by Alison Harris, 27 June, 2017

How can mindfulness and “Calm Me” time in Jigsaw PSHE support Christian ethos?

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622)

This article aims to exemplify the use of the “Calm Me” time in Jigsaw to support children in their spiritual development. It is especially in answer to questions from schools with a religious nature with regard to the practice of mindfulness and how this fits with their Christian character.

Headteacher leading a Calm Me time in the school hall

Calm Me time during assembly

Within every Jigsaw lesson, there is a section entitled Calm Me, which allows the children a period of time appropriate to their age, to experience true peace. It should be noted that this is not some vague moment of silence where children are ever asked or expected to “empty their minds”.  The time is led by the teacher using a provided script which engages the children in specific mindfulness techniques including visualisations, breathing techniques and awareness exercises.  These sections of every lesson allow the children to become more mindful of their inner thoughts and feelings, and more spiritual in nature. We believe that mindfulness is a vital tool for life: not only does it support the regulation of emotion and build emotional resilience, it also enhances focus and concentration; both helping to optimise learning and increase the child’s awareness of their own spirituality.

Mindful children are more aware of the moment. This means they can more readily choose their responses to situations rather than react while caught up in the thought-flows and emotions.  This coupled with the social skills also included in every lesson in the “Connect Us” section, can truly help them to raise their levels of empathy (thus following the Christian teaching of “loving their neighbour”).  It also leads them to be more aware of the world around them and appreciate and experience the awe and wonder of creation.

So how does the Calm Me time in the Jigsaw lesson fit with Christian beliefs around prayer and meditation?

The Bible cites many references to its practice in both the Old and New Testament.

Even as early as Genesis, when Isaac meets his wife-to-be, Rebekah, being present in the moment after meditation leads to their first encounter.

He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done.  Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah.” (Genesis 24:63-67)

Psalm 119 goes further by referring to meditation as an important practice no less than eight times! It is also frequently cited that Jesus went away alone in order to have some peace from the demands of the crowds around him. (Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, Matthew 26:36).

In more modern times, the Christian church has encouraged the use of contemplative and meditative time in our busy world. In 1975, John Main (1926-1982), an Irish Benedictine monk, started the first Christian Meditation Centre in London. This has become an ecumenical movement all over the world and is now known as the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM).

The WCCM cites the ability of this mindfulness practice to enable both adults and children to identify their feelings and find answers during this peaceful time. They see each group of meditating people as “a true spiritual home for the seeker, a friend for the lonely, a guide for the confused.”  This exemplifies the awareness of their feelings and behaviours that children experience during Calm Me and the responses they choose in acting on these.

Fr Thomas Dubay tells us that the practice of meditation:

feeds us in our deepest hungers for truth, joy, beauty, celebration and most of all LOVE, real love. A person needs it to flourish in life.” (Dubay, 2010).

We all want our children to flourish both as pupils in our school and as life-long learners who can cope with the challenges ahead of them. Teaching them the vital skill of stopping and experiencing calm before deciding on a course of action will greatly increase their chances of this.

But do we know that it this truly helps children?

The answer is yes. Sheffield Hallam University research, ‘Does Jigsaw work?’ demonstrates that schools reported benefits in children’s emotional health following the use of Jigsaw PSHE. The report can be seen here https://www.jigsawpshe.com/does-jigsaw-work.

As well as this, SIAMS (Statutory Inspections of Anglican and Methodist Schools) are also beginning to notice the effect of Jigsaw on children, as this quotation from a school’s inspection report shows:

“Staff value ‘all God’s children’ and ensure all pupils are respected, loved and cared for. Good examples include the use of ‘Jigsaw’ materials, with their focus on feelings, to support pupils’ personal, social and health education [PSHE].” (SIAMS report from a school in Lichfield)

As the WCCM concludes:

In the Christian tradition, contemplation is seen as a grace and as a reciprocal work of love. Not surprisingly, then, if we find we become more loving people as a result of meditating this will express itself in all our relationships, our work and our sense of service especially to those in any kind of need.” (WCCM)

So as mindfulness and meditation enable our children to become calmer, more loving people, they are better enabled to show love to our world and the people in it. The mindfulness techniques in Jigsaw PSHE are therefore truly supporting our young people in becoming more aware, spiritual and compassionate adults of tomorrow.

References/further links:

 

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