Montessori Perspectives on Mindfulness - Part 3 of 3Another term that goes along with Montessori’s idea of normalization and the current idea of executive function is that of ‘mindfulness’. Psychology Today states that “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
The Montessori method of education is consistent with the idea of mindfulness. The flow of the individual presentations requires the attention of the child and the adult to be focused on the immediate present. The built-in control of error in the Montessori materials and activities consistently bring the child’s focus back to center. The three-hour Montessori work cycle supports the development of increased periods of focused concentration.
Being mindful requires the child to be fully aware sensorially. The Montessori sensorial lessons and activities serve to isolate each sense so that it might be fully explored and internalized by the child. The terms ‘rough’ and ‘smooth’ or ‘sweet’ and ‘sour’ take on different meaning in the Montessori environment as the child explores and makes fine distinctions in gradations of sensorial exercises. (Lillard)
Beyond the immediate preparation of executive function, Montessori education is preparing the child not just for school, but also for life. Exercises such as ‘The Silence Game’ and ‘Walking on the Line’ help the child to focus his thoughts inward and be aware of his body within the space of his environment. It helps the child become fully conscious of his surroundings. This consciousness of self and others develops into Montessori’s lessons of Grace and Courtesy. Through modeling and proactive guidance, children become mindful of how their actions directly affect those around them. (Lillard) In fact, “Every exercise involving movement where mistakes can be corrected…is of great assistance to a child…Our children become agile by learning how to walk around various objects without bumping into them.” (Montessori)
Walking on the line also teaches purposeful movement, not unlike the practice of Yoga or Tai Chi. In fact, many Montessori classrooms incorporate either yoga or Tai Chi into their daily routines. The simple movements of both practices incorporate the ideas of self-monitoring and planning. The focus is on the behavior of the individual and comparisons are only made to the movement towards a goal, not to the achievements of others. Through repetition of movement, improvement is made. These same statements about non-judgmental behavior and repetition can said about the Montessori environment, exercises, and materials.
Those who are interested in incorporating mindfulness into their teaching practices would be well served by considering those practices found within the Montessori environment. (Lillard) Meaningful, conscious work that incorporates both mind and body with increased periods of profound concentration provide a child with a grounding that prepares him well beyond the classroom walls and sets him on his way to a purposeful and fulfilled life.
Lillard, Angeline S. "Mindfulness Practices in Education: Montessori's Approach." Mindfulness 2.2 (2011). Web document. 9 May 2012.
Montessori, Maria. The Secret of Childhood. New York: Ballentine, 1966.
Psychology Today. Psychology Today. n.d. Website. 9 May 2012. http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness.
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© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, May 18, 2012.