Heart-Mind 2013: Helping Children Thrive

Haven Core Faculty member Denise Goldbeck recently attended the Heart-Mind 2013 conference organized by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. Here are her reflections on that event.

The Old Auditorium resonated with the most beautiful angelic voices. We all froze and stopped breathing as if something we might do would somehow stop the gorgeous sounds. Young angels from the McGee school choir were on stage singing. Once they finished singing they began to tell us about the experience of being in the choir. It is like a family, they said. We all help each other. They shared their ritual greetings and showed us how they function as a group. Being in the choir isn’t just about singing. It’s about learning to care for one another. It’s about noticing when one of the members needs support and compassionately providing it. The voices were angelic because the choir members were living angelic lives.

Choir master Greg Quan has created this miraculous container for the young people and they have enthusiastically filled it with their spirit and heart. I felt close to Greg as he told us that he didn’t expect these choir members to become professional musicians. Few would continue with music in any meaningful way. Yet their experience in the choir would provide them with the confidence and self-awareness to support them in whatever they chose to do.

Here is a link where you can learn more about the choir and you can actually hear them!

How did I get to be in one of the chairs in the Old Auditorium attending the Dalai Lama Center’s Heart-Mind 2013 Conference? I had heard of the conference and wanted very much to go. However, I had booked that time off to escort a young client to a Come Alive. That plan did not go ahead, so I was looking once again at attending the conference, when I was offered the opportunity to attend as a representative from The Haven. I am very grateful to the Dalai Lama Center for offering me this chance to attend a conference that couldn’t be closer to my heart. The conference focused on children so I was in heaven! Also I learned many things that I want to bring to my work at The Haven.

A key feature of the conference was an exploration of Goldie Hawn’s program MindUp. This is a program that trains teachers to teach mindfulness to children, even children as young as 5 years old. Through the mindfulness training and small amounts of practice time, proven measurable benefits for children are manifold. Children’s happiness measures increase, their grades improve, and behaviour problems decrease in numbers and intensity. The teachers also report benefits for themselves. They are calmer, more focused and happier.

One of the strongest messages that came across as speaker after speaker graced us with their thoughtful perspectives, was that self-care is primary. Cliff Sauron who delivered the most scientific paper started his talk with the words: ‘Put the mask on yourself first’. Airplane wisdom. Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on the child, became a running theme. At the end of the conference, many people reported that the reminder to address self-care was a blessing for them.

Three brain breaks per day are encouraged by Adele Diamond. Her matter of fact way of dealing with emotion, mindfulness and cognition has given birth to a new science – developmental cognitive neuroscience. She is an amazing person with a clear understanding of development and heart.

Kim Schonert-Reichl has created a partnership with the Vancouver School Board through Lisa Padrini. Together they have spearheaded several ground-breaking studies that help children and people who work with children everywhere. Inspirations from Kim included her tips on how to talk to teens about their changing brains. Mindfulness can be very useful in this context. Kim encourages us to teach teens mindfulness to help them not to become too attached to their thought or emotions. While the brain is pruning and attempting to establish well-worn pathways, it may not function reliably. A mindfulness practice can support a teen to feel safe and sound in his or her own mind.

Paul Tough talked to us about stress and children. Stress is on the increase for youngsters and adolescents. He decided to look at protective factors and found that the secret weapon against harmful stress in children is a high degree of parental attunement. Parental attunement is something that can be improved through psycho-education, so his findings were heartening.

Overall the conference was inspirational. People were beaming, crying, hugging. We were shedding our discouragement and donning heart. I was ennobled by the experience. There were many take away messages, but the one that I want to share with you, dear reader, is: “If you want others to be happy – try compassion. If you want to be happy – try compassion.” Dalai Lama.

Here is a link to the Dalai Lama center website.

On the first page there is a video of the conference highlights that conveys the feeling of the event.

Here is a link for further reading.

Thank you, Denise Goldbeck

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