Mindfulness is a popular concept these days and as a practice has been utilised across the spectrum of occupations from executives and athletes to parents. It is just as relevant and beneficial for teachers. Mindfulness is simply described as sustained, present moment awareness. The “sustained” part is the challenge – particularly when you have up to 30 kids diverting your attention in innumerable directions.
As a generalisation our minds are largely undisciplined and disorderly – our attention distracted by a myriad of beguilements. We are at the mercy of every thought that enters our consciousness and can spend a lifetime moving unconsciously from one diversion to the next (and this includes within our classroom) without ever truly being present.
At a goal setting meeting with my principal last year, upon being asked to identify my goals around professional development and practice I replied “I just want to be present…..truly present.” My boss was wonderfully responsive and loved it. I had reached a point where I was sick of living in the regrets of the past and the uncertainties of the future. I had to put some mindfulness techniques into practice to try and tame my unruly thinking and bring myself back to the present – the only moment we are actually alive in.
The practices I’ve adopted have been simple but very effective with amazing benefits. I encourage you to try one/some and gauge the effects on yourself (and your students and family).
You could try:
Slowing Down – begin to notice times when you are rushing or when you are rushing your students or your own kids. Breathe deeply. Slow down.
Give your attention to one task at a time at least once a day and be fully present for it e.g. having a shower (experience it with all your senses), making dinner, making your bed. This can then be extended to other activities.
Set aside time to focus on your breath for a minute each day (start with 1 minute and gradually increase). I started with 5 minutes in the morning and evening and am up to about 20 minutes each session. Instead of thinking ‘I don’t have time to meditate’ think ‘I have 1 minute to meditate’. I would recommend choosing the same time each day – once you start a habit, it’s easy to extend the time.
Nominate check-ins throughout the day to consciously relax your body and tune into / deepen your breath – a vital link to your internal world. My check-ins are: in the car; at the computer; in the bathroom and at the whiteboard in my classroom.
For me mindfulness has lead to the following benefits:
- An increased sense of wellbeing and a feeling that everything is ok despite what might be going on around me.
- The space to listen to my inner voice.
- Feelings of gratitude as I began to notice the small pleasures of daily life that I had previously missed and the beauty around me that I was taking for granted.
- The ability to listen better (or be more aware of when I’m not listening properly).
- A sense of stability / evenness – being centred.
- A deeper connection with my body during daily activities and a greater recognition of my feelings during interactions.
- Less reactive responses to challenging behaviour.
In short, mindfulness practices help you to be present and alive for your life – I recommend them wholeheartedly.