What is mindfulness for you?


Can you remember the last time we patted ourselves on the back as a country? Not something like "Hooray, an American won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest" (he ate 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last Saturday, ugghh), but when was the last time media, mainstream or social, reported that most Americans are happy and collectively pleased with our status, or the same data for the world? How is it that I feel great about life 30 out of 31 days while our national demeanor is cast in a dim light every morning on every device? 

I just don't work effectively with an unenthusiastic mindset. There's a big difference between burying my head in the sand and choosing to focus on positives. Last time I updated my phone software it began automatically summarizing "the news" for me. I had to turn that off because days were kicking off in turmoil and frustration. I recognize the significance of our national conversations on public health, politics and racial inequality, but I can't survive if I spend all my time on critique and cynicism. I prefer to concentrate on positive solutions and constructive praise.

The constant distractions and pessimisms in our world can be crushing, and it's a collective sum. Not only do you have to set aside personal pressures and stressors to achieve success as a teacher but you have to help your pupils through the same process. This year, more than most, offers impactful frustrations: public anxiety, social segregation, cultural unrest. You have to learn to filter through all the interference and set your focus, to be mindful of your purpose. 

In Mindfulness in Plain English Bhante Gunaratana says "Meditation is intended to purify the mind. It cleanses the thought process of what can be called psychic irritants, things like greed, hatred, and jealousy, which keep you snarled up in emotional bondage. Meditation brings the mind to a state of tranquility and awareness, a state of concentration and insight." I agree and take this to define meditation as a way to cast off distraction and focus on priority.

Western culture is lately embracing meditation more than ever so you probably have your definition solidified, but it can take many forms. My mother's highest form of meditation is working with horses. Horses speak a language that humans began to shift away from when we learned to talk, but which is still imprinted in our subconcious. Speaking this language with horses helps her to recognize the futility of human distress.

As a long-time student of martial arts I'm familiar with the more traditional practices of meditation - breathing, finding stillness, clearing mental debris and designating intention. But I also meditate through creativity with my hands. I like to build things out of any, or many, materials; the processes of imagination and physical creation.

What is meditation to you?

Again from the book, "The purpose of meditation is personal transformation. The 'you' that goes in on one side of the meditation experience is not the same 'you' that comes out the other side. Meditation changes your character by making you deeply aware of your own thoughts, words, and deeds. Your mind becomes still and calm. And your life smoothes out."

In the simplest sense meditation is an exercise of mind. The same way we exercise our muscles and stretch our tendons we need to work out our cognitive muscles. Particularly in an era of information overload and, in my opinion, deficiency of optimistm. If we take a quarter the time spent on distraction and criticism and alott it instead for personal, mindful growth improvements will abound.

But most of you are very familiar with this concept for yourselves. What you may find more useful is an in-depth exploration of research-based techniques and guidance on establishing these paractices in your classroom for yourself and your students. Brief and effective daily habits to clear the learning obstructions and set a focus will magnify your efforts.

Try our course in Self-paced or Structured online formats with Steve Novak or John Adams as your guide. You will be thrilled with the ramifications.

Mindfulness in the 21st Century Classroom

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Ike Martinson
Ike is addicted to life in the Pacific Northwest. He enjoys the mountains, the lakes, the food, the people and all the seasons. He is an amateur chef, a commercial pilot and a terrible painter.

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