Sunday, February 17, 2019

Thought-Provoking Videos About Mindfulness and Meditation

by Catharine Hannay

These brief (5-15 minute) videos explore mindfulness and meditation from different points of view. A few of the perspectives might be controversial, but I've chosen them because of their potential to spark thoughtful dialogue.

As always, please watch the full video before showing it to your class or group, and use your own best judgment about what's appropriate for your particular context. And scroll down to the end of the post for suggested questions for discussion or reflective writing.

Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation

Emerson College students and Campus Chaplain bring meditation to residents of St. Francis House, New England's largest day shelter.

This is from Peace in Schools' series of videos of adults and youth talking about the benefits of mindfulness.

Mindfulness teacher Jerry Braza discusses how paying attention can lead to personal transformation, and how anything and anyone can be used as a 'mindfulness bell' to help us focus on the present moment and connect with each other.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Realistic Self-Care: What's Draining Your Battery?

by Catharine Hannay

When I started my first teaching job, a veteran professor told me:
“Anyone can be a good teacher by killing yourself [with work]. The secret is to be a good teacher without killing yourself.”
I've heard similar remarks from nurses, social workers, and counselors. There is far too much to do on any given day, and it's only getting worse as 24/7 connectivity adds to the already-impossible demands on those of us committed to helping others. 

As my husband said after a particularly grueling day of pro bono work:

“Everybody loves that Margaret Mead quote about a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens changing the world. What nobody ever seems to mention is how exhausting it can be.”

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Exploring Our Humanity with Mindfulness

What Our Bodies Can Teach Us 

Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking

How can we use mindfulness, visualization and inquiry practices to teach history and what it means to be human? One avenue is to look clearly at our own body and the way our mind works.

We often overlook the obvious. We are our own most direct example of what it means to be human. And what could be more important in this time of high anxiety and threat than a better understanding of our shared humanity and ourselves? 
Ask students: Did you ever consider that inside yourself might lie answers to some of the deepest questions about human history and what it means to be a human being? 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Breath-Based Practices for Mindfulness or Stress Reduction

Photo by Neil Bates on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

“If you can breathe, you can meditate.” 
Sharon Salzberg 

Here are several approaches to breath awareness for adults and kids. Some of them are intended to reduce stress and anxiety, while others help us focus on whatever is happening in the present moment.

But first, a note to new teachers: I've been asked several times,
"Where can I find mindfulness scripts for my students?"  

Rather than reading from a script, please do the practices yourself several times before leading a group or class, so the phrasing feels natural to you. 

In fact, you may actually want to use recordings with your students for a while before starting to lead the practices yourself.

Why Focus on the Breath?

In Looking at MindfulnessChristophe André gives several advantages of breath-based practices.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

New Coalition Supports Mindfulness in Schools (interview)

Tracy Heilers is a yoga instructor and mindfulness instructor for pre-K through high school students and teachers. She is
the the founder and executive director of the Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully (COSEM). COSEM will be hosting its first annual conference from February 28-March 2, 2019 in St. Charles, IL (outside of Chicago). 

In this interview, Tracy discusses COSEM and her approach to mindfulness with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: I was interested to see that your bachelor’s degree is in Civil Engineering. What led you toward yoga and mindfulness?

Tracy: My mindfulness path started when I was an engineer. When I’d get lower back pain from sitting all day with stressful deadlines, I sought out a remedy and found yoga. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Song Playlist: Self-Compassion, Self-Acceptance, and Empathy

by Catharine Hannay

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teachers, here are songs about self-compassion, self-acceptance, and supporting each other

There are three songs for young children, which I've put at the top of the list. (You might want to check them out even if you don't teach young children. "You are Wonderful" is catchy, the "I Can Be" video is charming, and Kermit the Frog is, well, Kermit the Frog. I mean, what more can I say?)

Most of the other songs and videos are appropriate for a wide range of ages and audiences, but there are a few videos I would only feel comfortable showing to adults or mature teens. As always, please watch the full video and read the lyrics before deciding what's appropriate for your particular context. 

It's not easy bein' green. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky. But green's the color of Spring..."

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Thought-Provoking Videos About Empathy, Compassion, and Service

by Catharine Hannay

Continuing with the popular series of video playlists for teachers, here are a variety of moving and thought-provoking perspectives on:
  • How to Have a Good Conversation (even when we have opposing viewpoints);
  • How to be an Upstander against bullying; 
  •  What Not to Say to d/Deaf people, people of mixed race, people with disabilities; and people with cancer; and
  • Getting More Than We Give from volunteering

I've included some videos that are appropriate for all ages, and others that I would only feel comfortable showing to adults and mature teens. As always, please watch the full video before making your own best judgment about what's suitable for your particular context.

Perspectives on Empathy and Mindful Speech

In this TEDX talk on How to Have a Good Conversation, award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee explains how to listen respectfully and learn from people whose opinions may be very different from our own. 

 (Ms. Headlee expands on these ideas in her excellent book We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter.)

Have you seen the famous 'All That We Share' video from Danish television, about putting people in boxes? 

These students were inspired to make their own videos:

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Mindfulness Helps Kids and Adults Handle Stress

Florenza Denise Lee is a radio talk show host, author, speaker, certified life coach, and children’s mindfulness coach.

Her book The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog teaches children the benefits of breathing and experiencing the present moment.

In this interview, she discusses her work with veterans, military families, and recovering addicts with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: In The Tail of Max the Mindless Dog, Max keeps chasing his own tail, thinking that if he can catch it and tie it in a knot, it will stop causing him so much pain. Do you see any parallels with your work in addiction recovery? 

Florenza: As a previous director of a women’s home (for addiction recovery) as well as an advocate for our veterans, I believe that the way we respond to pain most surely parallels the way Max felt in my book. 

Max was not to blame for his pain, but he was responsible for how he responded to his pain. I share this thought with both my residents in the home as well as veterans. 

Of the women in the program, more than 85% were there due to abuse they encountered as children. This carried over into their adult years and resulted in them having addictions. 

Our Veterans face similar challenges. Many experienced untold encounters that caused them to develop conditions such as PTSD, etc. Like Max, they have pains that are not necessary their fault, but also like Max, they try to come up with their own solutions which result in negative habits that prevent them from fully enjoying life. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Realistic Self-Care: How Many Minutes Have You Got?

photo by Aphiwat Chuangchoem from 

by Catharine Hannay

All this talk about self-care is lovely, but who has the time? You've got more work every day than you can possibly handle, which means you don't even have time to meet the needs of all your students or clients, not to mention the needs of your own family. 

I get it. I really do. 

When I was working in Japan, I had a full-time teaching load on top of a full-time administrative job, while dealing with university politics, and going through severe culture shock, at the same time I was desperately trying to learn enough of the language to communicate with non-English-speaking staff. 

But here's the thing. Not taking care of myself didn't help. In retrospect, I can see that I would have benefited enormously from simply taking a few minutes every day to clear my head and prioritize my work, instead of frantically rushing from one task to the next.

In fact, looking back on any of my jobs, I can see that I made things even harder for myself.

As Austin Kleon says,
"All advice is autobiographical. It's one of my theories that when people give you advice, they're really just talking to themselves in the past." 
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

In other words: do as I say, not as I did. Here's what I wish I'd done when I was so busy I couldn't think straight. I hope  it helps you avoid my mistakes so you can do your own work in a healthier and more sustainable way. 

No matter how busy your day, you can always squeeze in a five-minute, three-minute, or even just a 1-minute break to refuel and clear your head. (If you really, truly can't find sixty seconds for yourself in the next twenty-four hours, something is very wrong.)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Using Mindfulness and Empathic Imagination in Teaching Myths

photo by Sebastian Pilcher on Unsplash

The following is a guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking.

I'd like to share with you what I learned from teaching a middle school class called 'The Story From Day One,' which integrated mindfulness and visualization exercises with the language arts curriculum. 

We often teach myths as merely literature, divorced from the cultural, spiritual, and historical context. But we pay a price for this approach. It limits the depth of meaning students can derive from their study. 

Combine this with the narrow focus on the now that social media can foster, and students easily feel isolated on an island of self, cut off not only from their contemporaries, but from a sense of the continuity of life. They have little grasp of how their lives today emerge from yesterday.