Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Of One Mind

Reviving an ancient practice: focus



Jessica Knopke leads a breathing exercise where each child blows a gentle, slow breath on a feather to make it “wiggle and dance”

Photos by Rana Faure

Jessica Knopke enters a classroom at ThistleWaithe Learning Center and asks the young children to form two lines. She selects two to distribute mini-yoga mats to classmates and quietly demonstrates how to lay it on the floor. The children follow. They all breathe in and out and then a young girl chimes a bowl as her classmates put their hands on their stomachs to feel their breath.

Knopke then leads a breathing exercise: each child blows a gentle, slow breath on a feather to make it “wiggle and dance” in the air. Once all feathers have been collected, Knopke calmly leads them in a conversation about difficult emotions and how to use their breath to make themselves feel better. 

In approximately 20 minutes, Knopke has taught a room of three and four year olds one of the most essential mindfulness skills, and they all understood. “Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment without judgment,” Knopke, owner of Lily Pad Yoga, explains. “When we practice mindfulness, we can manage difficult emotions, be kind to ourselves and each other, and pause before we react.”

It is believed that the concept of mindfulness dates back to approximately 1500 BCE as part of the Hinduism practice of yoga.

In the past few years, mindfulness has experienced resurgence in the United States. Recently, educators and mental-health professionals are recognizing the benefits of teaching mindfulness to children. 

Ridgefield High School’s Maggie Meriwether teaches a health and wellness class for seniors. When Meriwether chose to include a section on stress management, she knew that mindfulness was the correct approach.

“By teaching mindfulness, I’m helping students learn about another tool they can access in their tool kit,” she says. “They’ve learned a breathing exercise and an actual meditation or two. It’s an introduction to the practice, and if they are interested, I provide them with resources to learn more.”

One of the key concepts of mindfulness is the ability to focus on the specific moment. It helps you concentrate on the task. These lessons are impactful and help students prepare for or take a test, during sports, or even in home and social settings. 

“About a month or two after I taught mindfulness to one of my classes, a student approached me,” Meriwether recalls. “He had gone to visit a college last weekend and was with friends. They got some food and the weather was perfect. He remembered our mindfulness lesson and focused on being in that moment. He said he really enjoyed being present, and thanked me. Mindfulness helped him recognize the that experience.”

Kristen Kleis, a Spanish teacher at Scotts Ridge Middle School, has also witnessed the benefits of teaching mindfulness. She begins each class with yoga and breathing exercises. Because of a grant she received from the Ridgefield Education Foundation, Kleis studied both yoga and mindfulness programs designed for schools. She learned that the best way to teach these skills is by example.

“They often see mindfulness in myself and my reactions to situations,” Kleis explains. “If something falls off of my desk and breaks, my first reaction is to take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m upset right now, so I’m just going to breathe.’ Then they see me actually breathing. Or I say, ‘That makes me angry, but I understand. I’m going to take a few deep breaths and then move on.’ Whatever emotion I’m experiencing, I say it out loud. I really try hard to use it to manage my own behavior because I am the role model in the classroom.”

In addition to her daily classroom lessons in mindfulness, Kleis does Yoga Fridays, when students learn a combination of Spanish and yoga, and she also offers an after school mindfulness and yoga program. 

A combination of students, parents, and teachers regularly approach Kleis with stories of how mindfulness has benefitted their lives. Many of her colleagues are interested in including mindfulness in their classrooms, understanding that educating the whole child is important to their success. 

From preschool through high school, mindfulness makes a difference. “When children learn these skills and grow with them, it’s amazing,” says Knopke. “If they feel nervous, anxious or fearful, they are not in a position to learn. Mindfulness gives them strategies to feel calmer. It works.”

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

            

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Got Milk, Sheik?

Local couple advocate camel milk at One Hump Farm

At Your Service

Caterers in the Bedford area

Ready, Set, Go, Go, Go

Places to go this holiday season in Ridgefield

Secret Bailey’s Treats

Bailey’s Backyard excels at Farm-to-Table

Upstairs Downstairs

Bernard’s and Sarah’s Wine Bar serve excellent food in both an elegant and casual setting

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

January 2019

Soprano Anna Netrebko joins the ranks of Renata Tebaldi, Montserrat Caballé, and Renata Scotto, taking on—for the first time at the Met—the...

Cost: Tickets: $25 | Members & Seniors $20 | Students $15 Ridgefield Library card hold

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Support from The Ridgefield Press and Whistle Stop Bakery
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy a story from the book Auroraand then paint your own nightscape featuring the Northern Lights using watercolors. Add trees, buildings, snow, and more to create your own beautiful scene...

Cost: $15; $13.50 member

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Simon Russell Beale returns to National Theatre Live screens following broadcasts of Timon of Athens and King Lear, and his recent role in the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed...

Cost: See Website

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Do you have a child or teen with emotional or behavioral difficulties?  Join a powerful group course and discover a wealth of facts about mental health conditions and how best to...

Cost: Free

Where:
First Congregational Church of Ridgefield
103 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: 203-984-8329
Contact Name: Karen West
Website »

More information

Do you have a child or teen with emotional or behavioral difficulties? Join a powerful group course and discover a wealth of facts about mental health conditions and how best to support...

Cost: 0

Where:
First Congregational Church of Ridgefield
103 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: 203-984-8329
Contact Name: Karen
Website »

More information

Simon Russell Beale returns to National Theatre Live screens following broadcasts of Timon of Athens and King Lear, and his recent role in the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed...

Cost: See Website

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Caring for a loved one with a mental health condition can be overwhelming and stressful. Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session education program for family, friends and significant others...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Greenwich Hospital
5 Perryridge Road
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: (914) 527-2994
Contact Name: Janet
Website »

More information

We invite you to join us at Dojo Fairfield on Saturday January 19, 2019 when we host the founder/CEO of C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense, Chris Sutton, for a one-day self-defense/ASRP (Active Shooter...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
DOJO FAIRFIELD
2317 Black Rock Tpke.
FAIRFIELD, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: DOJO FAIRFIELD
Telephone: 203.319.9989
Contact Name: Karina Gramesty
Website »

More information

Celebrate Helena Hernmarck’s materials and processes at our monthly free admission day. Work with teaching artists and Museum staff on warm wintery projects while enjoying hot cocoa and seasonal...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Join artists and crafters Amelia McIsaac of Flowering Heart and Susannah White of Carapace Farm Puppetry to explore the process of felting. Work with plant-dyed wool from their small family flock...

Cost: $15; $13.50 member

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Comedian, actor, and impressionist Frank Caliendo has been making people laugh his entire life.  He is well known for his impressions of famous personalities: Donald Trump, Morgan Freeman, Al...

Cost: See Website

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags