Nest of Inpredibilities

By Susan Dreyer Leon

For the last four years, my ten year old daughter has been writing a series of semi-autobiographical stories about a pig named Priscilla and her family. Priscilla has many of the same life situations that my daughter faces, epilepsy, frequent doctors’ appointments, fear of the the dentist, a need for glasses, pets who have to go to the vet, summer camp fun, vacations, first days of school and other manifestations of the normal range of suffering, inconvenience, joy and satisfaction that come with life in this realm.

Sometimes, when my daughter can’t find just the right word to express herself, she makes up a word or a phrase to get the job done properly. This has been somewhat aided by her interest in Andrew Clements’ book Frindle, in which students explore what language actually is and how new words come into being.  In my daughter’s, story Priscilla Goes to the Hotel, Priscilla is faced with a dilemma. Her foster sister, Jane, really wants Priscilla to go to an arcade and amusement park, but Priscilla does not want to go. She wants to go to a pet store. Priscilla allows herself to be persuaded only to be miserable at the arcade, which leads to bitter complains and sniping with her sister. At this point, Priscilla’s mother intervenes, saying, “Priscilla, you are getting into your own nest of inpredibilities.” From the moment I read this word, “inpredibilities,” I have loved it. And now I find it has become a part of how I think about many situations. To me, “inpredibilities” are a set of thoughts that entangle me in suffering. I also love that they are situated in a “nest.” Like a nest of snakes, I imagine.

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For those of us who are teachers, I find real utility for the word inpredibilities. In fact, I think we have an active need of it. Our work situations are so complex and fraught with various “have to” situations that we don’t necessarily choose. And yet, I think we also often have more choices than we know and we certainly have more choices about our reactions to these situations than we may recognize.

It’s very helpful to me to see when I’m caught in my own tangled web of thinking that is sometimes causing me even more suffering than the initial situation itself. For me, these feelings often include something like resentment, discomfort, fear, and regret, but you might have your own list. Often there is a sense of helplessness that goes along with them. It seems to me that this discursive thinking that accompanies me into dark places, actually serves to keep me stuck there rather than helping me to get out. This is the nest of inpredibilites.

So, what to do? Priscilla makes a good choice. She appologizes to her sister, accepts responsibility for her part in getting into the situation and then does what she wanted to do in the first place, which was go to the pet store. So, when you find yourself getting into your own “nest of inpredibilities” see if it isn’t possible to stop, forgive yourself and others with kindness, and start again. And please, feel free to put this helpful work into circulation in your context! But if anyone asks where you got the it, please credit the child author, AR Leon, and remember that name. I think you’ll see it again!

All New!!! Certificate Program in Mindfulness for Educators!

The Center for Mindful Inquiry, in collaboration with Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, announces a new Certificate in Mindfulness for Educators Program beginning in January 2011. The eight graduate credit Certificate combines opportunities for educators to deepen their own mindfulness and compassion practices and to better understand current theories that connect mindfulness to models of teaching, learning and human development. Participants attend three study retreats at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS) followed up with online coursework.

By Susan Dreyer Leon, Ed.D

As many of you know, we have been hoping for some time to be able to bring together a group of educators who are interested in looking together at applications of mindfulness in their teaching practice.  After more than a year of development, we are thrilled to be able to announce a wonderful new collaboration that will allow us to begin this important and exciting journey.  We are looking for a starting group of dedicated educators, who want to explore deeply the connection between mindfulness meditation and their teaching practice.

About the Program

This 8 graduate credit program will begin in January 2011 with a weekend retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts.  Work will continue in our classrooms and on-line through the Spring of 2011 and the group will come together again in Barre in August for a five day retreat.  The Fall will bring more classroom practice and on-line communication topped off with a capstone weekend back in Barre.  We’re so grateful the Studies Center for providing us with this fantastic opportunity to join together in person in such a beautiful location and with access to their wonderful teachers and resources as a support for our own work.

About our Teachers

We have two extraordinary lead faculty, Claire Stanley, PhD and Jack Millet, MAT to guide our work this year.  Claire and Jack are long time teacher educators from the School for International Training in Vermont and more recently have been the founding dharma teachers at Vermont Insight Meditation and the Center for Mindful Inquiry, in Brattleboro, VT.   We know of no other two people who have thought so long and deeply about the connection between daily classroom practice and mindfulness.  We’re thrilled have them anchor this collaboration through CMI.   In addition to Claire and Jack’s leading role,  Judy Coven and I will be providing some instructional support on the Antioch side.   Judy has just recently retired from her full time role on the Integrated Learning faculty at AUNE and has been instrumental in the planning and guidance of this program from the beginning.   I am currently serving as the director of the Experienced Educators program at AUNE and am thrilled to add this collaboration to our available offerings for working teachers through the Antioch Center for School Renewal.  Finally, we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of Andrew Olendzki, the executive director and senior scholar of the Barre Center for Buddhist studies and Mu Soeng, the BCBS program director and resident scholar.   For more information about our faculty, please visit the Center For Mindful Inquiry Website or follow the AUNE and BCBS links on the right side of this blog page.

How to Apply or Get More Information

For more information and program details or to apply, go to http://www.mindfulinquiry.org.  To apply for the Certificate Program, contact Claire Stanley, Ph.D. or Jack Millett, MAT at The Center for Mindful Inquiry, 167 Main St. Brattleboro, VT 05301, 802-451-6514 or at certificate.program@mindfulinquiry.org.

More Details, Dates and Course Titles

The Center for Mindful Inquiry, in collaboration with Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, announces a new Certificate in Mindfulness for Educators Program beginning in January 2011.  The eight graduate credit Certificate combines opportunities for educators to deepen their own mindfulness and compassion practices and to better understand current theories that connect mindfulness to models of teaching, learning and human development.  Participants attend three study retreats at Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS) followed up with online coursework. In addition, two completely online courses in the spring and fall strengthen the learning community and focus on the integration of mindfulness practice and theory in the participants’ work as educators and in everyday life.  Graduate credits are given with the successful completion of each course.  The Certificate is earned by the completion of all five components of the program.

Opening Residential Weekend

January 28 – 30 at BCBS

Using Buddhist Frameworks to Understand Teaching and Learning

Online Course

March 28 – May 6 through CMI

Mindfulness and Reflection: Tools for Clarity, Creativity and Compassion in the Classroom

Summer Intensive

July 31 – August 5 at BCBS

Human Development and The Inner Landscape of Teaching and Learning

Online Course

September 26 – November 4 through CMI

Awareness of Body, Mind, Heart and Brain:  Pathways to Change

Capstone Weekend

December 2 – 4 at BCBS

Toward Freedom and Joy in Teaching and Learning

How to Apply or Get More Information

For more information, go to http://www.mindfulinquiry.org.  To apply for the Certificate Program, contact Claire Stanley, Ph.D. or Jack Millett, MAT at The Center for Mindful Inquiry, 167 Main St. Brattleboro, VT 05301, 802-451-6514 or at certificate.program@mindfulinquiry.org.

Mindfulness, Sustainability & Mathematics

Our guest blogger for this week is Educating for Sustainability M.Ed Student,  Stephen Jamme.  He  talks about developing mindfulness practices for himself and his students at as part of his practicum work at Antioch New England.  Enjoy!!

At the beginning of the Fall one of my practicum goals was related to developing mindfulness.  I wanted to:
1.  To begin to introduce to all my mathematics students the benefits of  self awareness and reflection.
2.  To start a meditation club that provides any interested student in our Upper School the opportunity to experience various meditation methods and their  benefits.
3.  To build a faculty professional development strand into my school’s ongoing
in-service training.  This will help faculty practice mindfulness in their  work.

Upon reflection at this midpoint in the year, I find that my most significant progress in regard to this goal has come in the realm of my personal meditation practice.  As I have studied various texts and attended multiple talks, workshops, conferences and classes my personal practice has grown.  As my personal practice grows I can better model the mindful qualities of self awareness and self reflection for my school community.  I now meditate one full hour each morning using Insight Meditation guidelines.  Sharon Salzberg’s work The Force of Kindness has also provide me many tangible examples of how to practice mindfulness in my classroom.  The very tangible results of my work have been a noticeable increase in calm, respectful, and focused behavior in my students.  .

My meditation experience with Susan Dreyer Leon, a member of the Antioch faculty, during the Summer 2009 ANE session started my thought process toward having meditation as a key component in my school’s curriculum.  Her simple presentation of meditation basics has been the model I’ve followed in the meditation club I co-sponsored this fall.  I further followed her mentoring by attending the Mind and Life Institute two day conference on “Educating World Citizens for the 21st Century.  Scientists, educators, and contemplatives gathered to discuss how educators can help foster inner peace and happiness in children.  The Dali Lama, who presided over this gathering, emphasized the secular nature of this work.  Fostering the skills needed to better manage emotions and live a compassionate life was discussed.  His holiness emphasized that this was secular work to be engaged in by all faiths and agnostics.  Presenters shared many dynamic emerging strategies.

In October I participated in a six week Mindful Parenting course offered through the Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville (IMCC).  The focus was on how one might actively employ skills of meditation toward effective child rearing.  In short, Lindsay Diamond, the instructor emphasized pausing, relaxing, opening, accepting, listening deeply and speaking the truth.  This method was reinforced through a variety of class exercises and became the groundwork for the changes I witnessed in my mathematics classroom.   The pause allows one to survey one’s emotional landscape and to consider the long run effects of whatever response might come to mind.  Calm adult responses reinforce calm thoughtful responses in children.

By Stephen Jamme – EFS class of 2011.  Please contact Stephen at sjamme@stab.org if you have questions.

And if YOU are interested in sharing your meditation experiences as a teacher or with your students and would like to be a guest blogger, please contact Susan Dreyer Leon at sdreyerleon@antioch.edu

Mindful Shopping?

This is the time of year when lots of us end up doing a lot more shopping than we usually do.  And we often do a lot of it at the last minute and in a bit of a time-induced pressure haze.  I can remember being in Macy’s in New York City in December and they always play the fastest part of the Nutcracker Suite over the PA system.  It’s perfect for all the dashing and grabbing, rushing and pushing that can happen there!  But maybe this would be a good year to adopt some mindful shopping practices.  In fact, it’s never been easier!

I spent this past weekend down at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA, where the weekend’s speakers were founding meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, Daniel Goleman and his wife Tara Bennet-Goleman.  In addition to some lovely time for meditation practice and wonderful, precise, instructions for meditating from Joseph, we had a chance to talk about the application of mindfulness for fields like education, business, ecology, and the creative process.  Daniel Goleman,  who’s probably best known for his book, Emotional Intelligence (1995) has a new book called Ecological Intelligence (2009).  For more information on this work, check out his blog link below.

Goleman gave us quite a bit of “bad news” about humankind’s environmental impact on our planet.  That’s not a surprise, for the situation is certainly dire.  But his overall  message was more optimistic.  He is finding in his research that systems are being developed to help drive us towards more and more responsible manufacturing processes.  In that vein, he talked about some organizations that are responding to consumer’s interest in knowing the real impact of the products we buy.  The idea is that we want to be mindful shoppers, but we don’t have the information we need to make really good decisions.

One of the new organizations Goleman discussed is call Good Guide and it can be found at their website http://www.goodguide.com.   You can do your own investigation about the neutrality and intentions of Good Guide, but on its face, it looks pretty solid to me.  Their intention is to provide us, as consumers, with a quick way to assess the products we buy.  We can type in a product and find its environmental rating on a scale from 1-10.  And we can quickly and easily compare it to other products in the same category.  You can even just search for the highest rated products of a certain type, like dish soap or diaper creams!

You can look at it in terms of the impact of the ingredients of the product on your health (and presumably that of the folks involved in manufacturing it) and you can look at the environmental and social impacts of the company that produces the product.  And then you can choose.  One of the goals of the work is to especially reveal what’s behind “green” labels.  I found that it was absolutely the case that my husband’s 99 cent Shampoo, that I’ve ragged him about for years, has a higher rating than the $7.00 supposedly “cruelty free” product that I buy at my local co-op.  Who knew?  Well, now we all can.

So, as you head to the stores this month, take a few minutes to check out your purchases.  And spread the word to others you know.  This could also be a great project for your classrooms.  We have a special responsibility as educators to help our students be smarter shoppers.  And we can maybe all save some money in the process.  I’ll be saving “$6.01” on my shampoo each month !    The more we can put these tools in the hands of consumers, the more impact we can have on the behavior of companies, the lives of our fellow humans and the health of our planet.

For more information on Daniel Goleman’s research, visit his website and blog at:
http://www.danielgoleman.info/blog/2009/08/26/when-ecological-awareness-hurts/

For more information on programs at Insight Meditation Society, visit their website at:
http://www.dharma.org/