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

Wrapped in Wreaths

Wreath Festival––Nov 16-18

Tony Danza's in Town

Enjoy seeing this iconic actor sing, dance and share stories at Ridgefield Playhouse

Not So Hidden Hideaway

The Hideaway offers standout comfort food classics and a terrific selection of craft beers

Art of It: Narrative in a Box

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo

Red Rooster Pub has something for everyone

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

November 2018

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Grammy Award-winning son of the legendary Bob Marley, Stephen continues his father’s legacy with forward-thinking reggae. In addition to his critically acclaimed, award-winning solo albums,...

Cost: $56

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


Sponsor: Ridgefield Playhouse
Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Ages 2 to 5 and caregiver Registration encouraged at shop.aldrichart.org   Create a work of art that celebrates the changing colors and seasons as autumn approaches! Use both real and...

Cost: $15; $12 member

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


Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Wednesday, November 14th at 4:00 PM. Open to all ages. Decorate an apple with candy to make it look like a turkey! This event is free and no registration is required. Co-sponsored with the NS...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

From Dixie with Love Featuring Trae Crowder, Corey Ryan Forrester & Drew Morgan Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 8pm Barts Tree Service Comedy Series Northeast Builders Emerging Artist...

Cost: $49.50

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


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Contact Name: Ridgefield Playhouse
Website »

More information

Comedians Trae Crowder (The Liberal Redneck), Drew Morgan and Corey Ryan Forrester bring the humor from their viral YouTube videos and best-selling book, Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin Dixie...

Cost: Tickets: $49.50 VIP Meet & Greet Ticket Bundle: $149.50

Where:
Ridgefield playhouse
80 E Ridge Rd
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Barts Tree Service
Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 21+ Registration required at shop.aldrichart.org   Learn the basics of figure painting with painter and Ridgefield resident Allison Meyler. Working from a live model, review composition,...

Cost: $25; $20 member

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


Website »

More information

Join us in celebrating the launch of the book published on the occasion of our current meta-group exhibition The Domestic Plane: New Perspectives on Tabletop Art Objects published by The Aldrich...

Cost: Free

Where:
Printed Matter Inc.
231 11th Avenue
New York, NY  10001
View map »


Website »

More information

Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 7:30pm Mountain Dew Country & Bluegrass Series Best known for their tours backing Steve Martin, this Grammy Award-winning, North Carolina-based sextet is...

Cost: $57.50

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


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Contact Name: Ridgefield Playhouse
Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Friday mornings from 10:30 to 12:30. Free, no registration. Open to adults and older teens. Participants are asked to bring their own supplies in, but some basic supplies will be provided by the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Westchester Oratorio Society, Artistic Director Benjamin Niemczyk, opens its 21st season with a concert entitled, “An Evening with Bach” at the South Salem Presbyterian Church,...

Cost: $15 to $50

Where:
South Salem Presbyterian Church
111 Spring Street
South Salem, NY  10590
View map »


Sponsor: Westchester Oratorio Society
Telephone: 800 838 3006
Contact Name: Joe Spallina
Website »

More information

Max Weinberg (longtime drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band) invites the audience to create the set list he and his crack four-piece group will play that night. Audience members...

Cost: Tickets: $60 VIP Private Meet & Greet Ticket Bundle: $175

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


Telephone: (203) 438-5795
Contact Name: The Ridgefield Playhouse
Website »

More information

Founders Hall's First-Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Contest! At this year’s bi-annual Wreath Festival, Founders Hall (https://founders-hall.org/) is introducing a fun new contest...

Cost: Entry Fee: $10 / Event is FREE

Where:
Founders Hall of Ridgefield
193 Danbury Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Founders Hall
Telephone: 860-799-5207
Contact Name: Michelle McQueen
Website »

More information

Visit The Aldrich for FREE the Third Saturday of each month! See the latest in contemporary art and participate in family-friendly art-making workshops in The Studio.   Family Art-Making...

Cost: Free

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


Website »

More information

Saturday, November 17th from 12:00 - 3:00 PM for kids K+. Plan on staying with your children and having fun together.   This year’s annual STEAMFEST will feature Mad Science’s special...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ruth Keeler Memorial Library
276 Titicus Road
North Salem, NY  10560
View map »


Sponsor: Keeler Library
Telephone: 914-669-5161
Contact Name: Carolyn Reznick
Website »

More information

On Saturday November 17 at 6 p.m. join a wonderful team of astronomers and view planets, stars, and constellations. Note: Families are invited to a special preview in the Learning Center...

Cost: $4/New Pond Farm member ($16 max/family), $6/non-member ($24 max/family)

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

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