Teaching as a Mindfulness Practice

Today we are thrilled to offer a beautiful guest blog post from Antioch University New England Integrated Learning student, Janice Waldron-Hansen. Janice writes about her experience of using her own mindfulness practice to explore the terrain of her student-teaching environment and then sharing mindfulness practices with her young students.  This reflection came as a result of her work in our Mindfulness for Educators spring weekend elective course, which is open to current students, alumni, and as continuing education.  For more information on the Mindfulness for Educators Programs at Antioch University New England, please visit our website at http://www.antiochne.edu/teacher-education/mindfullness-for-educators-certificate-program/

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Teaching as a Mindfulness Practice 

Janice Waldron-Hansen

A deeply cold winter ushers in this semester, in January 2014. Halfway through the month, I realize the necessity of needing to leave my internship; this sets the tone for the next five months. This semester I learn to trust in the teaching I gleaned from the Vipassana meditation training of “everything being as it should be.” The teaching succeeds in holding my head above the surface of the quickly changing waters of a 15-month learning cycle about becoming a master teacher. The deep inhalation of the breath brings my body the oxygen needed to make the crossing of the great ocean of my mind’s eye. The great ocean of understanding everything is in a flux and a flow, in constant change. The sister-ing exhalation empties me of what I no longer need to hold on to, as I let the air from my lungs seep quietly, and sometimes not so quietly over my lips. In sitting meditation, following the breath, and sensing the sensations of my body, deepens my concentration. This is the same concentration I use to track myself while teaching. The focus gained from tracking the sensations of the body in sitting meditation, support the construction of lesson plans anchored in the school, and lives of the students I work with.

I start the days of my new internship by taking a reading of the energy of the classroom, generously shared with me. Each morning, I read the barometer of my coordinating teacher, her 2nd grade students, and myself, as they enter through the door into the room we’ll share for the next three days, of each week, for the next 15 weeks. I find the listening skills I’ve cultivated in walking meditation give me awareness. The same awareness guides me as I make my way through the layers of learning that adults and children in the school’s community are embedded in. The town surrounding the school is full of hardship. I witness myself learning to understand the context of a community where children arrive hungry to school.. I see for the first time, in real time, bone-thin children whose appetites are taken by the drugs that help them quiet themselves, in order to get through a day in school. “As it is,” I find myself repeating to myself, sometimes too often. Again the breath, and its partner, compassion become the raft keeping me afloat. I work harder to understand where I am, and how I might be able to participate in teaching, amidst the hardships of lives wrought from challenges children do not choose for themselves. The learning stored in the brain-body of my muscle motor memory supports me as I gain insight into the complexities of creating a safe and nurturing classroom culture, from a wise coordinating teacher and supervisor.

Midway through the onset of February, my realizations about the stresses and strains facing the teacher and child of the public classroom shake me to the core. I lose the buoyancy of the practice of insight meditation. Overcome by the reaction of my bodymind saying “no,” in daylight and in the wake-light of dreams twisted. I learn from my Antioch teacher, Teri Young, who refers to this kind of an event as an “epistemological shudder.” She reminds me with her teaching to make the pause, take the breath, refrain from the naming of things, in order to let in the greater why of a situation. Laying supine on the floor, deep in relaxation, I take the breath, deeply inhaling and exhaling, I find clarity of thought and emerge from the overwhelm. At school the next week, I’m with a boy, after his class has left and gone into the hallway, as a result of his choices. I’m able to help him find a place of calmness while we pretend to pick a dandelion and blow its fluff softly away.

Starting again, I learn the value of one breath grabbed in the quick-paced environment of teaching and learning with children. The one breath adds itself to another one, also quickly snatched from frantic airwaves strung tight by taunt emotions. Engaged in the free association of the teacher’s path of assessing and responding to the needs of her students, I manage to take another breath. Then, like a bell being struck, I see truth in the ring of action. While I’m practicing insight meditation, and teaching young ones how to tune to their breath, I find certain calm comes to the room full of learners.

Still cold, and early in April, the sun warms the wooden floor of the dance studio, where I sit remembering, and learning to embark on teaching mindfulness practices to children. Later in the month of May with an even warmer sun, I help children learn how to feel and find their still place, (adapted from Amy Salzberg, as taught by Susan Dreyer Leon in our class, Mindfulness for Educators). The results are instantaneous, and plain to see in our 2nd graders. They are happier, more relaxed, and able to listen better. In the following weeks, I guide the children in visualizations. They practice feeling their breath, and noticing how their body feels. Then we learn about walking in the halls quietly, not because we are bound by a rule, instead because of the peace we feel, as we go from one place to another, neither here, nor there, but somewhere in between, when we’re not rushed and saunter, relishing the passage. Finally, last week I shared Susan Kaiser Greenland’s “Rocking A Stuffed Animal To Sleep With Your Breathing.” The effect is overwhelmingly pleasant for everyone in the room. The observing coordinating teacher, the children, a boy from another classroom in the take-a-break-chair, and me, all are noticeably calmer and happier afterwards. The children open their eyes in quiet rapture as they see the stuffed animal on their belly. We all are rested, taking on the math lesson with a freshness, and openness I’ve not seen in the four previous months.

My experience of introducing mindfulness practices to children and adults in a challenging school community has been undeniably proactive in changing the stress levels I was encountering in my internship. The children continue to ask for more experiences, and to repeat those we’ve tried. I see the children meeting my efforts with their own, one for one. As I help them find different ways to make contact with their breath. The intrinsic nature of the child supports them in acquiring this vital tool. This same tool serves me in my growth as a teacher, while I observe the differences in learning without engaging breath awareness, and learning that does. The evidence in support of the child’s increased well-being is clear, while my observational acuity as a teacher grows. The quick pace is slowed by the path of mindfulness, affording a presence of mind allowing for attunement to the environment and my students.

“…This singing art is sea foam.

The graceful movements come from a pearl

somewhere on the ocean floor.

Poems reach up like spindrift and the edge

of driftwood along the beach, wanting!

They derive

from a slow and powerful root

that we can’t see.

Stop the words now.

Open the window in the center of your chest,

And let the spirits fly in and out.”

Rumi, Where Everything Is Music,

                                                             The Essential Rumi, by Coleman Barks, with J. Moyne

Kickapoo is not afraid! 

Lately at our house, we’ve been doing yoga after dinner.   We found a great resource called Cosmic Kids Yoga.  What we love about it is that its really developmentally appropriate for young yogis!  Each 10-15 minute video is an adventure story where children (and parents) are led through a series of yoga poses as part of the story.

Both my daughter and I are enchanted with the teacher, Jamie.  She’s expressive, engaged and her instructions are clear and easy to follow.  The stories have a moral and the themes are reinforced during the short relaxation meditation at the end. My very favorite so far is “Kickapoo the kangaroo.”  I like it because young Kickapoo is a fearless explorer of the outback and because we get to jump around at the end singing “Tie me kangaroo down, sport!”  It’s impossible to do without a huge smile on your face!

Jamie, your Cosmic Kids instructor.

Jamie, your Cosmic Kids instructor.

My daughter tuned out traditional yoga instruction–even for kids–after the first minute or two, but she stays with this until the end.  And then, after the video is over, she wants to teach me yoga.  So, we have another good 10 minutes of exercise while she makes up her own stories and shares them with me.  The poses may be a bit “creative” but the combination of exercise, imagination and fun makes up for that.

At one point in my life I was quite a yoga “purist” and I probably would have had a lot of negative things to say about “Cosmic Kids.”  Now, as a mom looking to engage a younger person in some body-based contemplative practices, I think it’s just great.  I also like it as an educator because it is a wonderful example of how we can teach young children many different topics by engaging their imagination.  For example, early years math really shouldn’t come from a text book or a worksheet.  With a few simple props and a story line, students can be practicing exactly the same number concepts by running a store,  playing bank, or building with blocks.  As educators, we just have to get more intentional about designing these learning activities and documenting the learning.

So, give Cosmic Kids a try and let us know what you think!

Cosmic Kids Yoga–Kickapoo the Kangaroo

Antioch now has two programs in Mindfulness for Teachers!

Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program

Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2014

Inquire Today

 

Program Philosophy

Mindful educatorThe Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program trains educators in the core practices of mindfulness and compassion, as formal practices and as lived and embodied responses to life in the classroom and in the world.  Antioch University New England has the only graduate program with a focus on mindfulness that is just for teachers.

Program Delivery

  • All courses fully on-line
  • Nine graduate credits
  • Year-long program completed in fall-summer of any academic year
  • One course per term

Relevant and engaging coursework takes into account the lives of working educators. The cohort approach helps participants remain committed to daily meditation and informal mindfulness practices. The program combines on-line pedagogy with interactive teaching methodology. It includes small class sizes, individual attention from faculty, and real-time connection via telephone, on-line conferencing, and webinars.

buddist gardenProgram Orientation

The program strengthens an educator’s innate wisdom through the study and daily application of ancient and current applied philosophical perspectives, and universal and human development models. It has a three-pronged approach:

  • formal meditation practice
  • study of the field of mindfulness
  • application of ideas and approaches to classroom and other educational contexts

The program is rooted in the philosophy of reflective practice and inquiry. Each course is designed to lead teachers deeper into their own classroom experience and help them see the work of teaching and learning with fresh eyes.

 

Mindfulness for Educators M.Ed Concentration

Now Accepting Applications for Summer and Fall 2014

Inquire Today

With the same philosophical orientation as our Certificate Program, the M.Ed adds additional Mindfulness course, plus opportunities to apply your learning in greater depth with our practicum courses and one-to-one advising.

Complete your degree in five semesters!

Most students take six credits in the fall and spring semesters.  This includes one required on-line class and a choice of practicum.  During the summer, students will take one on-line required course in mindfulness for educators and one or two week-long face-to-face courses on campus at AUNE in Keene, New Hampshire. The summer residency is typically the middle two weeks of July.  Students may spread out the program to take fewer courses in a given semester.  Please inquire during the admissions process to learn more about this option.

Online MEd Program

On-Line Courses:

  • Using Buddhist Frameworks to Reflect on Teaching and Learning
  • Human Development and the Inner Landscape of Teachers and Learners
  • Awareness of Body, Mind, Heart, and Brain: Pathways to Change in Education
  • Compassionate Action in the World
  • Mindful Leadership

Practicum Courses

  • Child Study
  • Curriculum
  • Equity and Change

On-campus summer courses at Antioch University New England

  • Developing Mind
  • Philosophy of Education
  • Elective course of your choice

mindful teachingElectives can include AUNE courses in place-based or problem-based learning, nature-based schooling, sustainability, leadership, and educational technology.   You can also incorporate meditation retreat experiences, or external trainings related to teaching mindfulness to children and youth into the MEd program.

 

 

 

 

Faculty

Claire Stanley Antioch University NE faculty

Claire Stanley, Ph.D., is on the faculty of Antioch University New England and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. She is also a founder and the Guiding Teacher of Vermont Insight Meditation Center in Brattleboro, Vermont. Her work as an educator for the last thirty years has focused on teacher development, interpersonal, and intercultural communication in professional relationships, and the role of mindful awareness in the quality and effectiveness of our work in the world. She is passionate about the far-reaching possibilities of transforming the systems of any professional context into learning communities where human beings are awake, compassionate, and responsive to their inner life and to the lives of the people they work with.

Jack Millett, founder and teacher at the Center for Mindful Inquiry and Vermont Insight Meditation Center.

Jack Millett, MAT, is a founder and teacher at the Center for Mindful Inquiry and Vermont Insight Meditation Center. He was an Associate Professor in the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the SIT Graduate Institute for twenty-five years. Since 1990 Jack has been exploring ways to integrate meditation and teaching practices to bring mindfulness to his work in the classroom. When designing lessons and teaching classes, he is most interested in being in the moment, seeing what is, accepting what is, and responding to serve. From his extensive teaching, teacher supervision, and educational administration experience, he has developed the ability to create safe and engaging environments that allow participants in his courses and workshops to touch an appreciation of themselves and others as they engage and learn the content of the course.

Susan Dreyer-Leon, Ed.D, Director of the Experienced Educators' Program AUNE

Susan Dreyer-Leon, Ed.D., is director of the Experienced Educators’ Program at Antioch University New England, a former alternative public high school teacher/leader in New York City and Vermont, a School Reform Initiative National Facilitator, and an experienced Coalition of Essential Schools teacher and leader. Her special interests include the development and support of equitable, democratic and joyful schools, mindfulness and education, facilitative leadership, and sustainable and place-based educational practices.  Susan has been a meditation practitioner and student in the Insight Meditation tradition since 1999 and has been intimately involved with the development and implementation of the Mindfulness for Educators Certificate program since its inception in 2011.  Her special interest is hosting opportunities for educators to integrate practices and ideas from the emerging field of mindfulness and education.

The gap

Visual MeditationsMisaru Emoto Water Crystal “Love and Appreciation”

One of my current Philosophy of Education Students here at Antioch New England shared this with me this week.  Last week we were discussing those BIG questions about what is real, valuable and true.  We explored the idea of whether we are, in fact, separate individuals, or if that perception is part of the limitation of some of our biology and we talked about what happens if and when we transcend that perception. We even shared some stories of times we felt a shift and could see things from a different angle of view, a deeper or wider way of knowing.  I think it’s very important for teachers to explore their relationships to these questions and for them to explore some of these ideas in age appropriate ways with their students.

One of my favorite parts of this video is the one that explores the impact of the disconnect and pain we feel as result of recognizing on some level the gap between the more beautiful world we know is possible and the world as we’ve currently constructed it.  It puts me in mind of what Paulo Freire said, “What if we discover that our present way of life is irreconcilable with our vocation to become fully human?”

www.upworthy.com/science-has-been-misleading-you-about-some-fundamental-truths-2?g=2

What I’ve learned from Walter

At our house this week we’ve been reading the hugely popular book Walter, the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle.  My  six year old brought it home as her library book this week.  When I asked her what she liked about it she said,  “That it’s funny and that it makes me want to laugh because before it, I never said ‘fart’ in my life. “

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I’ve been enjoying it a lot too.  It’s quite liberating to talk about bodily functions that normally get politely ignored around our house.  And anything that gets a good belly laugh out of a six year old is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

But there’s something else that I really love about Walter.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a couple of kids who bring home a very stinky dog and just want to keep him because they love him even though he farts all the time.

After trying various remedies, their father finally puts his foot down and declares that Walter will have to go back to the pound the next day.  The kids and Walter are miserable and Walter resolves to never fart again.  And then he goes down to the kitchen and eats 25 pounds of the very snack that makes him fart the most.  And you know what he thinks to himself after he eats them?  “Very tasty.”

I fell in love with Walter at that moment.  I wanted to break down and cry for him and hug him and adopt him into my home.  To me, Walter is every single one of us who sets an intention and then promptly does the VERY thing that makes it least likely that we can achieve our goal.  It seems to me that in some corner of our minds, if we’re really honest, we recognize the intrinsic reward in our poor choices, even when they don’t truly serve our purpose.  Being dead to the “very tasty” nature of these actions, even when they are unwholesome may be part of what keeps the whole cycle of resistance to change engaged.

This is what it means to be so much a product of our own conditioning.  I have repeatedly had the experience of setting an intention which requires self-discipline and finding that I can achieve it if it flows out of a healthy place, a positive regard for myself and others and a sense of realism about what I can control.  On the other hand, many of my experiences with intention put me right where Walter is.  Even when the stakes could not be higher, if the intention comes out of a place of self-loathing or external pressure (and resentment), it often just falls apart before I can even get started.  Then I have no results AND self loathing. In Buddhist psychology, this is the second arrow.  The first arrow is the pain of the life situation.   In Walter’s case that he has to leave his new home.  The Second arrow is made of the thoughts, feelings and judgements that proliferate around the situation, leading us to feel even worse than we already do.

We are so quick to judge ourselves, others, and our students.  But behavior, change is so hard.  Not impossible, but it requires a self-kindness to both honor and then interrupt the deeply conditioned aspects of ourselves that keep us stuck.  To have any hope of lasting success, we have to start by setting the intention to change the right things and then do it with love and a gentle self-compassion.

I won’t spoil the end of Walter for you, but it’s worth a read if you get the chance.  In the meantime, I’m going to be paying attention to how I set intentions and what my expectations are for others to change.

We’re taking our mindfulness practices on the road!

Antioch New England Experienced Educator student, Selena Goldberg, and faculty member, Susan Dreyer Leon will be presenting at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum this Saturday, November 10th in Providence, RI.  Selena will talk about her work teaching mindfulness to students at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts and will share a short film she made with them about their experiences.  Susan will talk about the Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program, which is now entering its third year!

For more information about the Fall Forum, please visit the CES website.  There is still space available for Saturday’s session!

http://www.essentialschools.org/events/9

For more information about the Mindfulness for Educators Certificate program please visit:

Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program at Antioch New England

If you are interested in using the Antioch University New England Experienced Educators program to earn an MEd with a Mindfulness Concentration, please email Susan Dreyer Leon at sdreyerleon@antioch.edu or visit the Experienced Educators program home page at:

Mindfulness for Educators M.Ed Concentration at Antioch New England

Pausing

During the depth of this relaxing summer season, it’s almost possible to forget the pressure and stress that can arise during the rush of the typical school day.   Is it possible to carry some of this lovely summer ease back to school?  Center for Mindful Inquiry guiding teacher,  Claire Stanley, says, “absolutely!!”   Claire and Jack Millet will be joining Judy Coven and me at the annual Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program summer retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.   We are now accepting applications for the 2013 cohort.  For more information, please visit the Center for Mindful Inquiry web site.  http://www.mindfulinquiry.org/about_the_center/news/
Pausing
by Claire M. Stanley
Most teachers walk into their classrooms at the last minute, close the door at the start of the class, and begin their two hours, or one hour or thirty-five minutes of teaching without any pause.  There is a dashing, breathless quality that drives each day.  Get up, get dressed, cup of coffee, drive to school or university, say hello to one or two people, walk down the hall, walk into classroom, begin teaching.  No space divides the time of everyday ordinary mind from the time of extraordinary mind, the time when learning begins, the time for the teacher as the vessel, teacher as the impetus, teacher as the firing neuron to place the spark of learning into the students’ hands.What would it be like to pause, even just for a moment to mark a change in time?  Like the ships that put up sail when they cross the Greenwich mean time marker in the Pacific ocean, is it possible to mark the moment when one has changed from the ordinary mode into the extraordinary?  Tara Brach and others talk of a “sacred pause” and although it sounds like something grand, it is but a moment taken intentionally before one begins anew.  It is but a breath, felt deeply in the body.  It is but a breath that fills the lungs and lets the body stop to step out of time, out of rush, and into the timeless.  The sacred pause and just one breath interrupts life on automatic and brings with it, purpose, clarity, wholeness.Think back on any time you have attended a music concert.  The conductor walks onto the stage to the sound of applause.  She turns her back to the audience.  She does not begin haphazardly, flying into the piece of music as if she has just dashed out of her car, coat dangling off her left arm, cup of coffee in the hand and briefcase dragging her along through the corridor.  She does not ask the orchestra to start playing, or the chorus to begin singing, or the soloist to lift his voice in a way that might suggest that they were running a marathon.  She does not send forth a signal to begin a marathon and then ask everyone to simply start dashing, dashing toward the end of the time, toward the end of hours and minutes together until all the time is used up.

No, the conductor stops and pauses.  There is a silence in the audience and in the whole space of the opera house or the intimate salon or the theatre.  Anticipation then mounts in the minds and hearts of the listeners.  Awareness and attention arises in each member of the orchestra, or each member of the chorus.  Notice how their faces turn upwards towards the conductor, notice how they stop, breathe, anticipate the opening of this glorious work of music with joy.  Then the conductor lifts her hands, raises the baton and on one beat, moves everything forward.  And in that moment, everyone is there, everyone is present, pulsing, muscles in arms and shoulders, muscles in throat and lungs moving in the present moment to create the beauty of the piece, to lift up the hearts of all listeners.

It is possible for a teacher to pause at the beginning or in the midst of her teaching in a similar way.  He can walk into the classroom and stop.  He can pause to put down his books, briefcase or papers.  He can stop and just breathe for a moment.  He can be silent for just a moment.  He can look out at the students before him like the conductor looks at each member of the chorus or orchestra. Then he, the teacher can draw them in, bring them into his sphere, touch them with a sense of presence.

Some teachers I know also ask their students to come into a moment of silence before the class begins.  This is nothing special but it is extraordinary.  Everyone in the rooms simply sits in silence for one or two minutes.  How many minutes of the day are taken in silence?  There is a chance for everyone to stop and breathe, to take a sacred pause out from life in the fast lane, to get off of the treadmill, to drop into the moment and in so doing connect with the timeless.

This pausing is worth its weight in gold, a golden moment as it were, something that says to all those present,  “What we are about to do is important. What we are about to do matters. What we are about to do is going to be done with care and joy.”  So much is communicated by the tiniest of gestures.  I once saw a ballet dancer command an audience of thousands by the pointing of one finger.  I once saw the Dalai Lama speak to eighty thousand people in a sports stadium and commanded everyone’s attention by taking a moment to stop and simply look out into the crowd with a beaming smile on his face as if he were meeting a small group of friends in his living room.  I once saw a teacher walk into her classroom, then just stop and stand there facing the her students for just a moment.  With this simple gesture, the students also stopped and began again from a place of clarity and purpose.

Try this:
Practice pausing several times each day, at the beginning or in the midst of your teaching.  One of my teachers says, “Being mindful is not difficult to do, it is difficult to remember to do.” Take the time to leave the ordinary and take a journey into the extra-ordinary.  Take the time to leave the rush, interrupt it, by simply stopping right in the middle of some fast-paced, moving-forward moment in the hectic swirl of your teaching life.  Take just a moment to pause to reconnect with mindfulness of breath, or sounds or body.

And when you have paused, then take that moment to breathe. Know that as you have taken that one breath, so have your students. See any one person in front of you and know that he or she too is a fragile being just like you whose life depends on just one breath.  Know that when there is no more breath, there is no more life.  Feel the life in you right now surging and rolling in and out like the waves of the ocean.  Feel the space of all of life and then begin again to connect with all that is ordinary in your teaching life but in a fresh and mindful way.

Claire M. Stanley, Ph.D.
Center for Mindful Inquiry
167 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

“What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

Lately, my five year old daughter and I have been doing the Pebble Meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Planting Seeds:  Practicing Mindfulness with Children.  It consists of four simple meditation instructions and it has picture cards that go with each one.  Children visualize themselves as a flower, a mountain, still water and the big blue sky.  She seems to really enjoy the simple activity and seeing the pictures on the cards.  She can’t read just yet, so we sit together and I read the cards to her.  The whole thing takes about 3 minutes. She often asks for it if I forget.  Then, in times of stress, I remind her to take a minute and breathe and repeat one of the phrases to herself.  I love the idea that she is learning these techniques for self-calming and self-knowing.

I believe that we desperately need to teach students these skills in school starting from a very young age.  The late Fred Rogers knew all about this.  In our house, when anger arises we sing his song ‘What do you do with the mad that you feel?”  For us, it seems essential to be able to name a feeling and acknowledge that this is a normal thing.  Humans get angry sometimes.  No problem.  It’s what you DO with your mad that’s important.

There’s no “should” or “should not” when it comes to having feelings.  They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control.  When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.

–Fred Rogers  The World According to Mr. Rogers

We have to teach children to become familiar with their own emotional landscape and to manage their emotions.  The rewards are many.  Happier children, happier adults, a calmer school environment.  Planting seeds indeed.

And Pebble Meditation is a great idea for adults too.  Often we don’t know what to do with our mad feelings either.  Teaching is hard work and when we’re working with lots of little reactive beings, it is easy for our own anger, anxiety and frustration to get triggered.  Having a way to insert a little space between our emotions and our actions can make all the difference between whether a situation escalates or whether we and our students can calm down and come to a more peaceful resolution.

Benefits of a simple practice

By Susan Dreyer Leon

This weekend, five of us from the Mindfulness for Educators Certificate program presented at the annual conference of The Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference.  The title of our presentation was “Mindfulness and Reflection: Tools for clarity, creativity and compassion.”  The students in the program did a beautiful job of describing how they have been using the frameworks of the program to deepen their own practice in their classrooms and with their students.  I also had a chance to talk about one of the mindfulness practices were are using here at Antioch New England and I’ve included that here for your perusal!  We are still accepting applications for the Mindfulness for Educators Certificate Program for 2012.  Join us!!

 The benefits of a simple practice

The Integrated Learning Program at Antioch University New England is an M.Ed with Elementary Certification.  We begin our required course sequence with a Human Development course.  This course takes as its text Robert Kegan’s The Evolving Self, which leads our students to discoveries about elementary- aged children and themselves.  Three years ago, after some scattered practice of mindfulness meditation in different courses in the program, the faculty agreed that all sections of Human Development would begin their weekly Friday morning class meeting with a simple meditation.  The meditation was developed by AUNE Adjunct Faculty, Besty Taylor and Integrated Learning Program Director and Core Faculty, Jane Miller.  The full text of the meditation below.

Benefit for the course instructors:  Clarity

I’m a better instructor because of our mindfulness time at the beginning of class. Clearing my head before we begin with course material makes me clearer in MY teaching. The jumble of things I want to cover settles out and I find myself being sharper in my focus.         –AUNE instructor

My tendency in class it to talk too much.  The “stop” of this arriving meditation gives me time to connect with my intention to limit my own airtime, listen from my heart and not so much my brain and make that listening my mindfulness practice in class. What emerges is often a much clearer articulation of the course content and a sparkling, surprising incisiveness in my ability to connect that content to students’ lives.                                      –AUNE instructor

Benefit for the students during the class meeting:  Clarity & Compassion

This practice gives students in the Antioch teacher preparation program an opportunity to feel an interruption in a fast paced day. Their future classrooms will be busy, hectic at times. They’ll be making dozens of decisions every hour. Our hope at Antioch is that they’ll remember what it was like to stop the speedy flow and have a time out.                                   –AUNE Instructor

 One student commented that this mindfulness practice that we have “is like a power nap. I feel refreshed afterward.”  Another said, “I came in a snit and now I feel like I love you all.” Refreshed, kind teachers are what our graduates want to be and we need to support them in finding the tools to be that. One tool is mindfulness.                              –AUNE students & their instructor

Transitions cause my mind to race in a million different directions.  This gives me a chance to just be, to clear the chalkboard in my mind.                                                                                                                                    –AUNE Student

It constantly brought me back into awareness of my own humanity in a time of great demand.    –AUNE Student

Benefit for teachers-in-training: Compassion

Mindfulness practice has helped me better understand and attend to behavior issues in the classroom.                                                                                                                                                                                                              –AUNE Student

 

Unhurried, undistracted attentiveness is what teachers need in order to observe their students carefully, to know them well and understand how each one is making sense in the world. We talk about “meeting our children where they are” but, really, we can only do that if we SEE them, are attentive to them. Our five minutes of mindfulness is a time to practice unhurried, undistracted attentive awareness.                                                –AUNE instructor

 

 

 

A meditation for arriving

by Betsy Taylor and Jane Miller, Antioch University New England

There’s something I’d like to do with you in this course that has to do with being present—not thinking of what you’ll be doing later or about what went on earlier but really be in in the moment—It’s an important skill for teachers, and for all people.

I’d like us to spend 5 minutes now practicing being present—to really arrive here—do a simple kind of meditation—no religious connections—purely a way to be here and mindful.

I’ll lead us but if it feels better to you to use this time to think or rest, that’s O.K Either close your eyes or find a soft focus on something.  Begin by focusing your attention on sound. Don’t  try to hard to go out and find sound.Let it come to you (you may notice sounds in the room: chair scraping, coughing.  You may notice sounds in the building around us.  You may notice sounds of your own body as you breathe or swallow)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Silence~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Now, letting the awareness of you body move into the background, be aware of any emotions you’re experiencing—excitement, nervousness, irritation, frustration—just notice without judgment.

Now bring your attention to being aware of the movements of your breath. Soften around the waist. Notice as you breathe in the lungs fill up with air and the diaphragm pushes down notice if there is movement in the abdomenBe aware of breaking in. Be aware of breathing out. Observe the body as it breathes. Use awareness of the breath as a way to be really present in this moment

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Silence~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When you notice your mind wandering, as it will, very gently escort your attention back to the breath

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Silence~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Open your eyes. Look around the room. Notice what you see. (maybe light and shadows, colors, maybe textures). Now look around at each other.

And with this arriving, our class is ready to begin!

Educating for Sustainability: A Mindfulness Practice!

A colleague recently suggested I watch a Youtube video of Ram Dass interviewing  Thich Naht Han.  Both men have made substantial contributions to the American understanding of mindfulness over the past four decades.  It’s a delicious little slice of insight between two beautiful minds.  During the interview, Thich Naht Han says something that cuts to the heart of what I see as the relationship between mindfulness and sustainability.  He says,  “It’s easy to get people to agree that things are impermanent.  They may understand it completely, but they act as if things are permanent.

In order to experience, truly experience the changing world around and within ourselves, we must cultivate the capacity to know, to intimately see and experience, impermanence and how we relate to the fact of it.  For example, we here in New England  know the seasons change.  Do you have a favorite season?  Are you acquainted with how you relate to its impending arrival? Do you savor each day greedily, be it warm summer swims or frosty ski runs?  Do you mourn the passing of this season with longing, melancholy or outright sadness?   Do you find yourself complaining to yourself or others when the expected weather conditions do not materialize.  We KNOW that seasons come and go, that weather patterns change and yet, we plan and organize and react to these changes with grasping and resistance.  And, we suffer for it in ways large and small.  What would it mean to live our knowing of this impermanence and acting based upon it, unhooked from the cycle of desire, longing, and aversion?  Would we love our “favorite” season less, or would we be more contented with the ever-changing flow of the natural world around us?  I challenge each of us to experiment with this simple idea and see where it takes you.

It puts me in mind of the reasons why I believe so strongly in the development of the field of Educating for Sustainability.  The need for the conscious development of a culture of sustainability is rooted in our default tendency to take as permanent our current conditions.  As a species and as individuals, we do not act as if the health of the earth is urgently essential for our survival.  We do not treat our planet as if every single thing we need to stay alive and every single thing we possess arises from it and it alone.  But this is the case.   Educating for Sustainability is rooted in the idea that we have to increase the capacity of individuals and groups of people to act in ways that will ensure survival for ourselves and the ecosystems on which we depend.  It’s not enough to understand that our lifestyles are unsustainable, we have to do something about it.

In addition, those of us who live in this affluent, abundant culture of plenty, must understand that our situation is intimately connected to lives of others whose basic human needs are not met.  We know this intellectually, but we do not act based on that knowledge.  Or maybe more accurately, we do not change our activities based on that knowledge.  And yet, we must know on some level, like the changing of the seasons, it’s only a matter of time until the affects of global resource degradation confront us at our own door step.  Higher prices for food and fuel, being perhaps just the first small symptoms of much larger changes to come.

So, in developing our mindfulness practices, are we also developing our capacity to take on the challenges of creating a sustainable present and future?  I hope that this post will be the first in a series of explorations of the link between mindfulness and Educating for Sustainability.  Please add your thoughts and comments.  We would also be very interested to know about work happening in the intersection of the  fields of Mindfulness and Educating for Sustainability, so please feel free to send links and share information on resources.  For more information on the Educating for Sustainability program at AUNE, please visit us at http://www.antiochne.edu/ed/exed/ss_edforsustainability.cfm.

To see the full interview between Ram Dass and Thich Naht Han, please follow this link!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZKrl5n79hY