An interview with Julie Paquette
Julie Paquette is the founder of Ignite Their Souls – Children’s Meditation Classes, an educator and a mom of two beautiful daughters, ages 6 and 7. She is originally from Sudbury, Ontario but is currently living in Ottawa, Ontario. Painting is a big part of her life. “To have a blank canvas in front of me excites me. To pour your heart and soul on a canvas, makes me feel alive, quenching my need to create, while feeling relaxed, wrapped up in the moment and so very zen. Painting is being in my element.” She also enjoys reading, camping, making natural products, and hiking. Spending time in nature is her reset.
Tell us about the purpose of “Ignite Their Souls – Children’s Meditation Classes”.
Ignite their souls has one purpose. To help children calm their mind. Once we know how to do this simple, yet very complicated thing, we then hold the key, to a well rounded life. Being able to turn your brain off and on when we want too, is an incredible strength I wish to develop in the children I teach.
What is meditation? And is there a best time of day to meditate?
Most people who try meditation for the first time have a very specific goal; typically to reduce stress and help calm the mind. It’s a very beautiful tool for turning your brain off. Meditation is helpful and life changing in so many ways. It helps calm your mind, body and soul. It helps you find a great balance with life, a greater sense of self, a deeper understanding of life, more compassion towards people and situations. It helped me see the bigger picture, instead of stand alone situations. It helped me develop my spirituality and trust in a higher power.
If you ask someone the best time to meditate, they may say that it is helpful to meditate early in the morning or late at night because the world is quieter at these times. It may help that you’re well rested. While things are relatively quiet, and before stressful thoughts and/or situations come rushing in. It helps start your day off peacefully. You likely have less meetings, calls, emails and such at this time. But if you ask me, and if my opinion matters, the best time to meditate is right now. All we have is this moment. Once you shift your perception to the present moment you want to sit fully in peace and enjoy the right here, right now.
Why do you think meditation should be a part of the curriculum and implemented in schools?
A very recent study was done on the impact of meditation in schools. They combined the results from 15 studies and almost 1800 students from Australia, Canada, India, the UK, the US and Taiwan. This research showed meditation is beneficial and led to three broad outcomes for students: higher sense of well-being, better social skills and greater academic skills.
Students who were taught meditation at school reported higher optimism, more positive emotions, stronger self-identity, greater self-acceptance and took better care of their health as well as experiencing reduced anxiety, stress and depression. This was compared to before the meditation programs and compared to peers who were not taught meditation.
Imagine learning all this from a very young age. Tools for their tool box of life. Things they can use when life throws them curveballs (and it will!) We would be raising self regulating, well balanced children that are equipped for stressful events and better prepared for real life.
What are the top 5 benefits of student meditation?
It is very hard for me to identify only 5 benefits, since they are endless! But in my opinion the top 5 benefits would be the following:
- Patience: In our fast paced, instant gratification world we live in, it’s easy to get distracted so meditation helps teach us patience so it comes more naturally to us when we may need it most.
- Focus/productivity: Unhealthy thoughts, negative emotions, interruptions, distractions. Mindfulness helps us identify them without getting too caught up in them. We can recognize them and then let them go.
- Increased compassion: Suspending judgement of others and of self and bringing back our awareness to the present moment. By practising we broaden our compassion for others and for ourselves.
- Body awareness: Often we get distracted or too busy to recognize what our body is feeling or trying to tell us. With mindful awareness we can listen to our needs then tune into repair mode so we can be healthier, and mindful people.
- Less stress/anxiety: Meditation can also reduce the areas of anxiety, chronic pain, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Are the benefits of meditation different from those from colouring mandalas, a moment of silence or quiet reading time implemented in classrooms?
They all have great benefits. Many studies have shown that the geometric circles known as mandalas can be particularly beneficial over other types of drawings. It can be quite relaxing to the mind to dive into something mindless, all while being expressive and creative. Click here for free mandala colouring pages.
Taking a moment of silence and 5 deep breaths are incredibly helpful in resetting your mindset, reaching a state of relaxation, releasing any tension and stimulating your vagus nerve.
These moments I call them ‘resets’ or ‘turning your brain off’.
Will meditation make students too relaxed or spaced out to succeed at school?
In fact, it is well known that children who practice meditation will have better concentration, and emotional and psychological resilience. This will not only reflect in their everyday life, interaction with peers and adults but will also dissipate into their school work and grades. Mentally healthy kids, become mentally healthy adults.
For the students that would love to continue practicing meditation at home, how do you recommend they do so?
Meditation can take on different forms and meanings. Essentially the takeaway here is to allow yourself alone time. Showing up for yourself and making time to just sit with yourself, your emotions and your thoughts. Not judging them. Be patient with yourself. Be kind with yourself. Give yourself the gift of calmness. Start with a few minutes of silence, just noticing your breath. Checking in with different parts of your body, noticing where there’s pain, discomfort…. Start progressively adding time with your level of comfort. There are also many apps and guided meditations online that can be very helpful in guiding new students in meditations!
Do your daughters participate in your meditation classes?
Yes, they come with me to every class. They were introduced to meditation for quite some time now. They’ve been practising with myself and their dad, every night before bed. Although they can sit in silence now for over 30 minutes, we prefer to do guided meditations and take them on an adventure. It’s also done wonders for their imagination!
Julie’s favourite quote is: “One day your life will flash before your eyes, make sure it’s worth watching”. – Gerard Way
This means the world to me. If we live everyday, being present. Living in the now. Being aware that all we have to do is live right now. It will eliminate the need to feel productive.
Follow Ignite Their Souls – Children’s Meditation Classes on Facebook or contact Julie for more meditation ideas, lessons, class information via telephone: (613) 882-4471 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The children’s meditation classes are available in both French and English.
Thank you Julie!
Founder of Mind Growth Education