This was a group message from the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach who were trapped in a flooded cave since last 23 June. The boys became trapped when they entered the cave system, leaving their shoes and bags near the mouth of the cave to write their names on the wall. In a risky operation led by the Thai navy Seals, an international team managed to get the boys through a complicated and often narrow exit route. The boys and their coach had been rescued today, last day of cave rescue. There was a Portuguese diver who wants to be incognito as the most part of international divers team. Solidarity is this! Three navy seals and a doctor, who had been with the boys, emerged safely from the cave several hours later.
How can a youth soccer team aged 11-16 years and his coach 25 years old be so calm, resilient to survive? Meditation was the key of their courage, patience, peaceful mind.
Ekkapol Chanthawong, an ancient Buddhist monk had the tool to all. Mindfulness. Ekkapol Chantawong is the only member of his family who survived the epidemic which overcame his Northern Thailand home town in 2003.
Before the 25-year-old was a coach to the young boys on the Wild Boars soccer team he spent a decade as a saffron-robed Buddhist monk. He still stays at the temple from time to time and meditate with the monks there each day. at the temple, learning meditation.
So, Chanthawong honed a skill that served him well and the boys in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave: meditation.
“I always believed that Chanthawong would help them keep calm and optimistic, and he loved us very much,”
Their classmates and teachers are preparing a big welcome at schools were they are studying.
"Teacher, don't give us lots of homework!" they asked in the exchange of letters. No, teachers will not give lots of homework. These students will have a careful personal support of the school and teachers.
“Mindfulness is a powerful tool that supports children in calming themselves, focusing their attention, and interacting effectively with others, all critical skills for functioning well in school and in life,”
Amy Saltzman, M.D., director of the Association for Mindfulness in Education
The implementation of school-based mindfulness programs for children is becoming more popular. Empirical research proving the benefits of mindfulness is only beginning to emerge.
It's not easy. Sitting completely still never is at that age. Yet students must concentrate on their arms, legs and "deep belly breathing." However mindfulness is more and more integrated into schools curriculum. And an experience on math grades shows:
"After analyzing measures, which included behavioral assessments, cortisol levels, feedback from their peers regarding sociability, and academic scores of math grades, the results revealed dramatic differences."
Compared to the students who learned the social responsibility program, those trained in mindfulness scored higher in math, had 24% more social behaviors, and were 20% less aggressive.
The group trained in mindfulness excelled above the other group in the areas of attention, memory, emotional regulation, optimism, stress levels, mindfulness, and empathy.
Different schools in different countries are implementing mindfulness into school curriculum. More and more teachers are now qualified in meditation exercises to combat pupil stress.
I practice mediation. I'm a Yogi. And often I helped my former students to meditate some minutes before tests class. So I was fascinated when meditation recently started becoming mainstream again.
"As a part of positive education curriculum, students learn how to combine mindfulness and character strengths techniques. The integration of mindfulness and character strengths offers a number of distinct benefits for student well-being."
The goal is for each young student to develop, integrate, and apply these mindfulness and character strengths strategies when dealing with school/life pressures.
If your are a qualified teacher, or you are a Yogi (as I am), you have the tools to help your students practising mindfulness, a way of making them stop, relax. Now lots of schools have signed up to mindfulness classes, both at secondary and primary level.
In some countries, some high schools now get pupils to do meditation rather than detention.
Meditationcan do a big drop-off in playground aggression, plus a rise in grades. However Richard Burnett, co-founder of the UK project, is wary of these model, especially where mindfulness is used to “correct” bad behaviour as opposed to being a practice in and of itself.
“If you pitch it like that you’re feeding into precisely the achievement-based culture that’s putting such huge pressure on children,”
Richard Burnett, co-founder of the UK project
Mindfulness has a valuable place in schools because at its core is the promotion of well being and self-support.
"Incorporating mindfulness into education has been linked to improving academic and social and emotional learning. Also, mindfulness strengthens some underlying development processes - such as focus, resilience, and self-soothing- that will help kids in the long run.”