Creative Mindfulness: Using Visual Art to Cultivate Zen in the Classroom

2 Min Read  •  Arts Integration

What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment- our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement. When we are mindful, we live in the moment, we are awakened to new experiences, and we learn acceptance. We learn to let go of the failures of the past and the worries of the future, creating space for the present moment.

  • Encourage students to focus on the feeling of the pencil/brush/materials in our hands. Is the grip loose or tight? Where does the tool rest in your hand? Can you bring some relaxation into the grip while still keeping control of the tool?
  • Urge students to notice the sensation of paint on a canvas, chalk on a piece of paper. How does it feel to connect paint to a surface? Chalk? Pencil? Crayon? What does the surface feel like? Canvas? Paper? Mixed media? Does your hand brush the surface as you work?
  • How does the rest of your body react while you work? Do your shoulders tense up? Do you clench your jaw? Do you furrow your brow? Do you hold your breath? If you find this kind of tension creeping in, how can you begin to relax it?

When we begin to bring awareness to our everyday activities, we can practice connecting with what’s going on internally and make slow, subtle shifts in how we react to our own internal stimuli. Visual art is such a natural place to practice this- in work that is creative, expressive, individual, and allows for reflection. Try introducing some simple mindfulness questions or challenges to your students this month, and tune in next month for specific visual arts strategies and activities for cultivating mindfulness!


The Zen Teacher: Creating Focus, Simplicity, and Tranquility in the Classroom (by Dan Tricarico)

Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing: A Creative Path to Awareness (by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh)

Stop Look Breathe Create (by Wendy Ann Greenhalgh, to be released on July 3, 2017)

Paint Yourself Calm: Colourful, Creative Mindfulness Through Watercolour (by Jean Haines)

Check out Team Grundler’s 2016 article, Back to Zen with Dan Tricarico, for tips on becoming a zen teacher.