LCE Students Learn Mindfulness Techniques

Photos by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK  Instructor Beth Lynch leads La Cañada Unified School District students in learning about mindfulness at La Cañada Elementary School.
Photos by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Instructor Beth Lynch leads La Cañada Unified School District students in learning about mindfulness at La Cañada Elementary School.

Peter Wilkinson, a 12-year-old in 6th grade at La Cañada Elementary School, said he thought the topic of mindfulness “sounded kind of boring” but changed his mind after going through a one-hour class that featured exercises, sounds and even chocolate.
“I play piano and whenever I play a song, if I play it too many times my mind kind of wanders,” Wilkinson said after the hour class. “I might try to use [mindfulness techniques] to focus more.”
More than 20 La Cañada Elementary students recently learned a variety of exercises about mindfulness that included how to tackle anxiety and stress. The program was part of a one hour Gifted and Talented Education Program, said Hilary Gregg, an elementary GATE teacher for the district.
Fourth- through 6th-grade students took the class on Tuesday from instructor Beth Lynch. Lynch is a retired psychotherapist who earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. She completed mindfulness facilitation training at UCLA and is certified by the International Mindfulness Teacher’s Association. She has also participated in the Mindful Schools K-12 curriculum training program.
“Mindfulness is like a seatbelt is to a car,” Lynch said. “Life is full of bumps in the road and you put your seatbelt on to protect yourself and to minimize the damage from an accident. And so mindfulness is the seatbelt for emotional bumps and bruises in life.”
The meditation technique helps improve focus and concentration, decrease anxiety and stress, and increase self-awareness.
The program, which was also held on Wednesday at Paradise Canyon Elementary and today from 3-4 p.m. at Palm Crest Elementary, is a secular-based practice with no religious affiliation.
Lynch told the students mindfulness was about awareness and not just being quiet or feeling good.
“More specifically, it’s paying attention to what’s happening right now in the moment, in our bodies, outside ourselves, and paying attention to curiosity with a lot of kindness and not judging yourself or it,” Lynch told her young audience. “Not saying, ‘Oh, this isn’t good enough’ or ‘Oh, that’s a dumb thought’ or ‘this isn’t OK.’ No judgments. It’s just kind of watching yourself.
“Focusing on one thing helps to regulate your frustration levels. How many of you have little brothers and sisters who sometimes drive you crazy?” Many hands went up.
Lynch explained how when you get a negative feeling, she called it an “aaarrrgggghhh,” the practice of mindful meditation teaches one to pause for a moment before responding. So it’s better to respond than react. “That’s the idea … especially on the playground.”
She also taught the kids to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings in the moment through meditation. Lynch had the kids close their eyes or put their heads down and stare at a spot in their mind.
“I’m going to talk and we’re going to try to do this for let’s see how long,” Lynch said at the start. The kids were told to pay attention to their breathing, how to deal with their mind wandering and how to release tension in the shoulders.
Gayane Khachatourian, an 11-year-old in the 6th grade, said Lynch made the class relatable to her. “It turned out to be fun,” Khachatourian said. “I think I can use it in the future to focus for a test or for soccer.”

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