Top 10 easy tips to start meditating

I know that it may feel like everyone is talking about meditation, but there could well be a good reason for that; it can change the way that your brain works, how you function, your emotions and how you value yourself.

With this in mind, I have put together 10 top tips that I hope will help inspire you to try some meditation:

1. Rid yourself of expectations

The best frame of mind for meditation is an open one. Allow yourself to experience every element of the practice without putting pressure on yourself to perform or think in a certain way. Every day you meditate is totally different which is why having a daily practice is the best way to feel its effects.

2. Give yourself time

To get into a daily routine, set aside 5 minutes of your day, every day, to meditate. No matter how busy or rushed you may feel, you can always find an extra 5 minutes or so that you can dedicate to ‘you’ time.

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3. Do what feels good for you

If sitting with your legs crossed is really uncomfortable, then there’s nothing saying you have to! This is all about finding time for yourself to find a position that works for you.

4. Don’t force it

A lot of people assume that when you meditate, you have to have a completely empty mind. Meditation is not about trying not to think, it is about being able to control your thoughts in the moment and bringing yourself back to the here and now when your mind wanders.

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5. Just breathe

Don’t worry about breathing deeply or softly, all of this will come with time and with the practice. All you need to make sure is that you don’t force your breath.

6. Use your imagination

Visualise your breath rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale. You will be surprised how much this will help you with your meditation and inner peace.

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7. Body Scan

If you are finding it difficult to get into the meditation, try to concentrate on relaxing one body part at a time. Start at your head, and move slowly down through your forehead, eyebrows and so on until you reach your toes. This also really helps if you are in bed and struggling to sleep.

8. Ground yourself

Focus your senses on how it feels to be standing or sitting on the ground, feeling the connection between you and the ground as you inhale. In reverse, when you inhale, imagine yourself floating away, light as a feather.

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9. Calming white light

A quick and effective way of instantly relaxing your body when it feels tense or anxious is to picture or imagine a stream of white light filling the body as you inhale and surrounding you as you exhale. You will feel the lightness fill your body and it will help give you a sensation of clarity and calm.

10. Try to make this a habit

As soon as you get into the daily practice of meditation you will see just how much of a difference it can really make to you. If you continue to do this day in, day out, it will no longer feel like a conscious effort but will feel like a natural part of your routine.

I would love to know how you get on if you start meditating and use these tips. The benefits of daily meditation are endless and I really believe you will start to love it just as much as me.

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About our Community Expert

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Kirsty Raynor

#TeachFit programme lead

Kirsty is a yoga teacher on a journey of empowerment, building confidence and pushing the boundaries of what traditional yoga is and can be.

She leads the TeachFit Yoga workshops in our partner schools.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

These can be experiences that directly harm a child (such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, and emotional neglect) to those that affect the environment in which a child grows up (including parental separation, domestic violence, mental illness, alcohol abuse, or drug use). These experiences can have a negative impact on that child’s life experiences and health when they become an adult.

The term ACE came from a study that was conducted in Southern California from 1995 to 1997. Around 17,000 university educated people completed surveys about their childhood experiences, current health status and behaviours, and received physical examinations.

The findings of this research resulted in the development of the ‘ACE Pyramid’, which represents the link between childhood experiences, adult health and wellbeing outcomes:

ACEs

Comparative studies were then conducted in the UK in 2012 & 2013 and found that there were similar links as in the U.S. to ACEs being strongly associated with negative behavioural, health and social outcomes for the people studied.

The 2013 study also found that almost half of the general population reported experiencing at least one ACE, with 8% identifying at least four (Bellis et al, 2014bc).

It is important to recognise, however, that there is a distinction between ‘normal’ stressful life events, such as parental divorce or illness of a loved one, and adverse childhood experiences which are very traumatic life events, such as being or seeing someone else physically or sexually abused. It is the latter experiences that will often be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When exposed to stressful situations, the “fight, flight or freeze” response results in our brain producing hormones as part of a normal and protective response to danger. These hormones will usually subside once the stressful situation passes. However, when repeatedly exposed to ACEs, the hormone is continually produced, which results in the child remaining permanently in this heightened state of anxiety and unable to return to their natural relaxed and recovered state.

Children and young people who are exposed to ACEs, therefore, have increased and sustained levels of stress. They are unable to think rationally and it is physiologically impossible for them to learn or develop in the same way a child not having these experiences will; the more ACEs a child experiences the greater the chance of health and/or social problems in adulthood.

If a child discloses that they have experienced a traumatic experience there are things we can do to try and minimise the impact of those experiences. This includes:

  • Listening to the child’s experiences & think about how those experiences will have an impact on their healthy development and on their behaviours.
  • Recognise the signs, and don’t just think that the child is just misbehaving.
  • Try to help them become more grounded, give them choices and allow them to feel more in control.
  • Understand that it is likely this will have an impact on any attachment for that child and there will be mistrust. We need to try and build a relationship with the child that is different to ones they have experienced previously, or are currently experiencing.
  • It is important to remember that ACEs tend to be passed from generation to generation if parents do not receive support to reflect upon childhood stressors, and to explore how these may feed into current problematic behaviours and ongoing health issues, this, in turn, will impact on their ability to parent well.

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About our Community Expert

 

PROFILE-PICS_team_JuneKAREN-FOSTERKaren Foster

Community Expert
As an experienced practitioner Child Protection, Safeguarding and Behaviour are key areas for much of Karen’s expertise and experience. She has been working with children, young people and adults for over 15 years in a multitude of settings which include dance and performing arts companies, local authorities, youth clubs, education and the welfare to work sector.

Karen’s main expertise is in safeguarding and behaviour management and modification strategies, with her most recent role being a national Safeguarding Lead. Karen has also been a school governor for nine years, two of which have been as Vice-Chair.

Karen has also run a behaviour unit (inclusive PRU) within an Academy and worked with the most disaffected students whose behaviour was disruptive who weren’t accessing the curriculum within the mainstream setting. She has and also worked with disaffected young people within a youth club, most of whom were at risk of permanent exclusion and carried out safeguarding audits whilst working for a multi-academy trust.

Managing Conflict in School Leadership Teams

Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a message like the above? I have. It hurts. It can be embarrassing or sometimes, it can be unexpected and offensive. When it comes to managing conflict, I’ve found myself in all types of situations as a receiver and as a giver, and how I manage these situations as a teacher and school leader has varied significantly throughout my career.

Such is the busy nature of school life, rarely are difficult conversations or conflicts of interest conducted in a climate where the process can move calmly or at a steady pace. Unless conversations are carefully engineered, individual thoughts and clarity for both the receiver and the giver as less likely to be well-managed and are likely to be emotive rather than logical.

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Safeguarding aside, what tends to happen in schools is that conversations are often conducted on their feet in corridors or constructed to be completed where both parties can meet together to discuss the issue before the next ‘school bell’ rings. In more serious cases, during the day or after-school hours are often best placed for serious investigations with various people and organisations in attendance to act as advisers and conduits of support for both parties, particularly when legal issues are involved and the implications are serious.

Once I received a difficult conversation as a teacher and I was supported by my union after a parent complaint. This was constructed during the school day when I had a free period. Naturally, I left the meeting feeling aggrieved but thankfully with very clear expectations. At the time and as a young teacher, I did not contemplate how difficult this conversation may have been for the person having to provide it. With hindsight, the person acting as my mediator provided an objective point which offered much-needed support and challenge.

However, I sometimes found myself in positions without support. Why? Well, as teachers we conduct countless conversations on our feet every day, with pupils parents and colleagues.

As with any school, incidents may be rare but sometimes unusual circumstances can unfold, such is the busy nature of school life.

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After the first three years of my career, I found myself working as a middle leader in charge of other teachers, leading a team of 13 members of staff in a large secondary school, supporting and challenging processes, thoughts and decisions as well as managing my own workload. It was highly rewarding, exhausting and challenging.

After seven years, as a new school leader, I suddenly found moving from a position where I was a leader of a small group of staff to being partly-responsible for all 200 staff and 1,500+ pupils. As one would expect, the shifting responsibility was dramatic and under strong leadership from Head Teacher, various difficult conversations were delegated according to need, time and personality.

What causes conflict?

In an educational setting, a conflict might be defined as ‘challenging’ for many reasons. Therefore it is important that every leader has a good definition of the type of behaviours that lead to a challenging situation, not only with pupils but with adults also.

When conflict does occur, a clear definition should be used to offer support to the people involved, and this and is likely to follow suit with professional Teachers’ Standards or the school’s code of conduct for employees. Generally, these rules follow typical human being attributes, but within the profession, there are specific details that will align with, for example, competency, professionalism and safeguarding.

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Whatever situation you find yourself in, and I too have found myself receiving and managing a difficult conversation as a school leader, it’s very unlikely that the person leading the conversation will have had any formal training in managing difficult conversations.

The first time is always a steep learning curve, so it is critical to have a dress rehearsal to ensure the conversation is clear, objective and that you adhere to the facts. Most importantly, the person involved leaves with clear expectations and a potential resolution or consequence.

It is a really important process to get right, so below I’ve offered 7 tips to help get you prepared and in the right frame of mind.

Positional Power

The role of leadership brings with the position, positive and negative territory. Knowledge is power, but so is it positional and monetary. Often school leaders find themselves in two of these three positions in terms of power status.

They are is often the source of all knowledge – or at mostly perceived to know the answers – and they also have the positional power to be able to make decisions. In toxic school cultures, this status can be threating to the workforce, whereas in environments in which teachers thrive, potential difficult conversations, although they may still happen, are less frequent.

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With this positional power comes the responsibility to eradicate poor behaviour in adults, but also minimise the risks. It is for this reason that I’ve always argued that leaders need to build their potential to become a ‘problem finder’, not just a ‘problem solver’.

Another way of looking at this is the glass half full, half-empty scenario. I’d like to consider myself someone who has a glass half full perspective on life, but I would clearly accept the others viewed my approach as a glass half empty stance.

For this reason, constantly looking for problems, gaps in knowledge or strategy ensure that schools, teachers and school leaders can be the best that they can be by adopting an approach in which one looks for potential issues prior to before they arrive, rather than solving them after they have come to fruition.

The nature becoming a problem finder is that you often seek out potential issues and have to deal with them. Equally, in the role of a school leader, you can find yourself acting more often as a problem solver. Whether this is solving other people’s problems, picking up issues that have been missed, or acting as a mediator between two or more other people.

Critically, how these conversations are conducted is what matters most. As the saying goes, people don’t often remember what you say, but they remember how you make them feel. So it is my conclusion, after 20 years of delivering difficult conversations and very high stressful environments, is to learn to deliver the difficult message, but provide it fairly, humanely and in a timely manner.

As with most things in education, funding and timing are often lacking, but there is never a good time to deliver a ‘bad-news’ message, so gathering the facts and knowing when to seize the opportunity is fundamental.

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So, if you find yourself in a position where you have to provide a solution to managing conflict, and the chances are that this will be high as a school leader, then not only will you need some training and tacit knowledge, but how good you are at having those difficult chats with colleagues will be your legacy towards sustaining credible leadership for the future.

How to manage a difficult conversation?

1. Have the conversation sooner rather than later

Too often we postpone the difficult conversation because we know that it won’t be easy, and potentially we drain our own energies and emotions. While it is important not to rush into something, procrastination simply makes the situation worse. Keep the matter private and professional.

2. Stick to the facts

Describe carefully the behaviour that has led you to speak to the individual. Have all the facts ready. Describe the impact of the behaviour on others, for example, students, colleagues or yourself. Ensure the person understands why there has to be a change in behaviour.

Always have to hand professional standards and school policies for reference or for non-verbal cues. If you do need to quote from them, allow adequate time for the individual to read the details before responding. Hopefully, this level of detail won’t be needed as an initial conversation is usually all that’s required to rectify most situations.

3. Focus on the future

Talk about what is going to be different in the future. Depending on the nature of the conversation, this could be specific procedures that are required to be put in place, or simply a verbal commitment from the individual to take what has been said and act on it.

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4. Show respect

No matter how important the issue is, always ensure that you show respect for the individual as a person. You are taking issue only with the behaviours and not the individual. Give the member of staff time to digest, respond and reflect.

5. Allow time

Even where the issue is perfectly clear and must be addressed, ensure the individual’s voice is heard. While you are dealing with a particular issue, you are also modelling a process that shows respect for all.

6. Keep tight control of your emotions

Don’t allow your emotions to get the better of you. To raise justifiable concerns in an unjustifiable manner simply creates more problems. Always be professional, and remember that the other person is not enjoying this either! Oh, and always have a box of tissues in close proximity and learn how best to respond or end the conversation if needed.

7. Reflect

Beware of replaying conversations again and again in your head; what you should have said or not said – this can be exhausting. Accept what is done and move on. Sometimes a small follow-up conversation or nod of the head is enough when next seeing or meeting with the same colleague.

If you recognise an issue with a colleague, you should talk to them honestly. It’s a matter of professional respect.

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About our Community Expert

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Ross Morrison McGill
Community Expert ~ Founder of @TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill, also known as @TeacherToolkit, is the ‘most followed educator on social media in the UK’. Ross has been a teacher for 25 years and is the founder of one of the most popular education websites in the world. He is an award-winning blogger, author and today, has worked with over 100 schools in 8 countries. The Sunday Times listed Ross as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ and today, he remains the only classroom teacher to have featured.

Dear DSL, who heals the healers?

Reflexive in that one doesn’t just focus on how you impact a pupils’, young persons, service users or prisoners life but how the interaction affects you professionally and personally. Which leads me to the question of ‘who heals the healers’?

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Over the last year, I have had the fortunate opportunity to train, consult and build strong partnerships with individuals and teams across the country who have a remit around safeguarding.

That being said, one thing that was apparent is that hardly any of them access clinical supervision despite their roles consisting of complex and difficult decisions around young peoples welfare. Such instances involved cse, grooming, youth violence or in some cases suicide.

With that in mind, how do we ensure that those of us working with vulnerable young people safeguard ourselves from compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and in some case the Stockholm syndrome?

In short, the answer is we have to take the lead. This is especially true since the conversation around being trauma-informed is slowly gathering momentum. However, in the short term, we have to find outlets and ways that lead us to a place of self-care.

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A practitioner shared with me recently that she had to have a child removed from a household and although it was the right thing to do and involved other siblings, she ended up crying in her car for an hour afterwards. As it happens, this practitioner at the time was 6 months pregnant and felt she wasn’t getting the appropriate support.

Whilst it is true that we are all wired differently and our individual self-care methods are different, safeguarding our young people is becoming more complex to deal with.

It is almost certain that all of us supporting young adults with today’s problems need support from one another so please check in with another rather than assuming that going home, having dinner and watching Netflix will heal us of the burdens we face.

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About our Community Expert

Raymond Douglas
Community Expert

Raymond Douglas is one of the UK’s leading thinkers and “doers” around working with at-risk pupils and young people. A prolific trainer and curriculum developer he has created numerous intervention programs tackling youth conflict & violence aiming to reduce the number of those at risk of life-threatening behaviour involving guns, gangs, knife crime & extremism.

Ray has been an approved trainer for governmental departments and currently delivers within schools colleges, universities and prisons. Ray has spoken at TEDx and has worked nationally and internationally training & advising schools and local authorities around reducing systemic youth violence.

Today his Minus Violence program reaches over 10,000 young people & pupils per year and 2019 see the release of his first book Gangs Kitchen.