional acceptance to his coaching work with 1:1 interaction and listening at the core. According to Peters, it’s about active listening and asking the right questions to dig deeper and be at a level of service for the client.
Listening runs at the core of business models looking to improve employee wellbeing to promote a culture of inclusivity, awareness, and career longevity. Organizations are instituting mindfulness practices in their companies by investing in employee well-being, stress management, and creative enhancement.
While burnout is often described as part of the job by some workers, organizations recognize that the overall cost of burnout can be substantial. A Gallop poll reports a recent 63% increase in sick days among workers that produces 2.6 times more likelihood of workers seeking other employment. With numbers increasing, companies are waking up to toxic workplaces searching for answers. Well-being and mindfulness practices, once considered outside individual services, are now welcomed to the collective workforce culture.
It appears that whether inside education or in the professional world, newfound practices of coping and emotional stress reduction are being implemented more readily with professional coaching at the helm.
There are times when the actions of the education community inform corporate offices. From there, the professional sectors tend to present directives for the upcoming generations. Yet, through it all, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the experience of loss knows no age group, nor does it discriminate from impacting generations of citizens across landscapes.
The integration of mindfulness education has the potential to better prepare our youngest generations for the certainty of an uncertain and sometimes tumultuous future. With both sides of the generational coin better equipped to manage loss and communicate, there just might be a way to serve everyone simultaneously.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.