Sunday, April 21, 2019

What Does the Bible Say About Mindfulness and Compassion?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In this Q+A, Dr. Irene Kraegel of shares some of her favorite biblical passages related to mindfulness and compassion.

In an interview on How Christians Can Benefit from Mindful Practice, you mentioned that 
The Old Testament is filled with accounts of meditation and exhortations to be still before God. In New Testament accounts, Jesus frequently withdrew from people to spend long periods of time alone with God. 
Could you expand on this and cite some specific biblical passages? Let’s start with the shared Judeo-Christian tradition of the Hebrew Bible and biblical prophets.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Silent (and Sound-Optional) Videos for Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

Here are some mindfulness, meditation, and yoga videos you might want to try:

  • if you or your students are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing, 
  • if you tend to get distracted by spoken instructions and commentary.

Some of the videos have sounds or music playing in the background. I've provided a brief description for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing folks in case you're curious, but the sound isn't at all necessary to follow the practices

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Buddhist vs. Secular Mindfulness Training

Dr. Seonaigh MacPherson is a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer who began meditating over 40 years ago. She has studied with leading meditation teachers, including HH the Dalai Lama, Ven. Tara Tulku, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. 

She participated in a formative Mind and Life dialogue at the Dalai Lama's residence in India in 1997, observing week-long exchanges between the Dalai Lama and leading Western physicists. 

She collaborates closely with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto, and has taught undergraduate courses in Buddhism and mindfulness at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). In September 2019, UFV will launch a graduate certificate program in Mindfulness-Based Teaching and Learning

In this interview, Seonaigh discusses her perspective on mindfulness with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: Your career covers nearly the same time span as the increase of interest in Buddhism and meditation in North America. What do you see as the pros and cons of the popularization of secular mindfulness in recent years?

Seonaigh: The pros of the popularization of secular mindfulness in recent years are that it has enabled the core practices of mindfulness to be disseminated to a much broader group of people who are able to benefit from the practices. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Realistic Self-Care: 12 Key Questions to Figure Out What Works for YOU

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

What does 'self-care' mean to you? 
Lying on an exotic tropical beach?... But  you're thousands of miles from the coast. 
Taking a relaxing bath every night?... But your kids always interrupt you, or there's a drought, or you live in a tiny apartment with a shower stall and no bathtub. 
Buying yourself flowers, expensive chocolates, or a whole new wardrobe?... But you're on a tight budget, and you worry about the environmental impact, and who has time to shop in the midst of everything else you have to do? 
Maybe it's time to rethink self-care. 

To me, it means finding ways to nurture yourself in the midst of your current life and responsibilities.

Realistic self-care: 
  • doesn't cost a lot of money; 
  • doesn't take a lot of time; and
  • doesn't diminish the care you give to others.

It is NOT about:
  • being selfish;
  • shirking our responsibilities; or
  • ignoring the needs of our families, communities,  students or clients.

It IS about:
  • being honest with ourselves about what we can and can't handle;
  • figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over; 
  • making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy; and
  • recognizing that we all have unique gifts, preferences, circumstances, and challenges, so there's no 'one size fits all' approach to self-care.

Here are a dozen questions to help you think about what works for you:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Befriending Yourself and Creating a Mindful Learning Community

The following is a guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking: How Mindfulness, Creativity, Empathy and Socratic Questioning Can Transform Teaching.

For too many of our children, unconditional love, and a sense of security and safety, are more of a yearning than a reality. They need to learn how to be kind, compassionate and non-judgmental to themselves so they can more easily show it to others, and the classroom provides a golden opportunity to practice this.

One of the most valuable lessons a teacher can teach is how to be a friend to yourself and to others. You teach this when your classroom functions as a mindful learning community and when students cooperate in their own education. It needs to be taught through modeling by the teacher as well as through designed lessons.

A Classroom Practice of Mindful Questioning and Inquiry

After you enter the classroom and greet students, you might ask:

What do you want from a friend? What does the word ‘friend’ mean to you? 

Then ask students if they would like to go deeper with this question. If they answer affirmatively, ask them to sit up comfortably and close their eyes partly or fully. 

Then say something like this:

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

4 Tips for Culturally-Sensitive Teaching

by Catharine Hannay

In a new guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog, I explain how to avoid some common sources of tension between teachers and students from different backgrounds.

In his book on Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, David Treleaven tells the story of Nari, a young woman born and raised in the United States. Nari was on her first meditation retreat, looking forward to her first private appointment with the teacher. 

Unfortunately, he started the session by asking
 “Where are you from?” 

Like many people of color, Nari was really sick of answering that question. Also like many people of color, she’d already felt self-conscious as the only non-white retreatant. She wanted the focus of the conversation with her teacher to be her experience with meditation, not her ethnicity.
“I’m local,” she said. “Just a few hours south.”

As she’d expected, the teacher said, “No, I mean, where is your family from?” Nari politely explained that her parents were from Korea. “Did you grow up meditating with your family, then?”

“Because I’m Asian?” 
“Yes, well, I mean…”

The teacher awkwardly changed the topic, but the damage was done. Nari felt so uncomfortable with him that she decided to leave the retreat several days early...

Can you imagine this meditation teacher starting a conversation with a White student about her country of origin? Perhaps if the student had a foreign accent, but not if, like Nari, she was speaking like anybody else at the retreat...

That said, I don’t think Nari’s teacher had any intention of offending her. It seems a case of cluelessness rather than callousness. As meditation teacher JD Doyle says, “None of us is immune from acting unskillfully. Despite good intentions, our cultural conditioning and ignorance often result in blunders and harm.”

No matter what subject you teach, I hope that the following tips will help you in your work with students and colleagues whose backgrounds are different from yours.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Video Playlist: Using the Arts to Teach Mindfulness

Here's the latest in the popular series of video playlists for teachers and teacher trainers. This time, the focus is on using the visual and performing arts to teach mindfulness to adults and kids.

Visual Arts

Artist Malcolm Dewey explains how we can quiet our minds and break out of habitual thought patterns by practicing a non-judgmental, practice-focused type of painting.

Chilean painter Fusa Deyas creates street art with a deeper message.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Can Evangelical Christians Practice Mindfulness?

Dr. Irene Kraegel is director of the student counseling center at Calvin College, a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has 15 years of experience as a licensed clinical psychologist, and her current work includes mindfulness training for students at Calvin. Dr. Kraegel shares her experiences and thoughts related to the integration of Christian faith and mindfulness practice at her website,

In this follow-up to an interview about How Christians Can Benefit from Mindfulness Practice, Irene discusses a Christian approach to mindfulness with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: After our previous interview, we got a comment from a reader who was very upset that you integrate mindfulness with your faith practices. Why do you think some evangelical Christians have such a visceral reaction against mindfulness?

Irene: I think it’s helpful to first acknowledge that many Christians (including those within the evangelical tradition) are quite open to mindfulness, and even eager to integrate it into their lineup of spiritual practices. Despite my frequent writing and speaking regarding the topic of Christian mindfulness, I have experienced no other encounters with Christians who are angry about an integrative approach.

Catharine: That’s an important point. I’ve also found that in my own conversations with Christians, the vast majority have no trouble with mindfulness.

Irene: Having said that, it’s true that some Christians are wary of mindfulness practice. Many of us within the evangelical Christian tradition have been taught a fear-based approach to spirituality. This stems partly from a healthy understanding of evil and sin in the world. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Activities for Exploring the Five Senses

by Catharine Hannay

"We must make ourselves sensitive and present to all... the ordinary, everyday things, that have stopped attracting our attention.. an apple, a shoe, a blade of grass, a telephone... This is easy to do; it requires just three things: 
  • wanting it (wanting to exist in the real world rather than a virtual world that is impoverished by our narrowed attention);  
  • allowing it (having decluttered our mind and expanded our awareness); and  
  • doing it (raising our head, opening our eyes and really looking)." 
from Looking at Mindfulness by Christophe AndrĂ©

Photo by Kaboompics // Karolina from Pexels 

I hope you and your students enjoy the following approaches to mindfully seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling. Depending on what type of class you teach, you might ask them to discuss, write about, or draw a picture of what they experienced. 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Realistic Self-Care: What Kind of Exercise Do You Enjoy?

Photo by from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

When I was in grad school, I was having trouble figuring out a good workout routine, so I asked a professor,
"Have you found some kind of exercise that you like?"

She told me, 
"Every night after supper I use my treadmill for exactly fifteen minutes while I scroll through the news headlines."

I probably should have guessed the answer to my follow-up question:
"And do you enjoy that?"
"Well, I DO it!" 

O-o-o-ka-a-ay. The question was about whether you enjoy it. And I guess I'll take that as a no.