It’s Simply Magical

A Guest Blog from AUNE Mindfulness for Educators M.Ed Student, Laura Eldridge

“Mel”, a second grader, and I have spent the last 6 months working together to give him skills that will allow him to be successful during unstructured times in his classroom, specifically snack and lunch.  We began having mindful lunches in November after he made several visits to the behavior program I’m in charge of in an elementary school. He was sent to me because he was finding it difficult to navigate the social expectations of these less structured times of day with his peers.  He was doing things that gave people “weird thoughts” (a phrase from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking program) and acting in ways that were unexpected for a second grader (playing with his food, saying strange things, making unusual noises, interrupting people during conversations, etc.). These were some pretty ingrained habits for Mel and I knew it would take some work to help him move away from them.

lunch-box-generic_650x400_61442040149During our mindful lunches, over the course of several months, Mel came to eat lunch in my office daily.  We created a ritual that included deep breathing and body scans, and in a way that seemed natural for him.  He’s used to me asking lots of questions and wasn’t at all bothered when I asked him how his various parts were feeling.  We had a list written on paper and every day I would write his answers down.  When he began giving the same answers for a couple of days, I’d refer to the papers from the past few days and remind him of what he said and that it seemed he wasn’t giving much attention to how he was really feeling at that moment. Over the course of those months, he learned, through this daily practice, to really tune in to how his body was feeling and to contemplate why it might be feeling that way.  His head hurt because he couldn’t stop thinking about something his brother had done the night before.  His heart was beating fast because it was his first time inviting a guest for mindful lunch and sharing thing practice we’d held so sacred. His heart also beat fast and he was breathing fast when we began talking about him having lunch in the classroom again.  He was feeling nervous about it.  This was the first time that he connected our practice to the changes he’d made in his behavior.  He something to the effect of, “Hey!  All of these mindful lunches made it so I know what to do when I have lunch in my classroom!”  “You do know what to do, ‘Mel’, and I know you’re going be just fine there, “ I replied.

When he felt ready to have lunch in his classroom again, I went to his classroom to have lunch with him the first day. I sat at a different table the second day, away from him, but within his visual range. The third day, I came in late (intentionally) and he was chatting away at a table with his teacher and some classmates.  He didn’t see me, so I snuck back out.  Later that day, I told him I’d seen him doing a great job and I didn’t feel he needed me in there for lunch any more.  “I got this, Mrs. Eldridge!  I got this!” he said, putting his hand up as if to stop me.

Through mindfulness, Mel has been able to tune in to the way his body reacts to his experiences.  He has been able to examine those responses and make changes in his behavior that make him successful in his classroom during lunch and snack times. The habits that make him look and act in unexpected ways around his peers are mostly a thing of the past.. By working with him to help him be aware of how he is feeling inside, he has been able to return to his classroom for the less structured times that caused him a great deal of anxiety which, in turn, caused him to make unexpected choices and get him into trouble. He is beginning to see that there is a different way to do things that he can be comfortable with and successful in doing that are expected and typical of kids his age.  He is learning to make wise decisions based on what he notices in his body and the way he is reacting to things going on around him.  He’s been successful in his classroom at lunchtime for a few weeks now, with no issues at all. This is all due to the mindfulness practice we established together. It’s simply magical!


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.


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  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

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  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

Starting Anew

While the rest of the working world may find the turn of the calendar year in January to be the “new year,” for those of us who teach, renewal comes in August and September, maybe after a summer vacation or holiday.  While the practice of tying our school year to the rhythms and routines of our agrarian past may be on the wane, we still, for the moment, have a collective sense of starting over at this time of year.

In my early teaching career one of my colleagues pointed out to me that the thing they loved most about teaching was the many ways that we get to start over.  School years end, semesters end, school lessons, days, units, weeks and months all conclude and you get to try again.  We get to start fresh: sometimes with new students, new colleagues, a new building or curriculum.  There is a constant opportunity to reinvent yourself, to get better, to try again, to learn from experience, get more information and try something new.

What better affinity could we find with our meditation practice?  After all, the great grace of mindfulness is that we have the opportunity in any given moment to start over.  In trying again, we can loosen the habitual ties of thinking that bind us to outdated views of our students, our colleagues and community and even (maybe especially) our selves).  We are all beings in motion.  Not the same two days in a row.  Beginning fresh with each encounter can be the basis for a whole school year’s worth of practice.

So, as you settle into your new routines for 2010-2011, set your intention for mindfulness.  Commit or recommit yourself to your personal practice and to the renewal that mindfulness can bring to each day. Find ways to bring your practice to your classroom and your students, if that feels like a logical next step.  Support your intention by reading something new in the field of mindfulness in education. Take a class. Attend a talk or weekend retreat.  Connect with a group of like-minded people to help you process what you are learning and support your efforts.

And let’s not forget our students.  Students too, need a fresh start.  They change so fast.  It is our job to be recruited to their effort, to support their growth, find what is new, encourage the emergent next developmental stage that they are becoming.  So often a student’s return to school represents a literal return that puts them back into a box where they are already labeled, judged and found lacking.  Unlucky little ones cannot escape their reputations from years past and are stuck in a kind of perpetual war to get adults and peers to see that they are actually not the same year to year.  Can we find a way to see them anew, too and to encourage the growth that we see without making them feel bad about their past?  We are called to do this for each and every one of them.  Let’s make this part of our practice this year, to see the child in front of us as they are, uncluttered by our judgments and feelings, changing every moment, hoping for renewal, just like we are.

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 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