In our first grove of the summer, the entire camp community is asked to enjoy the beauty of the pine grove. We are instructed to smell the unique pine scent wafting in the air and listen to the sounds from the grove and the lake. Everyone is invited to lie back and look up at the towering pines and appreciate their longevity at camp as they sway in the gentle breeze. No one talks and campers and staff alike take the precious time to immerse themselves in their surroundings and grapple with understanding their place in it.
It has been about four months since the end of camp and for many of our campers that means juggling busy schedules with school and various extracurricular activities. It means being tied to technology, understanding social circles and bustling from here to there. For parents, it means helping our children find balance in their lives. Mindfulness practices are tools being adopted by organizations such as schools and families to achieve such balance and harmony. Camp, on the other hand, had been sharing mindfulness practices for some time.
Mindfulness is the act of being present, fully aware of the moment in a nonjudgmental way. It is being aware of one’s place both physically and emotionally at any given time and recognizing and appreciating those feelings as uniquely yours. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehearsing the past or imagining the future. It is engrained in camp life to appreciate the moment. For the camp community, this awareness or mindfulness happens from the shear simplicity embodied at camp.
The benefits of adopting mindful behaviors are numerous. Studies cite improvements in physical health, increased self-awareness, improved concentration and healthier emotional states. They also indicate decreased amounts of stress and anxiety.
There are many ways in which you can develop and practice mindfulness. Kristen Race and Sylvia Pique identify three simple practices to make lasting changes in your brain and in your life. These include the general categories of mindful breathing, mindful listening, and paying attention to emotions. How this looks for each child will be different. It may be a discussion of the day in which the child shares a highlight and a low light. It may be practicing belly breathing in which a child focuses on their breath sinking into their belly. Or it may be dulling all senses except hearing to appreciate the sounds around us.
Many people know the value of, living in the moment; we also know that this can be a challenge. As we all begin to immerse ourselves in life outside of camp, I invite you to imagine what it was like on that warm Sunday in grove in which you felt the sun on your face, smelt the strong pine, listen to the sounds from the lake and saw the contrast of green pines swaying against a blue background. The natural environment of camp lends to mindful practices but I challenge everyone to adopt these practices into their everyday life.
Rachel Kelly, Intermediate Unit Director and Program Development Coordinator