10/25/2013 11:00 am ET Updated Dec 25, 2013

What's in Your Mindful Toolbox? Your Feet!

Mindful awareness or mindfulness is an instrumental tool in my elementary school classroom. By early October the children have been taught four different secular mindfulness techniques. They have been encouraged to choose one technique that supports them in focusing their mind and calming their bodies. This mindful snapshot is about one of the first practices I teach each class.

Imagine: It has been raining on and off for a few days and the children have not been able to go outside during recess. Today is another gray drizzly day. It is after lunch. The children are sitting on the rug listening to a read-aloud. A few of the children are fully engaged listening in anticipation to what the main character will do next; some are calling out with excitement, others are annoyed that there is so much calling out. Looking around at the group I notice that some of the children look sleepy, some are fidgety, or their facial expressions and body language look like they are counting down the few minutes to gym class.

I decide to stop reading.

Everybody up! Let's practice!

1. Find a place in the room where your body is not touching any other body or anything else. Stand tall.
2. Line your feet up so they look like train tracks. Stick them to the floor.
3. Use your power and press your feet into the floor.
4. Press your feet into the floor in such a way that no one could tell what you are doing.
5. Voices off.
6. Notice how your legs feel.
7. Put your hand on your belly. Notice what it is doing.

I turn over the one minute sand timer. I take a deep breath and exhale slowly as I push my feet into the floor.

I've come to know this quality of quiet in the elementary school classroom. It's a moment in the day when the children are practicing paying attention to their minds and bodies. It is one of the children paying close attention with calm focused energy and with an excited curiosity.

One minute passes and the children release the pressure they are putting in their feet though some continue on. With enthusiasm they share popcorn style:

• "My leg muscles are strong and tight."
• "I'm pushing my feet down and no one would even know. Right?"
• "One foot can push harder than the other one. How come?"
• "I think it made me taller."
• "My knees lifted a little bit. I think. But I don't know how."
• "I think I can see better. I'm more awake."
• "Nothing is happening to my legs. Am I doing it right?"
• "My mind is thinking about my feet and nothing else."
• "My breathing is slowing down."
• "I'm more tired. How am I going to play in gym?"
• "It got really quiet in the room."

I ask, "How can using your feet and energy in this way be useful to you in school or outside of school? When can you use it?"

• "When I'm waiting. It could take my mind off of waiting"
• "Maybe when I'm mad at my little brother instead of hitting him I can push my feet into the floor and I'll forget that I am mad. Maybe."
• "When I'm sitting and doing math and I am getting frustrated I could put my energy in my feet and see what happens. Not tapping, just pushing."
• "I'm going to try this with my little sister."
• "It slowed down my breathing and tired out my legs. Maybe I could do it when I am laying in bed trying to fall asleep."

I dismiss the children two at a time to get on line to go to gym. While on line I remind them to plant their feet into the floor. Slowly the line is moving with children counting, silently, the number of steps they take to get to the gym.

The children enter the gym sharing with each other the number of steps they counted. Of course they all have different numbers.

As I walk back to the classroom I feel more focused and like I can transition to the work that needs to be completed before the children return.

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