Peace in Ourselves, Peace in the World
A teacher shared a story with me about one of her students who asked her how she felt about the death of Osama Bin Laden. She, in turn, asked the students how they felt about the latest news. One student was brave enough to tell the class that he is afraid of what could happen to the United States as a result. Another student shared that he was happy and wanted to celebrate. Naturally, this began a deep discussion among the students, who, at the time of the September 11th attacks were only three-years old.
It seems like as good a time as ever to stop and think about our students and how current events can contribute to lessons--life lessons--we can teach them. In an article titled “Osama Bin Laden Dead: A Mindful Response,” Goldstein quotes Dr. King:
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
Dr. King’s quote can be applied to a variety of situations and emotions that our students (and we) may feel for any number of reasons; however, it reminds individuals to reflect upon their own reactions and responses to the news about Bin Laden. The lesson to be taught and learned is a difficult one, perhaps, but one that reminds individuals that while justice may include the murder of an evil man, it may not include a celebratory or joyous response.
The lesson here for our students and for all people is exactly the message that Dr. Goldstein writes: “We need to learn how to take a good look at the wars we have raging inside each and every one of us in response to our own personal traumas in life--whether that’s the death of a loved one, harm inflicted on us, or some form of emotional trauma--and learn ways to create peace within ourselves.”
How, then, do we teach our students (and practice what we preach) to not hold onto feelings of hatred, revenge, bitterness, fear, or any other negative emotions that create brain clutter? One way is to teach our students to be mindful. Mindfulness, in brief, is a system of mental training that positively impacts the way individuals perceive and respond to themselves, their relationships, and the world.
Studies of students who have had mindfulness training show that students’ overall health and well-being are improved, including a decrease in depression, anxiety, and anger; and an increase in self-confidence, self-control and self-regulation. Some reports also include an increase in student academic performance.
Goldstein asks, “How long will it take--what will it take--for us to recognize that we are all connected to one another?” Mindfulness is one approach that can be used to teach and/or remind each of us that we are all connected to each other and should, therefore, work toward creating a more peaceful world within ourselves and among one another.
Our students’ world is changing at a rate many adults cannot fathom. As educators, we are inundated with the changes in education and doing everything we can to keep our own heads above the water and keep our schools at or above proficiency. When events occur in the world, anywhere from natural disasters to the killing of an evil man, we should be prepared to to work with our teachers and our students; pause--with them--and understand that in order for effective teaching and learning to take place, students and educators need to learn the skills required for managing emotions, thoughts, and developing resilience. These are the foundational skills upon which all other skills can develop and grow.