Explain that we’ll start the new year, 2019, with some deep breathing. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to our brain. It can lower our blood pressure and heart rate and can help create a sense of calm and quiet in our often busy and stressful lives.
Instruct students to take a few deep breaths as follows:
- Breathing in … slowly … deeply … calmly … and out again … slowly … calmly … all the way …
- Repeat two or three times … slowly … deeply … calmly.
Next, ask students to scan their bodies and notice if they’re holding any stress, tension, or tightness anywhere.
- On the next in-breath, invite students to breathe into that tension … slowly .. deeply … calmly … then on the outbreath, try to let go of it … slowly … calmly … letting go …
- Repeat by once again breathing into any tension they might be holding … and on the outbreath, releasing as much of it as possible ….
- One more time, breathing into whatever tension is left … then letting go of it on the outbreath … all the way.
If students are new to mindful breathing and contemplative practices, you may leave it at this. If students are able to stay with it, consider letting them sit with the practice for a bit longer, continuing the breathing into the tension and letting go of it on the outbreath, while sitting in silence.
Say something about 2018 having been a challenging and tense year for many. Some of these practices can help us start 2019 on a different note.
Explain that today we’ll spend some time reflecting on the year on a personal level and on a broader community level.
Our Year in Review
Invite students to think back over their 2018. Send a talking piece around several times, asking students to share their responses to some or all of the following prompts:
- What has been a highlight for you over the past year?
- What was a challenge you faced this past year? And/or: What was a challenge you overcame this past year?
- What was something you learned in 2018? And/or: Who did you learn from in 2018? Explain.
- What is one thing you wish you could have done differently in 2018? And/or: What is something you would like a “redo” on?
- Share any connections or reflections you’d like based on what others shared in these go rounds.
2018 in the News
Invite students next to zoom out and think back over what happened in their community, country, and/or world in 2018. Send the talking piece around several times, asking students to share on some or all of the following prompts:
- One story from your larger community or in the news that touched you.
- One story from your larger community or in the news that surprised you.
- One story from your larger community or in the news that upset you.
- One story from your larger community or in the news that gave you hope.
If your students need a jumping off point for this review of the year’s events, consider showing the following video from Time. Tell students that this 4-minute video may remind us of events that affected us this past year. It provides a quick review of just a few of the year’s developments and includes a range of perspectives that we may or may not share. It is meant to jog our memory, if needed.
Time video: http://time.com/5485865/2018-year-in-review/
Based on the video and other stories students have followed or heard about in 2018, send a talking piece around several times, asking participants to share their responses to one or all of the following:
- One story in the news that touched you.
- One story in the news that surprised you.
- One story in the news that upset you.
- One story in the news that gives you hope.
- One person who stood out for you in the news in 2018.
According to the video: “If there’s anything we learned from 2018, it’s that the ones who make the greatest change are sometimes the ones you least expect.”
- What did you notice about the people who were shown in the video at this point? Why might they have been the ones Time least expected to make change? How do you feel about that? How do you feel about these people?
Based on today’s circle, what is one thing you’ll start doing, stop doing, or keep doing in 2019?