Finding your inner zen can be difficult, especially during the hectic school year. However, some teachers at Palo Alto High School have managed to incorporate meditation into their classes to help students relax.
Prominent in Buddhist tradition, as well as other Asian religions, meditation has been around since ancient times, but has gained popularity and has been evolving in the western world. There are now many different styles and traditions of mediation, ranging from therapeutic to spiritual.
Student Activities Director and Japanese teacher Matt Hall and School Science teacher Eric Bloom are two of the Palo Alto High School teachers currently practicing meditation in their classrooms. History teacher Austin Davis, English teacher George Vuong, Advanced Placement Psychology teacher Melinda Mattes and AP Psychology teacher Chris Farina have also started the practice.
Bloom and Hall practice two different types of meditation. According to Hall, the first is called zen meditation. Originating from Indian tradition, it is based on the idea of emptying one’s mind through breathing. Hall’s class focuses on zen meditation, taking three to five minutes out of the 90 minute period to focus on sitting in silence and breathing. In contrast Bloom’s class practices mindful meditation which focuses on being aware of your thoughts; however, not attaching yourself to one particular thought. Bloom leads a guided meditation taking around ten minutes every day in class. The class’s goal is to build up to sitting in silence and stillness for a full ten minutes.
Although many people associate meditation as being the art of thinking about nothing according to Bloom it is in fact the opposite. Bloom explains that meditation is about anchoring yourself and bringing your awareness to the present moment. Life, he argues, is always happening in the present and meditation helps bring that into focus.
“If our focus is on things that are yet to come or things that are yet to pass, which is usually the case, then our focus is not on the present moment,” Bloom said.
For this reason, a very essential part of meditation is focusing on breath, as breathing only ever happens in the present. By focusing on your breath through various breathing techniques meditation allows you to let go of stress and preoccupations.
Meditation has also been shown to have enormous health benefits. Recent studies show that mediation is not only a stress reduction technique, but that the effects are complex and monumental. For example, a recent study by a neurologist at the University of California of Los Angeles shows meditation is associated with changes the amount of grey matter in your brain and it has also been linked to changes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for forming memory.
In the future Mr. Bloom hopes to bring mediation to more students around campus. According to Mr. Bloom, The Paly and Gunn administration has been discussing integrating mediation on a larger scale.
“My personal hope is that we find a way to bring the practice to more students.” Mr. Bloom said.