Mindful Awareness is the resource I have used for the last couple of decades to cultivate the skills necessary to surf when the water is calm, choppy, and turbulent.

I have practiced mindfulness and yoga for 31 years. I first learned about Mindful Awareness when I attended a workshop with Jon Kabat Zinn. Jon Kabat Zinn’s description of mindfulness, first offered some 40 years ago, continues as the description referred to by thousands of people, leaders and organizations across the globe:

Mindful Awareness arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

And he sometimes adds, “In the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

When I first heard Dr. Daniel Siegel (Mindsight Institute, UCLA, Santa Monica California) present the 4 S’s of attachment, a paradigm that describes the characteristics of secure attachment for infants and young children, it was particularly interesting to me. I had suffered the trauma of insecure attachment. Attachment is the context that nourishes the growth of the nervous system throughout our lifetime.

The 4 S’s of Attachment:

  1. Seen: Not just seeing with the eyes. It means perceiving a child deeply and empathically — sensing the mind behind their behavior.
  2. Safe: Parents/Caregivers avoid actions and responses that frighten or hurt the child.
  3. Soothed: Parents/Caregivers help the child deal with difficult emotions and situations.
  4. Secure: Parents/Caregivers help the child develop an internalized sense of well-being.

In what ways do the 4 S’s of attachment manifest for us as adults?

  • Being Seen nourishes your capacity to feel included, to having a sense of belonging.
  • Being Safe nourishes your capacity to be in relationship with others & are nourishing to you.
  • Being Soothed nourishes your capacity to soothe yourself.
  • Being Secure nourishes your capacity to integrate feeling seen, soothed and safe into your body, your mind and your heart.

Being seen, safe, soothed, and secure cultivates our ability to self-regulate, which increases our resilience. As we re-set our system, we can create space, with less effort, to bring our presence to the present moment.

Mindful Awareness has been a resource that has created space for me to be with the darkness and the shadows of life, and to be with the light, and to cultivate my awareness of how the light arises from the darkness:  the light of fulfillment, the light of being happy, the light of knowing the joy of loving connection with others.

There is a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in.  ~ Leonard Cohen

Mindful Awareness has cultivated my ability to bring my presence to this moment. I have learned that presence includes paying attention right now with non-judgment, and with kindness and care for myself and others. I  have cultivated the attention and awareness to discern when I am reacting rather than responding thoughtfully and awarely: and then to pause, re-set my system, and then take the next step mindfully.

I have cultivated the ability and the skills to be present with those moments of grounded attention when I will respond, and to be present with those moments of  distraction or rigidity or even a bit of  chaos when I will react.  To pay attention with non-judgment does not mean we will not have judgments. The intention of non-judgment is to not judge ourselves for the judgements that will arise. To notice them as thoughts or feelings that are real but not necessarily true. Thoughts and feelings are like the clouds in the sky. They will pass and float away. Your presence is the sky.

There are many different practices and paths to cultivate our ability to mindfully be awake in our lives. As the poet , Rumi said, what is important is to visit with yourself every day. I have practiced mindfulness meditation and yoga for the last three decades. For the past 12 years, I have practiced the Wheel of Awareness Mindfulness Practice, which was developed by Daniel Siegel, MD with his patients, clients and students. The Wheel is a metaphor for integrating our conscious awareness. Dan Siegel describes Integration as, the central process in the journey to thriving.

The Wheel of Awareness practice integrates:

  • The information we receive from the world through our five senses
  • The sensations and feelings from the interior of our body,
  • The information that in the practice is called mental activities: thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, intentions, desires, longings and images.
  • Our sense of interconnection, our relatedness to others outside of our bodily selves. Our relational sense.

Presence is the portal to everything we cherish. And the pathway to this natural awareness is simply relaxing back—resting in what is. ~ Tara Brach

MINDFULNESS FOR YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS

“Mindful Minute“ Sampler

The great thing in all education, wrote William James, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.

…a mindful moment by definition is a 1-minute mindful pause, but in practice it can be anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. A mindful moment practice is pausing regularly throughout your day to cultivate mindfulness.

The core purpose is to accomplish 3 things:

  • To act with greater mindful awareness
  • To keep stress from building throughout the day
  • To bring more happiness and joy into your teaching and into your life

Make each Mindful Minute work well for you— Feel free to make changes .

Daily morning rituals at home:

  • Welcome the day. Begin your day with something as simple as standing in front of a bedroom window for a brief moment to greet whatever kind of day nature has provided.
  • Make your first spoken words of the day positive. Even if you wake up thinking about the challenges of the day, consciously pause and think of something simple that is positive or caring to say as your first words of the day.
  • Stand up straight, relax your shoulders—feet hip distance apart—hands and arms gently hanging at your sides—gaze softly at a spot across the room—and imagine a vortex spiraling from the top of your head through to your toes and back up again. Feel the energy surging through you.
  • Imagine your best friend describing your qualities to someone else. Take in that feeling of knowing how much you are appreciated.
  • Count backwards from 100 by sevens (100,93, 86…), or 2’s or 3’s whatever feels comfortable. This distraction helps interrupt feelings of frustration and irritability i.e., helps you to soften to the feelings, which often can create a shift or change { the act of counting shifts your attention towards the pre-frontal cortex part of your brain— shifting attention from the limbic area—giving you more space to reflect and witness rather than respond or react.

Mindful Moments at Home or at School:

  • Take a “silence break” and just be quiet and still for a minute or two. A period of silence can be even more calming than music designated to be relaxing.
  • Breath out twice the amount you breath in. This activates the Para-Sympathetic branch of the Autonomic Nervous System—the relaxation and rest branch of the ANS. Maybe breathe in for 3 and out for 6. In through the nose, out through the nose. Repeat
  • Place your hand on your heart and breathe deeply while remembering a time when you felt loved by someone… just the thought is enough to release oxytocin which restores physiological equilibrium and returning you to a calmer state.

Co-Regulation Mindful Moments in your Classroom or Office

  • Sound a soft chime, the sound brings your attention to this moment. You can use the chime to mark transitions, to begin and end a meeting, or other times
  • Invite your students to breathe together with you for a minute or two.

Sample breaths:

Belly breathing , imagine a balloon in your belly, as you breathe in and as you breathe out—variation put 1 hand on your heart and 1 hand on your belly as you breathe in, and as you breathe out.   

Breathe in and breathe out synchronizing your pace with a Hoberman sphere.

These simple breaths can: calm your nervous system, if you are experiencing hyperarousal, or energize your system if you are experiencing hypoarousal. Notice how you feel after you do each breath.

  • Watch the glitter in a mind jar settle. Notice how you feel in your body before you start watching the glitter. Notice how you feel in your body after you watch the glitter. Notice if anything shifted. Invite your students to watch the glitter settle. It can work well to offer this to individual students, or to do it together in small groups, or as a whole class “Mindful Moment”.

Daily evening rituals at Home:

  • Recount your day by remembering five things you’re grateful for.
  • Appreciate what you accomplished. Compile an “I did it list” instead of the usual “to do” list.
  • Appreciate your response, or interaction, or conversation with one child/youth, or two, or three…

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Pocket Guide To Interpersonal Neurobiology: An Integration Handbook Of The Mind (Norton Series On Interpersonal Neurobiology, Daniel J. Siegel, MD
  • Mindfulness For Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn for the perpetual beginner in each of us
  • https://wwnorton.com/books/Mindfulness-for-teachers/ Patricia A. Jennings
  • Happy Teachers Change The World a guide for cultivating mindfulness in education, Thich Nhat Hanh and Katherine Weare
  • A Daily Dose of Mindful Moments Applying the Science of Mindfulness and Happiness, Barbara Larrivee
  • The Courage To Teach Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life 20th Anniversary Edition, Parker J. Palmer
  • Teaching With Fire Poetry That Sustains The Courage To Teach, Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner, Editors Introduction By Parker J. Palmer and Tom Vander Ark
  • The Trauma-Sensitive Classroom Building Resilience with Compassionate Teaching, Patricia A. Jennings
  • Forward by Daniel J. Siegel
  • Collaborative for Academic and Social-Emotional Learning
  • C.A.S.E.L.
  • The Whole-Brain Child, Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson
  • Brainstorm  The Power And Purpose Of The Teenage Brain An Inside-Out Guide To The Emerging Adolescent Mind, Ages 12-24, Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
  • https://centerhealthyminds.org/join-the-movement/lessons-from-creating-a-kindness-curriculum
  • A kids book about mindfulness, Caverly Morgan
  • I am Peace, A Book of Mindfulness, Susan Verde, Art by Peter Reynolds
  • What Does It Mean to be Present?, Rana DiOrio, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
  • What Does It Mean To Be Kind? , Rana DiOrio, Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO5I0p3IuiQ What is Mindfulness?
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVA2N6tX2cg What do you feel like when you get mad? What can you do?

 

Written by Esther Sadie Brandon. BIO: I was a teacher of young children, including young children who had learning difficulties and physical challenges, before I began my career as the Director of the Lesley University undergraduate education program’s field placement office. After I retired from Lesley, I began developing my Well-Being Coaching and Consultation practice. I have practiced mindfulness and yoga for 3 decades, an integration of Kripalu practices and the practices of B. K. S. Iyengar. I integrate into my Well-Being Coaching and Consultation practice, my practices of mindfulness, yoga , and “mindsight”. “Mindsight” is the neurobiology term to describe the practice of  integrated mindfulness awareness that my teacher Dr. Dan Siegel developed. He describes Integration as: the central process in the journey to thriving. As well, I integrate the wisdom I have learned from many years of mentoring and relating to student teachers, classroom teachers, other school leaders, and the children and their parents/ caregivers, into the coaching and consultation I offer to you. Visit my website here. Contact me here.