What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention with kindness and curiosity to the present moment, not being lost in thoughts of the past or worries of the future.

Mindfulness can be practiced as we walk the dog, brush our teeth, draw or just gaze out the window.

It is simple. It is not easy. That’s why we practice.

One way to practice is to sit quietly and focus on something that we know is real and constant, our breath, as it enters and leaves the body. Notice it, and just as an anchor keeps a boat from drifting off to sea, our breath can gently anchor us and call us back to the present when we notice our thoughts have drifted off.

Through mindful techniques we can focus on the process of making things; a song; a drawing; a story, rather than focusing on the end results. This can stop our negative self-talk. “This is no good. So and so is much better than me.” We are free to create joyfully.

I practice and teach mindfulness in a secular fashion and am passionate about neuroscience. I have discovered that teaching simple facts of how our brains work is extremely helpful and entertaining to young people. It doesn’t hurt that I have a realistic model of a skull and brain. It  can be taken apart like a puzzle and is especially useful in showing the tiny little part, the amygdala, that can cause us so much trouble. 

Mindfulness as a Teaching Tool

The most important aspect of mindfulness in the classroom is not the teaching of the curriculum to the students but rather to prioritize one’s own personal practice. Mindful teaching helps to continually bring one into the present moment and therefore allowing for more awareness of the subtle changes that may be happening in the classroom. In this way, mindfulness is being taught indirectly by a teacher embodying a calm presence even when relating to students (or teachers) whose emotions are activated.

Since my training and after implementing my own mindful awareness in the classroom I noticed that subtle shifts within myself spill over into the classroom atmosphere. If I want my students to become quiet it is more effective for the long term to become quiet myself rather than raising my voice so that it can be heard above the noise. Yes students can be “shocked” into being quiet by using the external control method (as Dr William Glasser calls it) but they do not like it and therefore it is a short lived intervention.

 

 

“Eye of the Hurricane” the song. Ms Mo’s students sing on the chorus and stage direct the video making process.