As a high school student read aloud calming prompts from a colorful children’s meditation book, “Big Breath,” second-grade students – who had found a comfy spot on the rug and closed their eyes – filled the classroom with deep breaths and gentle exhales.
The session was part of a collaborative effort between the elementary school, high school teacher Bill Meyer and members of the Meditation Club to introduce additional mindfulness strategies for the younger students, in partnership with psychologist Dr. Joyce Vastola and the school’s psychology interns. Meyer – who has been incorporating meditation in his classes and leading mindfulness practices throughout the school building for close to a decade – is the author of “Big Breath,” which was released in August.
“We are really excited about this partnership,” Meyer said. “This year, members of the Meditation Club will facilitate the use of the book and bring some of the tools and practices developed over the last several years into the elementary school. It will be powerful for both sets of students to grow that relationship and learn from one another.”
Meyer’s latest book is a meditation guide to help young readers wind down before bed or after a tough day. Illustrated by Brittany R. Jacobs, the book features colorful images and calming meditation prompts.
“We tried to make it accessible and in the tone of an invitation versus a directive,” he said. “I felt like kids have way too many directions as it is in the day, and meditation should be an invitation, a space and place for them to explore the interior.”
Meyer, who had conducted extensive research on the topic, said there are numerous academic and wellness benefits that develop when teachers incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their curriculum.
“The school should take great pride in the growth of the Meditation Club and presence of mindfulness,” he said. “We are way ahead of the curve in developing a lot of the infrastructure necessary to grow this work but also integrate it deeply into the learning environments of our students.”
Meyer credits the community’s support and focus on student health and well-being for making the school’s work not just possible, but successful.
“There is a lot of distortion and distraction in the lives of young people, and mindfulness is about setting those pieces aside and reconnecting with the present moment and in the process with oneself,” Meyer said. “By connecting with the self, we are then better able to connect to others and be of service to others. There’s an emphasis on engaged citizenship as part of the Bronxville Promise, and developing more self-aware and reflective students is the first step in developing engaged citizens.”