Spreading mindfulness at Okanagan College

Brett Wade helps his students lower their stress levels by offering quick guided meditations before each class.

Spreading mindfulness at Okanagan College

Mixing teaching and meditation is an unusual practice, but it works for Okanagan College teacher Brett Wade.

Wade helps his students lower their stress levels by offering quick guided meditations before each class.

The idea started when Wade noticed a difference in student behaviour.

“I’ve noticed over the last five years students are reporting higher levels of anxiety and stress. So I realized that I had to do something to settle students down prior to the exam,” he said.

A guru of mindfulness, he worked on a technique to get students to be present in the moment.

After handing out the exams, he asked students to do a quick breathing practice to settle down the class. After the initial success of lowering test anxiety, it became a daily classroom practice.

“What I found was that not only was it settling the class down, but I was getting reports from students that they were finding it to be so beneficial in their own lives,” he said.

Second-year therapy assistant student Cailin Parry swears by his meditations.

She used to have test anxiety, but after learning some techniques with Wade’s help, she found meditating highly effective for her mental health.

“I suffered from anxiety and depression and I’ve reached out to him more than a few times,” said Parry.

The guided meditations have also calmed her before a test.

“It’s a sacred place for us to quiet our minds,” she said. “We feel blessed to be in his presence.”

Thanks to Wade, Parry practices her own meditations.

“I was looking for an easy and gentle way to bring it into the classroom. It’s interesting if I miss a day… it’ll be the students who will remind me,” said Wade.

He has been doing his own meditations for 20 years and said it doesn’t have to be a spiritual practice.

On Fridays, he also gives a free meditation class for staff and students that looks into the origins of meditation in addition to meditating.

“Look around the classroom and identify five things in your mind that you can see,” he says to start the class by defining mindfulness.

It’s about the health benefits. Just a few minutes can provide a significant stress reduction,” he said.

Wade owns a yoga/meditation studio called the Ekahi Centre on Water Street, where he offers meditation classes for free.