Spring Update

So much seems to be happening with Mindfulness meditation and education this spring that it’s been all I can do to keep up, let alone blog about everything!

The Mindfulness in Education Conference sponsored by the Mindfulness In Education Network was at the end of March.  There were so many good conversations there.  Here’s a link to some of the videos from the event.  I especially love Amy Saltzman’s talk about working with children.  She has a lovely way of conceptualizing mindfulness in a completely secular form.  As she says,  “It’s an innate human capacity.”  Like learning a language.  Everyone has the ability to do it.  Why not help people develop that ability?  So lovely. http://www.mindfuled.org/2010video/  Amy’s work goes by the name “Still, Quiet Place” and here’s a link to her website as well.  http://www.stillquietplace.com/

Dan Siegal’s talk about his new book,  Mindsight was also wonderful.  It will eventually be posted at this website http://thecenter.mit.edu/about/mission/  which is the home for the new Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT.   One of the great things about Dan’s talk was the emerging scientific evidence that we may be able use mindfulness practices and meditation in particular to literally build brain connections in areas that may be underdeveloped in people at genetic risk for things like bi-polar disorder.  They are doing preliminary research to see if kids who might have a predisposition for bi-polar can increase connections in critical areas while they are younger so that when the brain undergoes it’s normal “pruning” in adolescence, there is enough robustness already there to not end up deficient when the process is done.  What a tremendous gift to be able to access.  Also, Dan is doing a lot of thinking about mindfulness, kids and attachment issues, which I know concern a lot of us as educators.  Again, the message is more hopeful than previously thought.  I encourage you to investigate these resources.

Another area that was a big topic of discussion was how we can get more mindfulness practices into public schools and classrooms.  I was especially interested in a meeting of about 50 individuals all of whom had great ideas about mindfulness-based practices for young people, but none of whom had any real money or way to get their work  into the school system.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue.  I think of so many of you who talk to me about how stressed and cramped your days are and how it could be totally antithetical to the practice to try to cram mindfulness in on top of all the non-instructional tasks you all do already.  As valuable as it is,  I think we need to begin to explore how to offer mindfulness work to young people in all kinds of venues.  We can’t do everything in the classroom.  I’d love to hear your ideas about this one.

On the other hand…mindfulness for teachers is ALWAYS welcome in the classroom.  I wonder how much our students gain just by our capacity to hold them in our mindful presence?

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Author: sdreyerleon

Susan Dreyer Leon is the director of the Experienced Educators Program at Antioch University New England. For information about our programs, including our wonderful Educating for Sustainability M.Ed. program, please visit http://www.antiochne.edu/ed/exed/default.cfm?nav=1. Susan is also involved with the new Mindfulness for Educators Certificate program, which is a three way collaboration between the Center for Mindful Inquiry, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Antioch Center for School Renewal. For more information , visit the CMI website at http://www.mindfulinquiry.org/

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