Theatre and Mindfulness

This month in the UK there is a focus on wellbeing and mental health, which of course links to mindfulness, which is what many schools are embracing as part of their Advisory programmes. Soon I am going to be running a workshop in my local community on wellbeing and creativity, so I have been reading up about creative mindfulness.

The blog this month is going to share some mindfulness exercises that you can try out with your students, but I am going to link them to drama activities and theatre skills, so that you can weave them into your classes without your students even noticing. I hope that these will help to bring some positive energy, calm, creativity and wellness into your classroom.

Before I get onto some specific activities, I am just going to outline the ground rules for mindfulness, as seen in ‘I am here now’ by The Mindfulness Project (Ebury Press) which will link to the activities to follow:

  1. Here now – be in the moment, don’t let your thoughts wander and bring yourself in the the present with breathing exercises, focus on sounds and centring the body.
  2. Non-judging – pay attention to the judgements your mind makes. Acknowledge them and then let them go.
  3. Patience – be aware that your mind jumps about and you want to move on. Be patient with the wandering nature of you mind and treat it as a playful puppy that needs to learn how to sit.
  4. Be kind to yourself – be gentle and treat yourself with kindness. Just like you would comfort a friend in need, treat yourself with the same compassion when you have painful thoughts or emotions.
  5. Acceptance – accept the way things are at this moment, and be aware that they can change and be changed.
  6. Letting go – practice letting go of ideas and wanting things to be a certain way. Be aware of how your body feels when you hold onto things or idea versus letting them go.
  7. Non-striving – mindfulness is not about solving problems or changing ourselves, don’t let this wanting to be different be an obstacle. Be yourself and learn to accept the here and now/
  8. Commitment – mindfulness is a practice we can take into all parts of our lives. Commit to making it a way of living and being.

Exercises

Breathing – living in the moment

Instructions: Take a few normal breaths in and out followed by some deeper breaths. Breathing deeply and slowly, be aware where you feel the breath and tick the ones below that apply:

Chest Belly Ribcage Nose Mouth Throat

Other: _______________________________________________

Drama application: Close your eyes and breathe in slowly. As you breathe out make a sound. With each out breath focus on a different part of the body, from the top of the head down to your toes. Develop this into character voice.

Ideas taken from ‘I am here now’ by The Mindfulness Project (Ebury Press) pp 26-7

Location – Finding a safe place to ‘be’

Instructions: Imagine the perfect place where you can be still, quiet and calm. This is a place where you can give yourself head space, write your journal and be creative.

Make a plan – make a list – make it happen

Potential locations: local park, living room, corner of the bedroom

Comfort: cushions, blanket, rug, incense

Tools: coloured pens, paints, paper, notebook

Inspiration: music, candles, postcards, fabric

Drama application: Choose a location in the room which is your safe place. Go there and see how you feel. On the signal run from this space into the room and be exposed and vulnerable. Return to your safe place and start to imagine details about the two places. Put the places in a context with a character and their backstory. Base your ideas on a play or novel you are studying or create something original. What objects would they have in their place? Build your ideas into a scene that uses the space and the objects.

Ideas taken from ‘I am here now’ by The Mindfulness Project (Ebury Press) p48

It’s a zoo in here – what is your zoo?

If your mind were an animal, which animal would it be?

  1. A monkey, wildly swinging from tree to tree?
  2. A giraffe, peacefully surveying the scene?
  3. A penguin, cheerfully hanging out in the cold?
  4. A camel, slowly making its way through the day?
  5. An ostrich, hightailing it around?
  6. A tiger, prowling around for trouble?

Drama application: Develop the characteristics of the animals into movement and voice of original characters you can use in your own devising. Use the essence of the animal characters to add another layer to your Commedia characters. Draw the through line of action of a character you are playing or directing in a play and identify the multiple animals they become during their journey.

Ideas taken from ‘I am here now’ by The Mindfulness Project (Ebury Press) p94

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