Pine Nuts: Mindfulness: what a novel idea |

Pine Nuts: Mindfulness: what a novel idea

The Brits are onto something. Mindfulness.

It’s a promising pilot program in elementary schools, and the kids are responding. So what is Mindfulness? It’s a first line of defense against the anxiety and depression that is becoming more and more prevalent amongst our youthful adherents to screens and social media.

Teachers are coaching breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to help control emotions and enhance wellbeing. What a novel idea.

Mental disorder is on the rise. It’s time to start teaching mental health in the schools, and the Brits have got the jump on everybody.

… shout-out to Mark Twain for giving us Huckleberry Finn, an early attempt at teaching Mindfulness away back in 1885.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as mental health when I was in elementary school. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go off my rocker and end up in the insane asylum in Napa. I sometimes threatened my little brother with, “If you don’t stop doing that Dad is going to send you to Napa!” I guess he feared Napa too, because he stopped doing whatever it was he was doing.

I had no clue that wellbeing was something that needed to be safeguarded, or that contentment was a condition to be learned and earned. We spent so much time playing games and sports outdoors that happiness was our constant companion, and depression was an unknown thing. Our society was slow moving and it was easy to find comfort in the space afforded you within that society. Life was slow and easy, and mostly cheerful. Those days are gone.

I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker recently that spoke volumes. Two teenage girls are engrossed in their smartphones, side by side, and one of them proffers, “I just want to be sure he’s the right one, the first time I … make eye contact.”

For the older, more subdued crowd I guess there is speed-dating. I have no idea how that works, but I’m told it amounts to getting to know someone in the time it takes to down a beer in one draught. It occurs to me that marrying someone you meet on a speed date could very well end with a quickie annulment in a drive-through divorce court.

Today’s society moves too fast for me to even hang onto a running board, so I bide my time in the 19th century, where I feel at home and comfortable. From my 19th century crow’s nest, I can see the necessity and the inherent benefits of teaching Mindfulness in the schools. Mental health starts at home and cannot be ignored when that child is exposed to bullying and high-pressure exams in the classroom.

I still travel in the schools as Mark Twain and love Huckleberry all the more today, as his sound heart proves again and again to be a safer guide than his ill-trained conscience. I’ll close here with a shout-out to Mark Twain for giving us Huckleberry Finn, an early attempt at teaching Mindfulness away back in 1885.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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