Mindful mornings open to students, faculty


McKenzie Quirin

Relaxation The new meditation area is open to students and faculty. Librarian Tanya Lucas gave the idea a go in order to educate students on the impact and importance of meditating.

McKenzie Quirin, Reporter

While the construction of the new school continues, updates were added to the renovated A-building. It includes a new library featuring various spaces which will improve students’ quality of life.  A new space featured in the new library is the meditation area. 

In this meditation area, students and faculty will practice the idea of mindfulness. 

“The goal of this project is to introduce and share the practice of mindfulness with our students,” librarian Tanya Lucas said. 

Lucas created this space for students to become educated on how the brain works through training.

“Students will learn to train their brains by using education, guided meditation and reflection,” Lucas said. 

General learning/mindfulness sessions will take place before school and at lunch. 

In addition to the sessions before school and at lunch, there are several groups who will be invited to pilot the practice of mindfulness. 

“Pilot groups include health classes, Friends of Rachel students, Community and School-Based Behavioral Health students as well as students referred by guidance counselors and several students from Susan Smithmyer’s Autistic Support Class at the Altoona Area Junior High School,” Lucas said.

Along with the pilot groups, a “buddy” group of three high school students will pair with three students from Smithmyer’s class to share the practice according to Lucas.

Lucas thought of this meditation idea while going through a difficult time. 

“This idea was completely by accident. I actually was going through a very stressful time during the renovation process along with personal issues. I was having trouble focusing and not being open to the possibilities. Mindfulness really helped me during this time through mindfulness training. The mindfulness training really helped me understand better the stress and anxiety that the students were going through on a day to day basis,” Lucas said. 

Lucas believes that in this digital age, teens are facing a non-stop stream of information that is important to any other generation that came before them. 

“The average person has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Mindfulness is training the brain to have focused attention and increased emotional regulation,” Lucas said. 

According to Lucas, colleges like Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge all teach or research this practice. Oxford offers a master’s degree in Mindfulness. 

There are colleges that offer mindfulness training and companies also have created mindful rooms for their employees. 

Lucas uses the app Headspace for the meditation practices during mindful mornings. The Headspace app is run by co-founders Andy Puddicombe and Richard Pierson. 

A series of tragedies sent Puddicombe’s life into a different path which led to the advances of the Headspace app. 

As stated by the article from Inc.com meditation is now mainstream. In this article, service providers are part of the one point one billion industry of mindfulness and meditation training which makes up seven point four percent of the $15.1 billion alternative care market in the United States.  

In the United States, schools are just beginning to teach mindful meditation.

Research and studies, according to Lucas, have shown that regular, formal mindfulness practice develops the prefrontal cortex of the brain. 

“Mindfulness positively impacts functions such as regulating emotions, decision making and empathy and that it [mindfulness] decreases stress, depression and anxiety while increasing academic achievement, well-being, attention and happiness,” Lucas said.