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2. Paying Attention

 

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening right now with curiosity and kindness. Psychologists have studied how we pay attention - and how our attention can be fooled - for over a hundred years. There are lots of wonderful and surprising examples in the research of how we can miss the obvious, or misinterpret what we see or hear. In the first few sessions of the MAP training we look at how hard it is to pay attention and how easy it is for our attention to be captured. The progamme shows how our emotions have a powerful grip on how we filter experiences.

 

To excite the children's curiosity for our amazing attention system, they might like to take a look at some wonderful work on the web. Professor Richard Wiseman has for many years been investigating a fantastic array of strange and thought provoking examples of how our perception is tricked.  You can see some great video clips on his marvelous website here:

https://www.youtube.com/user/Quirkology

 

My favourite example is embedded below. It is a clip of a card trick. Take a look and see what you think.

 

   

                        

One of the most famous examples of the surprising nature of our perception is that investigated by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Take a look at the clip below:

 

 

You can find out more about them and their fascinating work here:

http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/biographies.html

 

 The MAP training children receive aims to both give them insight into how our attention system works, and a means to begin to change this in a way that might help them deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life at school. To change the way our attention system works we need a number of things. One is the ability to focus our attention a little more often, and to notice when our attention has wandered. In order to do this the children need to practice - and schools adopting the MAP introduce a regular daily short breath practice. The children are asked simply to focus on their breath for 2-3 minutes - either noticing the air coming in and out at the nose, or noticing their belly rise and fall with each breath. They will notice that their mind wanders all the time. This is what minds do. The challenge is to notice this if they can, and to be kind to themselves each time their mind wanders (not to beat themselves up and become frustrated).

 

To complement the class room breath practice, the children can practice a number of guided meditations at home. These offer a variety of different 'objects' to focus on - the breath, bodily sensations, sounds and thoughts. They all present their own challenges. If you would like to try one of these please take a look at the next page under this tab. It is always very encouraging for a child to have their parents support them in any endeavour, and in this case you may also compare experiences regarding the meditations. It's the best way to see just how tricky it is to stay a little focused for a while, and to notice how much the mind moves around from moment to moment.