Mindfulness Wherever You Are: Your 5 Senses

Ever since I was little, I have loved being outside. When my mom is reminiscing she’ll tell me about looking out the window to see me wandering around the backyard telling stories to myself. Nature has always been a big source of creativity to me, and I usually find myself the most inspired when I’m outside. Part of this no doubt has to do with the fact that I find nature very calming, and always have.

When I was younger, it was suggested to me that I think of a calming place when I got stressed out in hopes that focusing on being somewhere nice would cut down on my anxiety. In response to this idea, I created an imaginary place that I called the green jungle. It was, as the name describes, a beautiful, lush jungle filled with pretty sights, sounds and all sorts of friendly animals.

I have a very specific mental image of lying on my back in a patch of soft grass and looking up to see pieces of the sky peeking out from behind tree branches. I’ve always experienced sensory input particularly strongly, which, while it can cause feelings of anxiety, it also makes a beautiful day in nature all the more beautiful! I find that the simple act of smelling and feeling the fresh air can ground me if I’m feeling overwhelmed.

As a senior in high school this year, my schedule has been packed with all sorts of things, some fun and some stressful. When I talk with my friends about it, everyone has a different way to cope when things get to be too much. Many of us listen to music, write, paint, see friends or go for a walk to relax themselves, For me, I can always come back to the feeling of being in nature even when I’m not outside.You can too by doing a mindfulness exercise called:

Your Five Senses

A simple mindfulness exercise is to notice what you are experiencing right now through any or all of your five senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell.

Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself:

What are three things I can hear? (for example, the birds outside chirping, the clock on the wall, music in the next room)

What are three things I can see? (for example, the pattern on the rug, a vibrant pillow, a toy mouse)

What are three things I can feel? (for example, my dog’s fur, the chair I am sitting on, the floor under my feet)

What are three things that I can smell?(for example, cookies baking in the oven, flowers in the room, the soap on my hands)

What are three things I can taste? (for example a spicy pepper, a crunchy cracker, smooth pudding)

Think of these answers to yourself slowly, one sense at a time. It is impossible to do this exercise and not be mindful in the present moment.

Eli Blackwell
Eli is a high school senior at Edmund Burke School in Washington, DC. He loves writing, drawing and his cat, Socks. He is about to embark on his senior project which will focus on mindfulness and art. Eli is also an alumni of Ms. Ryden’s Peace Class.

Guest Blog Post: Memories of Peace Class

As I get ready to graduate from high school this spring, I find myself reflecting on memories and moments from my childhood. I remember being in Peace Class with Ms. Ryden back when I was a student at Lafayette Elementary School. At the time, school sometimes felt too loud and busy, and some days I found myself in need of a break from all the commotion.

Luckily, I was able to go to Peace Class, which offered me a welcome reprieve from the otherwise noisy school day. Not only did the class provide a calmer atmosphere, it also offered a lot of valuable conflict resolution skills. In particular, I remember learning about “green poison darts,” a metaphor meant to illustrate how hurtful words can be (insulting someone is like throwing a poison dart at them).

Although I never got in any particularly intense spats when I was younger, I did use the concepts I was taught. During disagreements with my brother, I would think back to the tools I’d learned in class in order to keep our arguments from escalating. I think it’s a testament to how useful the class was that I actually went home and practiced these skills in real-world situations, and since leaving elementary school, I’ve kept what I’ve learned about conflict resolutions in a mental toolbox.

Another important part of my toolbox is the way I practice mindfulness. Grounding myself with breathing exercises and calming thoughts helps me when things become stressful. Every day, I sit with my cat, Socks, either in my lap or perched on my shoulder, and I notice how my breathing and her purring seem in sync. I use this as a way of reminding myself to pause and relax, whether it’s been a calm day or a busy one.

I am so happy to know that mindfulness is such an important part of the Peace of Mind curriculum.  As a seventeen-year old, I can say with absolute certainty that it is incredibly valuable for young kids to have access to these skills to help them process their feelings. I hope that someday a class like the one at Lafayette’s will be taught across the world.

-by Eli Blackwell