“Mindfulness meditation is very far from esoteric images and incense smells”

Grandstand. The League of Human Rights has just alerted [dans une lettre ouverte publiée le 18 janvier] the Ministry of National Education on the experimentation of mindfulness meditation workshops in schools and demands the cessation of these practices. However, scientific research shows many benefits for mental health and cognitive functioning.

What does a mindfulness meditation practice in the classroom look like? It is proposed to volunteer students to be attentive to what is happening to them in the present moment (their emotions, their thoughts, their feelings), by taking the time to observe, without trying to react immediately, contrary to what that the human mind often inclines to do. The student observes his situation from different angles and takes a step back from his usual way of apprehending everyday experiences. The notion of “non-judgment” used in these exercises does not mean loss of critical thinking, but awareness of one’s representations about oneself, others and the situations encountered. We are very far from the esoteric images and the smells of incense which raise mustard in the face of some when we speak of mindfulness, a term which designates a practice which today has absolutely nothing intrinsically religious about it.

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It is therefore an experience which, by establishing a moment of calm and proposing to calmly observe what is happening within, can help to reduce our tendency to react impulsively to external stimuli, become aware of routines which are not helpful (distracting and anxiety-provoking mental ruminations), develop an attitude of intellectual openness towards others and the wider environment.

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For thirty years, mindfulness has been the subject of in-depth studies in research laboratories on all continents. The PubMed bibliographic database, which lists all biomedical publications, indicates that as of January 24, 2022 there are no fewer than 21,829 scientific publications on this subject! Major research trends, which are based on systematic reviews and statistical aggregation of data from publications (meta-analyses), indicate beneficial effects on the mental health of young people and adults: reduction of symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and of teacher burnout. Such efficiency can be explained in particular by their role in improving emotion regulation skills. Research shows that the development of these skills is accompanied by anatomical and functional changes in brain regions underlying these processes.

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“Mindfulness meditation is very far from esoteric images and incense smells”

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