As he looked out at the mist-covered Whanganui River, Jase Te Patu felt grounded and settled as he drove along the Parapara Rd towards his hometown.

His most recent visit to Whanganui was last year when he returned for the funeral of his little brother and in a way, that has brought him back again.

Te Patu is travelling the North Island visiting schools and delivering his programme called M3 Mindfulness For Children to pupils aged 5 to 10.

He has taught health and wellbeing for 27 years and used to get students active by teaching dance in schools, but a chat with his niece changed that.


"My brother passed away and I asked his two youngest kids how they were. My niece said 'oh uncle, I'm not good'.

"She was 7 years old at the time and she asked me how I stay peaceful. 'How do you stay calm?' she asked me. She motivated me. That was my inspiration."

Māori stories, movement and mindfulness make up M3 and the programme was designed to help create healthy bodies, minds and souls in children.

Te Patu was in Whanganui on Thursday where he first visited St John's Hill School, before visiting Tawhero School and then Whanganui East School, where he once attended.

"Does anyone know any Māori stories?" Te Patu asks about 30 cross-legged pupils in the St John's school hall.

The finger of a cross-legged girl wearing her chequered uniform shoots into the air.

"When Māui went fishing and he fished up the North Island," she says.

"Amazing, you got it. You and I are sitting on Te Ika-a-Māui right now," Te Patu replies.


Te Patu cracks jokes, does breathing exercises, asks questions, shares his feelings, tells stories, teaches and says a karakia with the students.

He said the pupils' eyes lit up and they all sat forward because they loved hearing stories such as Rata and the Totara tree.

"My programme was designed that way because you can't teach kids about mindfulness by telling them to sit down and be quiet," Te Patu said.

"You've got to hook them in through teaching them a story. I always find that helps. They're in the palm of your hand after that, they'll pay attention and be quiet."

Te Patu is a co-owner of Awhi Yoga & Wellbeing in Wellington. He got into yoga after ripping his Achilles while dancing in South Africa in 2004.

He also started M3 because of a statistic released in New Zealand in 2006 that said the use of anti-depressants and anxiety medicines for children increased by 80 per cent.

Te Patu found the statistic alarming, so had a think about what he could do to help and came up with the programme, which is also available online.

He said interest snowballed shortly after coming up with the concept.

"The interest in Māori stories, with a Māori angle was big because when people think of mindfulness they think of it as a 'hippie woo-woo' cultish practice.

"Mindfulness means paying attention to what's going on in the moment. When kids can do that, the hurt or trauma of their past or the anxiety of what's to come dissolves."

Te Patu has visited schools in Kerikeri, Whangarei, Auckland, Tauranga, Opotiki, Rotorua and Ohakune during what has been a tough time for New Zealand.

"Everyone needs it and no more than at a time like this when our country is going through mourning because of what happened last Friday," he said.

"I've been going to schools throughout the North Island and all of them are beautifully speaking about love for each other."

Te Patu was looking forward to catching up with whānau on Thursday night, before driving by the Whanganui River and its rising mist towards Palmerston North.

There will be stops at Paraparaumu, Kapiti Coast and Waikane before he arrives back in Wellington.

He has fitted as many stops as he can into five days, because Te Patu believes that what he is doing is truly important work.

"My mahi is worked around hauora. Hauora is a holistic approach to wellbeing and my programme is based on that. We move the body, we quiet the mind and we open the heart.

"It's really important work. We teach our kids to work on their dental health twice a day, imagine if we were to teach them that their mental health is as or even more important than that?"