Stillness in Classrooms

Meditation education is having a real and positive impact on student learning and their wellbeing, writes the University of Melbourne’s Professor Lea Waters
Still waters … meditation is a way to help students enrich their education.

Imagine if we taught stillness in class

In our warp-speed world, stillness is a rare experience.

Parents are working longer hours and children’s lives are fully timetabled. Being “busy” has become the new social currency. It carries status. People marvel at those who are busy. The greeting “hello” has been replaced with the question “keeping busy?” It seems if you’re not busy, you’re not important.

Our addiction to being busy is having a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of children and teenagers. One in four young Australians experience symptoms of mental illness and mental illness accounts for over 50% of ill-heath statistics in 15-25 year olds. Children have forgotten how to be still. Their hearts, minds and bodies are always racing. What would happen if we taught stillness in schools and how do we go about doing this?

What would happen if we taught stillness in schools and how do we go about doing this?
Meditation education is proving to be an effective way to teach stillness in schools and is having a real and positive impact on student learning and wellbeing. The act of slowing down provides students with the opportunity to observe and understand how they think and feel. This enriches traditional academic education by showing students how they think and not just what to think.

Meditation is on the rise with schools bringing it into classes, sports fields, exam preparation, choir, school drama productions, school camps and academic learning. Meditation is the deliberate act of regulating our attention through observing our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.

It can conjure up images of a yogi sitting in the lotus position chanting, but there are a wide variety of secular meditation practices that teach students how to focus their attention.

Self-observation exercises can be as simple as sitting, walking, eating, listening and learning with full attention.

Mindfulness-meditation is one for the more popular practices being taught at schools and involves a three-step mental process where students are asked to 1) focus their attention on a particular object (e.g. their own breathing), 2) notice when their attention has wandered away from the object and 3) bring their attention back to the attentional object.

Students engage in this practice with a stance of non-judgment and open curiosity which allows them to identify patterns in their thoughts and feelings, leading to a clearer mind and a more peaceful heart.

Groundbreaking research on meditation in schools is bringing together the three fields of psychology, education and neuroscience.

I led a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne who recently conducted a meta-review of meditation education that included 15 studies combining almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, United Kingdom, United States, and Taiwan.

The results showed that meditation is beneficial in the majority of cases and led to higher optimism, positive emotion, self-concept, self-care and self-acceptance as well as reduced anxiety, stress, and depression in students. Meditation was also associated with faster information processing, greater attentional focus, working memory, creativity and cognitive flexibility.

The meditation programs that were the most effective were those that encouraged regular practice, those that went for a term or longer and those that were delivered by teachers (as compared to an external meditation instructor).

Our addiction to being busy is having a detrimental impact on children and teenagers, says Professor Lea Waters.

The meta-review found a strong case for infusing meditating into the culture of schools and making it a core part of teacher training. Schools can investigate the many youth-meditation programs that have been developed in countries such as Australia (Mindcapsules), Canada (Mindful Education), India (The Alice Project), Israel (The Mindfulness Language), United Kingdom (Mindfulness in Schools Project, DotB), and United States of America (Mindful Schools, MindUp, Learning to Breathe).

The idea of learning being supported by stillness and focused attention is an attractive and practical prospect for education and it is no surprise that meditation education is on the rise as a way to care for both the minds and hearts of our students and to provide some much needed down-time in a young person’s day.

Professor Lea Waters is Director of the Centre for Positive Psychology and Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne

Ronald Hamilton Bates and his sister Jean

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Jean Marion Loneragan nee Bates

A wonderful Person & Pianist –  Rest in Peace


Ron and Jean’s mother was Lola May Bates.

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We knew that all three of them had Urn places at the cemetery near Sutherland Station. We had gone to the chapel of that cemetery for Ron’s funeral service. We had talked Gaby into coming with us for the funeral. She reluctantly agreed. She apparently did not want to be reminded of anyone dying. This was in May 1997. Jean was at Ron’s funeral of course. She already lived in a Nursing Home at the time and looked very frail. We thought she would not live much longer. However she lived quite a few more years. We only heard about her death after her funeral in 2002. I think Gaby was able to tell us eventually about  Jean having died,  for Gaby had contact with people who had contact with Jean. So then we decided to have a look to find their urn places at the cemetery. In the cemetery’s office we were advised about the exact location. It turned out there were memorial stones of all three of them in the rose garden.

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These records are at the State Library of NSW. It says in the records amongst other things the following:

“Jean Marion Bates was a granddaughter of Daisy Bates”

“Includes birth and marriage certificates for Lola May Bates, nee Davidson, her daughter Jean Marion Bates, 1916, and a certificate of an entry in Register of Marriages, Arnold Hamilton Bates to Lola May Davidson, 1913. A newscutting announces the marriage of Jean Bates to Frank Loneragan. A letter from Lola May Bates to Ronald Bates, 1966”

I remember Ron telling us that he once went to Adelaide when his grandmother, Daisy, was in her eighties. He tried to talk to her, but he got the impression that she was not quite aware who he really was. He said he felt he could not communicate with her properly. Apparently he left it too late to see her.

Here is something about the Bates family that I must have copied from a newspaper article many years ago. Sorry, I have no idea which newspaper it might have been in:


Peter recently published in his blog some of the drawings that Ron Bates liked to do on little cards:

I found in the meantime quite a few more of these cards that Ron had given to Gaby. We kept all these cards after Gaby’s death. Peter reckons they belong to us now. He says if we publish them we have to say that we copy-rights.

But here I publish one card that Jean and Ron gave us on the 5th of April 1986 at Sydney Airport on the occasion of our departure for a trip to Germany.


In the middle of the photo is Jean. Sydney Airport 5.4.86
In the middle of the photo is Jean.
Sydney Airport 5.4.86
Daughter Monika with her twins Ryan and Troy had come to the airport too. Caroline on the right 5.4.86
Daughter Monika with her twins Ryan and Troy had come to the airport too. Caroline on the right 5.4.86
Ron Bates is in the middle of the photo. Probably Caroline took the picture. Sydney Airport 5.4.86
Ron Bates is in the middle of the photo. Probably Caroline took the picture.
Sydney Airport 5.4.86

Pictures from September 2006



According to the photos we went by train to Parramatta on the 27th of September 2006. Herta was with us. And in Parramatta we met Gaby. I had completely forgotten that we had done this excursion with Herta to see Gaby and go with Gaby and Herta on a Ferry trip to Sydney Circular Quay.
The above picture shows the Parramatta River. The Parramatta Ferry stop is only a little bit further on.

First now here are a few pictures Peter took soon after we met Gaby in Parramatta.

Here we are with Herta, our Dutch friend from Melbourne.
Here we are with Herta, our Dutch friend from Melbourne.






We are on the Ferry-Boat.
We are on the Ferry-Boat.
Peter took more and more pictures from the boat.
Peter took more and more pictures from the boat.


Gadsville Bridge
Gladsville Bridge



Sydney Harbour Bridge Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House





Gaby arrives in her wheelchair at Circular Quay.
Gaby arrives in her wheelchair at Circular Quay.
We have arrived at Circular Quay/
We have arrived at Circular Quay.


I am very grateful to Peter for finding these pictures and letting me publish them. Yesterday was our monthly meeting with the ladies from our complex. This time the meeting was at Irene’s place. I wore the same outfit to the meeting that can be seen here in the photos from 2006. This actually means, the outfit is maybe ten years old! But it really is still in good condition. Even daughter Caroline did not object when I did not want to discard it yet. I told her, I love wearing it. And so I wore it yesterday. I was thrilled today to find out from Peter’s photos for how long I have actually had this item in my wardrobe!

Life as it is in Old Age

The above blog by ‘shakeclouds’ inspired me to do a bit of thinking about my life in old age. This is why I wrote a comment to shakecloud’s  blog. His question was whether we really need to become a better version of ourselves. Here now is a copy of  my comment:

For my age I am in comparatively good health still, and I am grateful for this and love every day that I can spend in a way I like to spend it. Sometimes I get impatient with myself because my aging body demands that I do things slower and slower.  It is no wonder, that I am always running out of time to do all the things I have been meaning to do! Some things always have priority, like spending time with a large extended family, particularly on various special occasions; keeping up regular meetings with my friends; seeking medical advice or dental treatments when needed; going on excursions with Peter, my husband, sharing with Peter doing shopping, cooking, maintaining house and yard in an acceptable condition or at least in as good a condition as it is possible for us to manage. I think since both Peter and I are at an age where we reasonable can expect to live only maybe five or ten more years, we do indeed appreciate that bit of time that is left to us probably much more than when we were younger! By the way, so far Peter’s health also is also quite good still. I think, we are more lucky than people with a lot of money but who maybe are not very healthy anymore.

There is one goal I have set for myself and unfortunately not been able to do much about yet: That is getting rid of accumulated clutter! I am still hopeful, that one of these days I might manage to get rid of at least some of the clutter. Last but not least, being able to do things on the computer I find rewarding and also  relaxing.

I want to point out here that shakeclouds (Enrico) chooses subjects to write about in his blogs that I find very interesting.

Why eat Organic Food?

just came across the above article in The Guardian. What I find quite baffling is the following:

” . . .   Of the “conventional” non-organic food we eat, 46% contains residues of one or more pesticide, and levels are going up dramatically, not down: in 2003 the equivalent figure was just 25%. Consumers are assured that farmers and growers take human health protection very seriously, but the truth of the matter is that the National Farmers Union and chemical companies militantly defend their pesticide armoury in the face of any government attempt to restrict it . . . .”

” .  .  .  Can you afford organic? The annoying thing is that because the true environmental and health costs of chemical agriculture (pollution, soil erosion, ill health, animal suffering and more) are “externalised” , that is, not accounted for up front in calculations of the “efficiency” of our existing food system, organic food generally costs more. But choosing organic whenever you can nevertheless makes good sense. . .  .  ”


I ask myself: Can I afford organic? Peter and I buy food on a weekly basis with a certain amount of money. If we cannot increase this amount, I guess we just have to eat a bit less of everything to make the money last to buy only organic food! Some products in supermarkets are labelled ‘organic’. I have to check, how these products compare in price. How much more do organic products actually cost? 

I found this in

Over recent years levels of pesticide residues in our food have been steadily
increasing, and as much as 40% of the food we eat contains them. Residues found
in several fruit categories exceeded Government limits. A number of the most widely
used are highly toxic and have been linked with developmental defects, cancers
and other disorders. . . . “

Uta’s Diary, October 2015 (cont.)

October is rapidly coming to an end. The last day of October is going to be in nine days. This is when grandson Ryan is getting married to Ebony. The whole family will be present for the wedding in Wollongong. Hopefully I will be able to take a few pictures. I do have a new camera now. Yesterday I took the first pictures with it. I quite like this new camera and I believe that eventually I will be able to get used to it. It is very similar to my old camera. However some things are a bit different, for instance how to transfer the pictures.

This is a trial picture from the first day when I had the camera.
This is a trial picture from the first day when I had the camera.

We had to go to Sydney yesterday. This is when I tried to take some pictures on the train.


Peter occupying himself with Suduko.
Peter occupying himself with Sudoku.

Both Peter and I went for some more treatment by the Dental Hygienist at Sydney Holistic Dental Centre. Before we went back home on the train we had a bit of food at the food-hall in the Pitt Street Mall. We also bought some beautiful fresh rye bread and cake from the Lüneburger Baker in the Queen Victoria Building.

These steps lead down into the food-hall where we were sitting.
These steps lead down into the food-hall where we were sitting.



Uta’s Diary, October 2015


A week ago on Tuesday Peter said he had to clean out the gutters that go along the sides of the house. After having previously cleaned out the gutters along the back of the house – – he felt confident he would be able to do the same with the gutters on the sides. A bit of a challenge was the shed on the one side of the house. But I think what he could not reach from standing on the ladder, he was able to hose off finally. It was good that he was able to use plenty of water for this.




After Peter finished with this side of the house, we had a little tea-break. It was an overcast morning again. Just as well, that it did not get very hot and Peter had no trouble finishing off the other side that still needed doing. Luckily at the front of the house the gutters seemed to be fairly clean still for there are no huge trees reaching over the front of the house.



The high grass on this side of the house has been trimmed recently!
The high grass on this side of the house has been trimmed recently!

Peter asked our body co-operative gardener the other day whether he could cut our grass. He did it in no time at all and asked only 20 Dollars for it. In the meantime Peter was able to cut the regrowth with his push-mover.




The following day, Wednesday, was Croom Oval time again. Here are still a few pictures I took on that day last week:

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On the way home
On the way home