Each year on May 21st, we celebrate World Meditation Day, a global celebration dedicated to promoting the practice and benefits of meditation. This day reminds us how mindfulness can positively impact our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. By incorporating mindfulness into our daily routines, all of us, including the autism community, can experience greater balance and harmony and be reminded of humanity’s interconnectedness. 

This World Meditation Day, we heard from special education teacher Jackie Saraf about how she’s incorporated mindfulness practices into her classroom, school environment, and personal life:

I began my own mindfulness practice a few years ago after my father passed away, and since then, I’ve been sharing what I know with my colleagues and students. Mindfulness is such a good outlet for your feelings, especially if you can’t quite verbalize them. 

When I started at the EPIC School, I talked about my mindfulness practice with my colleagues. I wondered how we might incorporate it into our classrooms and for our students with autism. After Angela Rodriguez (the associate executive director at EPIC School) and I presented a proof of concept poster on improving staff retention through wellbeing at the ABAI (Association for Behavior Analysis International) conference in San Diego last winter, we decided to try it out with our staff first, beginning with what I called Wellbeing Wednesdays. Staff would arrive early and be guided in a 30-minute guided meditation class. I brought books, a sound bowl, and anything I thought might encourage my colleagues with their mindfulness practice. 

Sometimes, people have an interesting perception of meditation. They think it’s strange or spiritual when meditation is for everything and everyone. It’s a practice that allows you to listen to and quiet your mind. If you’re feeling anxious, there’s a meditation for that. If you’re joyful, there’s meditation for that.

After our staff was on board, I began integrating mindfulness into my classroom. We went with students to a discount store, where they picked out yoga mats and decorated them with permanent markers.  

We started practicing meditation in the morning, after lunch, or as a transition activity—whenever I felt the students needed it most. Picture students on their yoga mats, practicing deep breathing exercises or imitating my movements during yoga practice.

It’s been fun to couple meditation practices with movement – and even better, it provides double the wellbeing benefits! Some of our students now request a meditation or yoga break independently. As we know, wellbeing is contagious, so it’s not surprising that other students bring their mats over, too. They have learned that mindful movement and deep breathing are tools they can use to make themselves feel better. 

Mindfulness is especially helpful if students have difficulties regulating or conveying their emotions. After doing yoga and deep breathing, I saw a positive difference in my students’ body language—they were more relaxed. Our transitions between classes are smoother. It’s also cool to see how much the staff has gotten involved and taken up healthy habits like meditation. 

It’s positively changed the dynamic of our classroom. All the staff are on board with this movement to make our classroom a calm and fun place to learn. It feels warm and inviting, and students can move to different classroom areas depending on their needs. 

Happiness is so important. It takes precedence over everything throughout the day. Mindfulness is a part of everything—we teachers are mindful of what we teach, how we treat students, what they feel, and what they can do to feel better. 

Since introducing a mindfulness practice, everyone seems happier and calmer. Students also have more options for actions when they’re upset and want to feel better. Students will take deep breaths independently. The classroom is conducive to teaching those skills and learning because students are happier. Teachers want a calm environment, too. 

So many schools elevate the importance of grades, procedures, and behavior management when SEL (social-emotional learning) is more important. I’m so thankful the EPIC School allows educators to teach skills like mindfulness to boost wellbeing.

Whether you’re a seasoned meditator or new to the practice, World Meditation Day offers an opportunity to join a global community in committing to growth and positive change. So, on this day, take a moment to quiet your mind, connect with your inner self, and embrace the skills of mindfulness and meditation.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments