What do we all have in common? We breathe to live. When we were born, the first action we took was to breathe; this will also be the last thing we do.
How many of us take this automatic life-support action for granted?
Watching Sir David Attenborough’s programme, The Facts about Climate Change on the BBC, brought this awareness even more starkly into my consciousness. If we are to continue to flourish we must, at a personal and societal level, take action to halt our destruction of humanity and the natural world.
In founding the charity Values-based Education (VbE), I based its work on what I describe as the philosophy of Valuing: valuing self, others and the environment. These three aspects work together to create a sustainable, harmonious world, where we can all thrive, breathe clean air and nourish life on Earth.
Recently, I was watching a news item about a London school that had built a tall ‘breathing’ wall, covered in beautiful plants, to separate its playground from a nearby busy, highly polluted road. The news item was stressing how much air pollution the children were inhaling as they innocently played during break times.
I would like to suggest that raising the profile of the importance of breathing clean air might be an important way to galvanise action for measures to combat climate change. My wife Jane wears a T shirt with the word breathe on its front in beautiful silver writing. Perhaps this summer we should follow her example, thereby reminding each other of two important principles.
First, that we all should be able to breathe clean air wherever we are. Second, that each of us needs to learn how to breathe! Yes, I did write learn to breathe. This is because I am a people watcher; as I sit observing pupils in schools, I find myself wondering if they are being taught how to use the full capacity of their lungs. If they were, then there would be some amazing results!
Neuroscience teaches us that we can self-regulate our emotional responses, if we are conscious about using deep breathing to help us. Values aware teachers explain to children that when they are getting near to that point of “losing it” and behaving inappropriately, they should pause and close their eyes, breathing deeply. The emotion will then begin to subside and they regain control of themselves. Such a simple technique such as concentrating on your breathing can make more complex behaviour management routines redundant.
As we focus on our breath, we begin to access our innate inner peacefulness. When we have this awareness, we elevate our consciousness to a wider and deeper knowledge of our self and our needs, to the essence of others and the global perspective. Ultimately we gain clarity on what our amazing planet needs to survive.
Please let me know if you are interested in teaching children how to breathe in a systematic way. Also, to aid their breathing, please show the children how to sit comfortably with straight backs; remembering to give them regular opportunities to move their bodies. A breath aware classroom will enhance breathing; posture and help children and their families understand why we all need to take appropriate actions to stem climate change.
Please contact me if you would like to find our more about this aspect of what Jane, and I have termed The Inner Curriculum.
You can email using this address: Neil.Hawkes@valuesbasededucation.com