ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Violaine Gueritault, Ph.D. Psychologist, teaches meditation and how to live in the present moment to teachers in Marblehead schools. The teachers, in turn, will teach these things to students.
BY MICHELLE DURGIN
MARBLEHEAD — It’s called mindfulness and the new Marblehead High School program has taught teacher Karen Gourey Lehman “to chill out and not be impulsive in dealing with life issues.”
“I have changed in the way I respond to situations because of this program,” Gourey Lehman said.
Making that change has meant embracing a program, introduced locally this year, called Mindfulness Based Stress Management. It embraces breathing methods, imagery and other stress management practices to help relax the body and mind and reduce stress.
Local teachers are learning the basics of Mindfulness Meditation with the goal of opening a school Zen room and training teachers to offer guided meditation to students who choose to participate.
Workshop facilitator Violaine Gueritault said Mindfulness Meditation is much more than just a nice way to relax.
“It is meditation with a purpose. This is more like having a very powerful microscope helping you zoom into your own thought patterns and being fully present in the moment. It is a way of reprogramming how we respond to things,” she said.
She pointed out that there are opportunities throughout the day to incorporate small moments of silence that could be used to ground and reconnect with yourself like waiting for a computer to start up, or walking to class, or waiting in line — all opportunities, Gueritault said — to take “mini breathing spaces.”
Teachers are seven weeks into the training program and some have expressed the positive influence the program has had in their own lives.
“I have learned that this is a way to help us be present in the moment, and my hope is that this will encourage students to become present in the moment as well, and as a result, more available for learning,” said middle school inclusion teacher Deb Antonucci.
Gueritault hopes participants will learn how to find balance and turn negative reactions into opportunities for self growth. Students can learn how to overcome stress and learn to focus and nourish themselves at the deepest level through moments of silence in order to reconnect.
The high school’s freshmen and juniors have already participated in a voluntary three week- one-hour-a-week workshop held during study hall. The sophomores and seniors will be able to participate in the same program after the new year.