Sunday, October 13, 2019

How Teens Can Become Upstanders, Not Bystanders or Frenemies

Photo by Pablo Varela on Unsplash 

by Catharine Hannay, adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness

Be Kind Online 

Teen singer and actress Sabrina Carpenter says, “Using the Internet as a place to attack people, or to share negative opinions of someone, has always been a really strange concept to me.” (Seventeen magazine, Aug/Sep 2018) She tries not to take negative comments about herself seriously, and takes a break from being online if she’s feeling upset. 

There are times when it’s better to just let things go. Other times, you may need to stand up for yourself or someone else. Unfortunately, online bullying is very common.

It’s so easy to make a nasty comment, or to pass on an embarrassing photo or rumor, and it might not feel like it’s really hurting anyone. For that reason, I’m not crazy about the expression “in real life.” What you do online is part of your life, especially if that’s where you spend most of your time and how you do most of your communicating with other people.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Three Ways to Handle Negative Thoughts and Strong Emotions

photo by Callie Morgan on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay, adapted from Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness

It really bothered me when I saw an ad for a mindfulness workshop that was “guaranteed to make you feel happier and more relaxed.” Mindfulness is about awareness. It's not about being in a particular mood all the time.

In fact, something unexpected happened a few weeks after I started practicing mindfulness. I’d been feeling like, “This is great! Everybody should do this! I feel so much better!” Until suddenly it didn’t feel so good anymore.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Power of Acceptance

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

guest post by Logan Thompson, from his book Beyond the Content: Mindfulness as a Test Prep Advantage

Acceptance is an essential ingredient of mindfulness. The present moment is happening. Wishing that it weren't, or denying it, is nonsensical. It's like wishing that it weren't raining while it's raining. Or worse, denying that it's raining while it's raining. When we fight with reality, we lose.

The most common pushback I hear from students is, "How will I ever improve if I just stay complacent with the way things are?" They think that acceptance equates to future resignation. But accepting that this moment is happening doesn't preclude us from trying to shape the next moment. If you want to change a habit or a behavior or a situation, it's even more important to accept the way it is at the moment. We always have to start from where we are.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Jewish Mindfulness Resources, for the Holy Days and Every Day

Image by s2dent from Pixabay

"Judaism is by nature a religion that encourages us to be mindful of what we do each day. When we eat, for example, and say a bracha (prayer), we are supposed to be mindful that the food we are eating is a gift and not something to be taken for granted."

Rabbi Dan Dorsch, "The Value of Mindfulness in Jewish Life"

by Catharine Hannay

With the new year and High Holy Days approaching, this seemed like a good time to do something I've been wanting to do for quite a while: put together a list of resources on Jewish approaches to mindfulness. 

My interest in secular mindfulness actually first came from reading the works of contemporary Buddhist teachers from Jewish backgrounds, including Jack Kornfield and Surya Das.

In the past couple of years, I've been learning about Jewish traditions that provide wonderful opportunities to practice various aspects of mindfulness. For example, 

  • Yom Kippur: focusing on forgiveness and compassion.
  • Sukkot: engaging the senses through the Arba Minimand reflecting on impermanence; and
  • Purim: thinking about our authentic selves and the masks we typically wear.
Here are a variety of articles and videos on integrating mindfulness with Jewish practices and teachings. I hope you find these resources useful, whether you're hoping to learn more about Jewish traditions or looking for ways to integrate your mindfulness practice with your faith. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Can Christians Practice Mindfulness? (That's the Wrong Question.)

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

A couple of years ago I attended a webinar on teaching mindfulness to kids, and the instructor kept telling us: 

Why not? 

"Christians will object."

I found this quite frustrating, since I know Christian mindfulness teachers who do all of those things. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Five Ways to Begin the School Year with Mindfulness and Compassion

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

guest post by Ira Rabois

For every teacher I know, the end of summer vacation means rising nervous energy, anxiety and excitement. It means getting ready to begin a new experience, with new students and sometimes a new curriculum.
To start the school year, or anything new, it is obvious that we must make plans. We need to determine where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, in order to fulfill those objectives. But we often ignore the emotional side of getting ourselves ready.

1. Meet Each Moment Mindfully
Take a moment to feel what you feel and notice your thoughts. Only if you notice your thoughts and feelings can you choose how and whether to act on them. Start with understanding what beginning the school year means to you and what you need. Then you can better understand what your students need.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

5 Tips for Successfully Implementing a Mindfulness Program at Your School

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

guest post by Keith Horan, MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches

I spent 13 years teaching Science and Geography in a Secondary school in Galway, in the West of Ireland.  Alongside my school teaching ran a love of practicing and teaching Mindfulness.  Over the years, I found ways of teaching Mindfulness to as many students as possible in the school.

Along the way, I took a career break from teaching and spent two years travelling to different schools in the region delivering Mindfulness programs.  While I was doing this, I noticed that all the Mindfulness work I had done in my own school collapsed!  

This experience led me think about how a Mindfulness program could have a long-term, sustainable impact on a school community.   Trying to answer that question led to a research project as part of my MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. 

There are a number of excellent Mindfulness programs that have been developed for schools.  Examples include the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP), MindUp, Learning to BREATHE, Mindful Schools, and Stressed Teens.  My research aimed to figure out the best way to implement these programs. 

I interviewed ten teachers who were involved in delivering Mindfulness programs in Irish Secondary schools.  Based on their responses, here are five tips for successfully implementing a Mindfulness program at your school.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Renewing Your Love for Teaching: The Moment That Is Summer

photo courtesy Ira Rabois

guest post by Ira Rabois

Did you grow up with a longing for summer? Summer can remind us what it was like to be a child ⎼ celebrating the end of the school year, of warm weather, and vacations. And if we don’t teach summer school or don't have to work a second job (or maybe even if we do), we can have free time once again.

The longing for summer is, for me, a longing for renewal.  This morning, I woke up early and went outside. Our home is in a small clearing surrounded by trees, flowering bushes and flowers. Two crows were screaming as they flew past. The shade from the trees was vibrant, cool and fresh, the colors sharp and clear. The light was so alive it wrapped the moment in a mysterious intensity. Time slowed so deeply that once the crows quieted, the songs of the other birds and the sounds of the breeze just added to the silence.

This is what I look forward to. Even now that I’m retired, I so enjoy summer. It doesn’t matter to me if it gets too hot and humid or if it rains (or if it doesn’t rain). This is it. I can actually hear my own life speaking to me.

Techniques for Renewal and Re-energizing

Friday, July 12, 2019

10 Questions About Self-Care Only You Can Answer

photo by andibreit for Pixabay 

by Catharine Hannay

There's no score for this quiz and no one correct answer to any of the questions. The purpose is to figure out what works for You.

1. What does 'self-care' mean to me?

  • Does it feel selfish, self-empowering, or self-nurturing?

2. How might taking better care of myself benefit others (especially my family and students or clients)?
  • How do I get what I want/need without negatively impacting someone else?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

5 Strategies for Building Resilience in Children and Youth

peer leaders and students participating in the
Flourish summer camp session in 2019

photo courtesy Mental Fitness, Inc.

Guest post by Robyn Hussa Farrell, Mental Fitness, Inc. 

For the last 14 years, Mental Fitness, Inc. (a national nonprofit agency) has connected with researchers from multiple disciplines to deliver evidence-based programs that build resilience in youth.  With one in three adolescents struggling with depression, and with suicide being the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 19, there is an urgent and critical need to build the shared protective factors against substance use, mental health disorders and suicide.

By using a trauma-informed framework, we can be sure to reach children and youth from a wide range of socio-economic and demographic backgrounds. Here are five strategies that we've found particularly effective.