Mindfulness + Music

Kindergarten students explore mindfulness through rhythmic percussion.

Working in partnership with colleagues Danielle Gorman is bringing mindfulness practice and music to Breakwater’s toddler through grade four students.

Danielle started teaching music almost 20 years ago when her daughter’s preschool sent out a notice in late fall saying their music classes would be ending because their music teacher was leaving. As someone who grew up in a family of musicians and teachers often known for singing in harmony in the car instead of listening to the radio, she thought maybe she could help out. This led to becoming an early childhood music education specialist and consultant throughout Maine, teaching everyone from infant/parent classes to training workshops for student teachers and classrooms teachers on using music as a educational tool. 

In 2011, while researching the needs of elementary school classrooms and how to expand her offerings to an older population, Danielle was struck by the profound challenges young people were having in maintaining focus, intention, and control of their bodies in a typical classroom. Further investigation indicated this was not a symptom of childhood. This was a product of our frenetic, over-stressed times. It became clear that these students needed mindfulness and yoga before they could actualize their best selves in the classroom.

Danielle spent the next four years studying mindfulness, yoga, and their therapeutic applications with children, adolescents, families, and teachers. In addition to teaching at Breakwater, Danielle has a private family practice as a mind/body therapist where she works with individuals and groups on the therapeutic applications of embodied mindfulness. She is one of the first fully certified yoga therapists through the International Association of Yoga Therapists in the state of Maine, and has joined the teaching faculty of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy School, one of the oldest in the country.

Danielle is now bringing mindfulness to all her students (toddlers - 4th grade) in addition to music. In the early childhood classrooms, she is currently in the process of developing a dual purpose mindfulness/general music curriculum, where the elements of internal awareness of emotional and physical states informs young students’ musical and creative movement expression, whether it is through the types of instruments used, the physical expression of the song, or the improvised lyrics students create. 

In the elementary grade levels, Danielle is partnering with Sari Lindauer to present weekly mindfulness lessons. These lessons have introduced students to using their breath as an focal anchor, cultivating heartfulness practices for themselves and others, and engaging in body scans to heighten their awareness of their experience within their entire physical being. This winter, Danielle will be offering an embodied mindfulness training course to faculty and staff.

Mindfulness practices are founded on the main principles of awareness, acceptance, and compassion. As we continue to live in a society that is often fraught with misunderstanding, fear, and divisiveness, intentionally cultivating these qualities in our young people is vital. Mindfulness cultivates a passionate curiosity for one’s internal experience. At Breakwater, students celebrate a curiosity for life, inside and out. 

Resources on research and benefits of mindfulness education: 
When Mindfulness Meets the Classroom - The Atlantic
In the Classroom, a New Focus on Quieting the Mind and Three Ways for Children to Try Meditation at Home both from the New York Times
An annotated bibliography of studies of mindfulness in education from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley