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

Monthly Mindful Moment: Four-Square Breathing

This month’s mindful moment features a fun breathing exercise using a square shape you trace with your fingers. Its simplicity makes it easy for kids to recall and do on their own. In fact, one of our students made a home video of herself teaching others how to do four-square breathing! We’ll let Marleigh show you this one. If you enjoy it, let her show your children how to to it, too!


Jillian & the Peace of Mind team

December’s Monthly Mindful Moment: The Web of Gratitude

During December, our focus on Gratitude continues with a new mindfulness practice called the Web of Gratitude. In Peace Class we’ve been teaching our students to think about people or things they are grateful for.  Gratitude practice has been shown to be a powerful practice for personal happiness, and an important way to balance our tendency to focus on what could be better, instead of what is good in the present moment. So go ahead and give it a try yourself:

You can imagine that the little hearts are like picture frames and we are putting pictures of those for whom we are grateful in the heart frames.

Let’s start out by thinking about someone at home that you are thankful, or grateful for.  Someone who helps you and is kind to you. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks for that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Next let’s think about another kid at school.  A friend or classmate who is kind to you. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now let’s think about a grown up at school.  Someone who is kind to you and helps you. Someone you are grateful to have in your life. Imagine that they are in one of the little hearts in your web of gratitude.  Let’s send some thanks to that person. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Maybe there is a special animal in your life.  Maybe a pet or a stuffed animal or an animal in the wild.  Imagine that special animal in your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now let’s think about something in nature that you are grateful for.  Maybe there is a special tree that you love or a flower or the ocean or the moon or snow…  Choose something from nature to put into your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Now this time you can think about anyone or anything that you are feeling grateful to have in your life.  Imagine adding that person or thing to your web of gratitude. As you breathe in think “Thank you”. And as you breathe out think, “Thank you”.

Take a moment to soak in this feeling of gratitude.  Notice what it feels like in your body to be grateful and to say thank you. Remember that you can do this practice on your own anytime.

-Linda & the Peace of Mind Team

November’s Monthly Mindful Moment

This is the time of year the days start flying by: time changes, darkness comes quickly, and pre-holiday madness is already swelling. When life feels hectic and busy, that’s the perfect time to Take Five! This simple mindfulness practice involves one hand and your five fingers. Using belly breaths (aka Flower Breaths), use the index finger of one hand to trace the outline of the other hand. Starting at the base of the thumb, breathe in as you trace your finger up, and breathe out as you trace down the other side. Repeating this for each finger leads to five slow, deep breaths. When we teach kids to Take Five, they have an always-accessible tool to remind them of one way to calm down. Kids love to “do it by myself,” and this practice helps them have a little independence in trying to self-calm. Give it a try yourself, and you might find you feel a little less stressed and in control of your day, too. Taking Five is a great practice for all of us!

Jillian & the Peace of Mind Team 

Have you heard about Peace of Mind’s first ever Mini-Conference on Budding Brains? Tickets and more information can be found here!

Your Monthly Mindful Moment

Happy October! The first week of the month is when we will always feature a new mindfulness practice (if you missed last month’s Heartfulness practice, check it out here!)

We started out this month in an exciting way –  with Linda featured on today’s WUSA 9’s morning show, Great Day Washington! She spoke about the benefits of teaching mindfulness to children and the big impact this can have on school climate and culture. Linda appeared along with Harriet Sanders, President and CEO of the National Education Association Foundation (NEAF). On Friday, Linda will be opening the NEAF symposium Keeping the Promise of Public Education with a short talk on mindfulness. She’ll be joined by other speakers such as noted author  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Kind Bar founder Daniel Lubetzky. You can tune in to this exciting event by signing up for the livestream here. 

Today’s mindful moment practice conveys the most basic acts of mindfulness meditation – deep belly breathing. To teach this skill to children, we call it taking “Flower Breaths.” First, we use our finger as an imaginary flower. Inhaling deeply, we “smell the flower” for several seconds. Once our bellies are full, we exhale by gently “blowing the petals” on our flower for as long as possible. Then we do it again! Children can easily grasp the basic actions of belly breathing – in through the nose, out through the mouth – with Flower Breaths.

 You might try putting your hands on your belly while you breathe in, and notice how it fills with air. As you breathe out, the belly becomes soft again. Try it with your own child and see how easy it is to have a mindful moment with Flower Breaths.  We hope this simple practice brings you and your children peace – and a little fun, too!

.Jillian & the Peace of Mind Team – Follow us on Twitter @peaceofmindorg