Meditate at school, a key to developing attention and benevolence

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

Since the end of 2014, the Association Méditation dans l'Enseignement has been deploying its Peace program in schools in several French-speaking countries. To date, more than 10 students have benefited from it with encouraging results: the anchoring in the body and the breath improves the qualities of concentration and makes it possible to reduce the impulsiveness of children. As part of a secular approach, meditative practices at school fall fully within the framework of the development of transversal skills, included in the National Education project.

Created four years ago, the Peace program (1) is spread over ten weeks, at the rate of a quarter of an hour, twice a week. "We start with the breath and the body", explains Élisabeth Couzon, trainer and instructor MBSR (2), during a conference on full presence at school in Saint-Herblain (Loire-Atlantique), on May 22. Author of numerous books on full presence, she regularly speaks for the Meditation in Education Association (AME). Associating gesture with speech, Élisabeth Couzon shows what should be done, inhales and exhales, inflating and deflating the dome of a ball with her hands… “Everything is very codified”, she explains. “To begin with, young people use this expandable ball to learn to breathe according to precise rhythms that allow them to calm down or concentrate. Then, they “work” on anchoring and verticality through meditations visualizing a tree; concentration and attention to the sound of bells or listening to surrounding noises; to understand their emotions, stress, self-confidence, listening, benevolence and altruism. And we end with the ability to transmit, ”she explains.

The breath of the little squirrel

If the themes are the same from the mother in higher education, the teaching method evolves. "With the younger ones, we use, for example, the story of the little squirrel: we watch how he breathes, feels his belly, his body", specifies the MBSR instructor. In establishments that have experimented with the method, “the positive effects are notable on the qualities of attention and concentration. We also observe a decrease in impulsivity, an ability to identify emotions, name them, know how to welcome them and let them slip away without resorting to compulsive behavior,” she adds.

For the past two years, his colleague Patricia Pinna has also been working with students from the Pont-Rousseau college, in Rezé (Loire-Atlantique), on this program. Last year, all sixth grade classes, ie 152 students, practiced it. Twelve teachers from the school are fully committed to the process, as well as volunteer teachers. In this establishment, “launching such a program was not without difficulty, because it was necessary to find a happy medium so that the time spent practicing meditation did not encroach on the organization of the educational content”. The positive results being undeniable, the college wishes to continue the experiment next year. “The idea now is for teachers to immerse themselves in the tool to be free to use it at any time”. Thus, the fifth grade students will continue the experience with trained teachers. “We then hope that they will continue and emulate them in the fourth and third”.

From Plum Village to the Peace Program

To feed her secular orientation workshops, Patricia Pinna admits to taking inspiration from quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh. The same goes for Élisabeth Couzon, who learned about mindfulness in Plum Village, where she met the great Vietnamese Zen master. The MBSR instructor has also taken several Vipassana retreats. In the Peace program, she rediscovers everything she learned: “Presence serves as a common thread: changing oneself to change the world”.

“When I ask a child how he practiced meditation and he replies: À recess, I was kicked, I breathed", and another told me that his mother was angry, so he took her by the hand and invited her to breathe with him, I know that I haven't wasted my time". Elisabeth Couzon

"The education of the future will be much more open to intuition and sensitive thinking", adds Florent Pasquier during the conference. It trains future teachers for a master's in education and teaching at La Sorbonne. “The breath, the awareness of the breath and the distribution of the breath are methods which the school can seize at the time of recreation for example”. The lecturer, who says he is "very inspired by Buddhist principles - impermanence, non-duality, global consciousness, respect for life and others -", ​​is delighted to be able to use tools from meditation in a framework secular.

Know-how and know-how to become 

Everyone affirms that this practice allows the development of transversal skills, linked to life skills and to knowing how to become: creativity, capacity for cooperation and dialogue, taking a step back. "Faculties encouraged, since 2005, by the creation of the common base of knowledge, skills and culture, which can very well include meditative practices", specifies Florent Pasquier. They are also defended in other official texts, in particular the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that children must be associated with all decisions that concern them. "There is nothing to invent, you just have to find the most appropriate means to exploit these tools", insists the academic.

For Élisabeth Couzon, the results are very encouraging for the future. “When I ask a child how he practiced meditation and he replies: À recess, I was kicked, I breathed", and another told me that his mother was angry, so he took her by the hand and invited her to breathe with him, I know that I haven't wasted my time".
Same satisfaction on the side of the teachers who gain in relaxation and presence. “They don't need to have charisma. They are right there. And when we are there, in the heart, the children feel it”.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

Leave comments