It is September. The end of the summer holidays. Another school year begins. Remember that? The prospect of going 'back to school' with everything wonderful and everything awful this entails. Classmates you want to see; others you don't. One or two teachers who might inspire you, others who won't even come close. And lessons. Lots of them. In the UK alone, 10 million pupils study a few subjects they might enjoy and many others which, rightly or wrongly, they see as 'pointless'. Be honest: can you count on more than two hands the number of lessons you actually remember?
This year, a few thousand schoolchildren might at least find themselves learning something a little different. In about 450 schools in the UK and 200 others around the world, pupils will be taught to .b (pronounced 'dot-be'). It is something we hope they will find enjoyable, useful and, above all, memorable. As a school teacher there is little more rewarding than hearing a former pupil ask you many years later: "Remember that .b stuff you taught us at school? Where can I find out more... ?"
So what is .b? It is, in essence, a mindfulness curriculum for schools. It was written by classroom teachers who had been practising mindfulness for many years and wanted the children they taught to experience the benefits too.
This was easier said than done. When 25 teenagers tumble into your classroom on a wet Tuesday morning how are you going to interest them in mindfulness? They've never heard of it, it doesn't sound that exciting, and if they knew it involved periods of silence and stillness you'd probably lose them before you began. It's 11:45, they're hungry, they're playing with their phones, they'd rather be somewhere else. How are you going to convince them that mindfulness is arguably one of the more useful things they will learn?
So the Mindfulness in Schools Project was set up to find ways of connecting schoolchildren with mindfulness in ways which were engaging, experiential and immediately applicable. The result was .b.
Why is it called .b? The red 'dot' of the logo stands for STOP - like a red light. And the 'b' is saying BE. So .b is inviting those in schools - toddlers, teens and teachers alike, to 'stop and be'. Just for a moment. It is an invitation to notice that you are breathing - to know that by turning your attention to any one of the 70,000 breaths you take every day, you are beginning to learn a life-skill that could help in many different ways: the stress of taking an exam or preparing a class to take one; the hurtful comment of a peer in the playground or the staffroom; a difficult situation at home with a parent or a partner. Or it might just help you to think a little more calmly and clearly.
In the coming weeks and months in the Huffington Post you'll be hearing stories from teachers and pupils about the difference that mindfulness is making in their lives.
We won't pretend that mindfulness is some universal panacea for ills great and small. It is not. However, early research indicates that it can make a difference. How big a difference remains to be seen, with the Mindfulness in Schools Project potentially involved in a very significant randomised controlled trial to assess quite how effective .b really is.
In the meantime, we offer you weekly anecdotes from the classroom to encourage, engage and inspire. We also hope to ground mindfulness in the deep roots and strong ethical foundations which underpin it. There has recently been an alarming commodification and 'shallowing out' of mindfulness. A rich cultural heritage, spun from Buddhist beginnings and carefully crafted into well-researched medical applications, is in some contexts - too many - being replaced by a quick fix commercially driven, self-help approach. This is not mindfulness; it is McMindfulness. In this series of blogs - 'For the Flourishing of Young Minds' - we hope .b will give a voice to all of those who share concerns about the latter and care deeply about the former.
Mindfulness in Schools Project is a not-for-profit organisation specialising in mindfulness training for school communities - not only the pupils but the teachers, parents and others who care for them. For more information, please visit http://mindfulnessinschools.org