Time & Place: Students meditate their way to success

PETER MEECHAM/stuff.co.nz

As the pressure of the exam period approaches and the weight of expectation increases, the students at Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls are taking time out to appreciate the things that really matter.

And they're using meditation to do it.

Deputy principal Chris Arthur has been researching techniques to combat stress and build resilience in young people for quite some time. Now the school is rolling out a "mindfulness" programme involving meditation, colouring, self-talk.

The concept is about stopping to take a moment for yourself, and about appreciating all the things, and people in life you have to be grateful for, she says.

"We're in a really busy, materialistic world - it's about bringing them back to what's really important".

The programme was trialled last year with senior students, who were taught by mindfulness expert Nick Penney. His .b programme – which stands for "Stop, Breathe and Be!" – proved a roaring success during exam season. It's hoped the girls will take some of the techniques they have  mastered out into the world with them.

"There's not a one-size-fits-all technique, but the girls will all take different aspects of it – the ones that suit them, with them into the future", Arthur says. 

But it hasn't all been a calm, blue ocean. Mindfulness in its current form evolved in the 1970s from ancient Buddhist meditation, which got a few parents hot under the collar.  

Outrage 'won't stop mindful classrooms' - expert
Mindfulness' technique outrages parents
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But Arthur says the programme used by Diocesan teachers has no buddhist ties, and instead fits into the school's focus on gratefulness.

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Whatever your point of view, Year 13 student Farrah Mistry reckons mindfulness helps her to focus on tasks at hand, and not get bogged down thinking about everything on her plate.

The national level waterpolo player says balancing training and exam preparation can be stressful.

"In sport, it's important before a big game to take a moment and think about what you're about to do, before you get back to your life and get on with it."

Arthur said the school decided to integrate the programme into its curriculum after the initial trial period was met with an "incredibly positive" response. 

An after-school mindfulness course is also available, which students can pay to participate in a 9-10 week programme. 

Arthur said it's important for the girls to realise that stress can be a good thing, as long as this nervous energy is used well.

"It's a bit like the saying, 'you're still going to have butterflies in your stomach, but you've just got to make sure that they're flying in formation".

 - Stuff

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