Sunday, October 23, 2016

3 Essential Tips for Working with Non-Native Speakers (guest post)

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This week, I had the opportunity to share some of my experiences with refugees and international students in a guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog hosted by Dr. Sam Himelstein.

In "3 Essential Tips for Working with Limited English Proficiency Youth," I explain common sources of confusion and miscommunication when talking with non-native speakers of English, and suggest a mindfulness practice that can help during frustrating encounters.  (The tips are equally valid if you work with adults rather than adolescents, or if you work with non-native speakers of a language other than English.)

Here's the intro:
During a meeting at a refugee assistance organization, a psychologist described a problem she was having with one of her clients. 
 “I think he must be lying about how he got to the U.S.” she said.  “I mean, given the rest of his story, how could he possibly have been in Iceland?”

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Change the World: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

stcokimages for

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers, parents, or anyone who likes music with positive or thought-provoking lyrics.  This time the focus is on diversity, unity, love for humanity, and making a difference.  Scroll to the bottom of the page for questions you can use in teaching or for self-reflection, as well as links to more posts on compassion and service.

I've tried to include something for everyone, and I've tried not to include any offensive content... but some of the lyrics and images may not be appropriate for children or for more conservative contexts.  Be sure to preview the full lyrics and video before deciding whether a particular song is appropriate to share with your family or class.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Best Mindfulness and Meditation Apps and Tools (interview)

photo courtesy Giovanni Dienstsmann
Giovanni Dientsmann is a meditation teacher, the writer behind the popular blog, and the creator of the acclaimed Master Your Mind program. He has been intensely seeking personal growth and enlightenment since his teenage years. In this process, he has practiced meditation daily (totaling nearly 7,000 hours), read hundreds of books, tried several different techniques, and spent time on retreats with masters and instructors around the world. All this practice, learning and training has radically transformed his mind and experience of the world - as a result, he now lives a fearless, peaceful, and fulfilling life.  Giovanni is not a guru or a spiritual master – but a practitioner on the way, sharing the powerful tools and insights that have helped him thus far. His work is to translate and “update” the tools and teachings of world-wide wisdom traditions so that they are easily digestible for the 21st-century person.

What are your favorite apps and tools for mindfulness and meditation?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Importance of ‘Deep Listening’ to Young People (guest post)

David Castillo Dominici for

“Deep listening is the type of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person... You listen with only one purpose.  Help him or her empty his or her heart.”
                                                        Thich Nhat Hanh

The Power of Compassion

 As a society, we marginalize our young people.  We invalidate them.  We don’t take their opinions seriously.

Deep listening can be a relationally corrective experience.  It can help kids realize for the first time what it feels like to be seen, to be witnessed, to be heard.  They feel for the first time ‘this person is respecting me.’  As we relate to youth as human beings, their trust and comfort grows.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Downside of Self-Righteousness

Stuart Miles for

I know I should learn from my mistakes...  but I actually prefer learning from other people's mistakes.  (Much less painful!)  

That's why I love this story from Start Where You Are, by Pema Chodron:
"I had been practicing [meditation] all day, after which you might think I would be in a calm, saintly frame of mind. But as I saw that someone had left dirty dishes, I started to get really angry."

Of the eight people on the retreat, there was only one person who would be selfish enough to leave a mess for somebody else to clean up.  Pema was sure she'd see that woman's name on all the dirty dishes.  Instead,  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Multiple Intelligences Lead to Mindfulness (interview)

photo courtesy Kathleen Hackett

Kathleen Hackett is an award-winning educator with over 35 years of experience teaching gifted students, deaf students, and adult literacy. She is the Community Outreach Coordinator for inLightenment, Inc., which provides teachers and families with high quality, research based educational materials. 

The BYTES Power Smarts story, Mindfulness! Not Mind Full Nest!, introduces children to mindfulness while also helping them learn how each individual's strengths and talents (Power Smarts) can contribute to a team effort to solve a problem. This free story has been published at and on the Teachers Pay Teachers website.

What is the connection between mindfulness and multiple intelligences?

Mindfulness is an awareness of what is happening in the present moment while being nonjudgmental. 

We are all born with multiple intelligences, and we use them to help us be aware of the present moment. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Five Contemplative Art Practices

Idea go for

"Although many of us, under the ceaseless bombardment of photographic and electronic imagery that we experience daily, have lost the gift of seeing, we can learn it anew and learn to retrieve again and again the act of seeing things for the first time, each time we look at them." 
(Frederick Franck,  Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing)

 There are a lot of different ways to practice mindful seeing through looking at or creating art.  Here are a few possibilities:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Are You Happy? Songs for Reflection and Discussion

imagerymagestic for
Here are a variety of songs about feeling happy, looking on the bright side, and pretending to be happy while hiding our true feelings. 

Scroll to the bottom of the page for questions to spark reflection and discussion about our emotions and how we experience and express them.

And if you need a quick mood booster right now, check out the video of Pharrell Williams' song "Happy," featuring absolutely everyone at Deaf Film Camp. (Really.  I mean everyone.)  

Feeling Happy

Feelin' Good, Nina Simone
lyricsvideo of recording by Lauryn Hill (audio with album cover)
"Fish in the sea you know how I feel.  River running free you know how I feel.  Blossom on the tree you know how I feel.  It's a new dawn.  It's a new day.  It's a new life for me, and I'm feeling good."

Feelin’ Groovy (The 59th Street Bridge Song)
"Slow down, you move too fast.  You got to make the morning last.  Just kicking down the cobblestones.  Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy."

Happiness, Ben Lee
lyrics; official video with home movies of children
"If you wanna fix a problem, then you gotta be happy.  Being happy is the only way out of the mess. If you wanna fix a problem, then you gotta be happy ‘cause happiness creates happiness!...  If you’re waiting for a reason, then you might never be happy ‘cause happiness creates happiness!"

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Red, Orange, Yellow: A Mindful Driving Practice

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It all started with Rainbow Walk.  That's my favorite way to practice mindfulness of my surroundings, and it's been consistently in the top ten posts for the past couple of years.  So I thought it would be fun to try a "rainbow drive," looking at different colors like a red barn, the blue sky, and so on.

Let's just say that was not the most brilliant idea I've ever come up with.  I tried Rainbow Drive a grand total of one time, and it went like this:  

"Ooh,  look at the pretty flowers."   
"Oops, I just missed my turn."  
"Thank goodness that's the worst thing that happened while I was operating a 2-ton motorized vehicle on the public roads."  
 "What was I thinking?!"  

While driving, just drive.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teaching English, Yoga, and Mindfulness in Indonesia (interview)

photo courtesy Alicia Brill

Alicia Brill is a mindfulness practitioner and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) educator from the United States. From September 2015-June 2016, she served as an English Language Fellow in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. In her free time, she likes to practice yoga, meditate, travel, and climb mountains.  She will participate in a 10-day silent meditation retreat before returning to the United States.

You introduced your ESOL students to yoga. How did you tie that in with their language learning? What advice would you give to other language teachers who might want to try yoga and/or mindfulness practices with their students?

I've practiced yoga off and on for around 10 years, but I had never made it a consistent practice. Over the New Year, I attended a yoga and meditation retreat on Lombok Island in Indonesia. The retreat reinvigorated my yoga practice, was my first introduction to meditation, and reenergized my life.

Shortly after the retreat concluded in January, I helped to co-facilitate a pre-service teacher training camp in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The facilitators were asked to lead an “American Moment” activity where we introduced the campers to a particular aspect of life in the United States. 

I decided to teach a yoga class. It was the students’ first experience trying yoga and my first experience teaching yoga. The students were engaged with it, asking a lot of questions (e.g., what is the history of yoga, what’s the meaning of Namaste). They seemed sponge-like in their desire to learn about yoga and Gumby-like in their ability to try unfamiliar poses!