An Education With Heart: Mindfulness In Vancouver Schools

In the summer of 2013, UX For Good and the Dalai Lama Centre brought together 12 user experience designers from across the world for a pilot project of mindfulness in Vancouver schools to resolve a social challenge: How can we educate the hearts of our children? Today's educators are recognizing the need for more social and emotional learning in schools and the result is that mindfulness instruction programs are being adopted to cultivate more kindness and empathy among students.

I strongly believe that mindfulness can transform our schools and decrease mindless competition, alienation and bullying in our communities. Teaching mindfulness in schools is an excellent way to train young people in the 5 essential skills of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.

These emotional intelligence capacities can be cultivated through mindfulness and they must be because these are the must-have skills today as robots and software algorithms are replacing the routine work of Industrial age factories and bureaucracies.

What our society desperately needs right now is more empathic and creative people who can take an entrepreneurial approach to solving problems, designing engaging solutions and continually providing value to other people.

Why We Need Mindfulness In Schools

The Dalai Lama famously said, "If every 8 year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”  Maybe we can't eliminate violence altogether, but we can dramatically reduce it by teaching people how to relax naturally and more deeply empathize with others through meditation.

If we are to create a stronger society based on open democracy, a fair economy and climate justice for everyone, then mindfulness meditation practices must be taught in our schools. From my experience, no practice is better suited for teaching the focus, creativity and resilience that is necessary to navigate the constant disruptive change of the 21st century.

I also feel mindfulness is particularly important in Canada's multicultural society where each day we interact with people from all different kinds of cultures. We need more kind people with the courage to break down the superficial barriers that are placed between us, so we can create a deeper sense of integration and community in Vancouver and across Canada.

I highly recommend watching this short film on how design thinking from user experience designers is being applied to cultivate mindfulness in schools in Vancouver.