Sunday, October 15, 2017

Be Here Now: Songs about Time and Appreciating the Present Moment

Continuing the popular series of song playlists for teachers, here are songs about growing up, seasons changing,  remembering the past, and taking action in the present.  I've included singers both young and old, as well as a couple of instrumental songs from one of my favorite guitarists.

As always, please preview the full lyrics and video before sharing any of these with your students.  And scroll to the bottom of the list for questions that can be used as prompts for discussion or writing.

All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
lyrics; video (audio with album cover); cover by Allie Farris
"Sunrise doesn't last all morning.  A cloudburst doesn't last all day... All things must pass away."

Awake, Josh Groban
lyrics; video of live performance

"A beautiful and blinding morning. The world outside begins to breathe...  Give me more time to feel this way. We can't stay like this forever, but I can have you next to me today."

AWARE A Lil' Bit, JusTme
video with lyrics
"Feel pain.  Feel pleasure.  Mindfulness helps us take action with compassion, so you see the bigger picture... Be aware of really what's up.  Present in the moment."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Useful Counseling Skills for Teachers (guest post)

This is my latest guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog

It was one of those moments when someone’s trying to be helpful but says exactly the wrong thing. 
A student walked into the office while I was chatting with another teacher. In response to our cheerful “Good morning. How are you today?” he looked at us sadly and said, “Bad day.” 
“You shouldn’t say that,” my colleague informed him. “In English we say ‘I’m fine, how are you?’”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mindfulness for the Middle Grades (interview)

photo courtesy Elizabeth McAvoy

Elizabeth McAvoy has more than 20 years’ experience working as an educator and professional mentor to at-risk youth. She currently teaches middle school Art and English Language Development in San Francisco, California, where she uses mindfulness to help her students self-calm and increase attention, focus, and compassion for self and others. She is the co-author (with Jacqueline Thousand) of the laminated guide Mindfulness for Teachers and Students.

Lately I’ve been featuring resources for adolescents and young children, so I’m quite interested in your perspective as a middle school teacher. What are the most effective mindfulness practices and activities for the ‘tween’ age group?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Four Ways to Improve Difficult Relationships with Youth (guest post)

This week at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog, I had the opportunity to share my perspective on communicating with 'difficult' teens.  Here's the introduction:  
In retrospect, it wasn’t such a great idea to tell my devout Christian mother I thought I was a pantheist. 
I don’t blame her for freaking out. The poor woman must have imagined me performing Dionysian rituals in the backyard, assisted by our ever-accommodating golden retriever. 
But I do fault her for this: after the initial freak-out, there was no follow-up discussion. She didn’t ask me what I meant or give me any chance to defend myself, just lectured me on what she herself believed and why I was wrong. It was yet more evidence of how ‘difficult’ I was, always saying or doing something to upset her.
When I look back at this incident from my own adolescence, and think about the many adult-teen confrontations I’ve witnessed or heard about in my years as a teacher, one thing is clear. There is quite often a way for the adult to improve the relationship. At minimum, there is almost always something the adult should not do in order to not make the situation any worse!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mindful Meditation Through Celtic-Inspired Art (interview)

California-based artist Erin Rado is the creator of Celtic Art Therapy using Mandalynths, mandalas that are traced like labyrinths as a form of mindful meditation. Mandalynths have been shown to help manage stress, anxiety, panic, PTSD, ADD, ADHD and autism.

How did you first become interested in Celtic art as a mindfulness tool?

Through observation. I began showing my Celtic collection as art, but when I first made what I called “meditation plates
,” people were doing more than meditating. They were entering altered states. This happened repeatedly until I realized I was effecting a change in the brain. 

Behavioral wellness professionals helped me understand what I was doing, and now I have some scientific results to support my work.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Top 3 Breathing Exercises for Anxious Kids

photo courtesy Sara Weis

The following is a guest post by Sara Weis of Go Go Yoga for Kids, an elementary school teacher as well as an experienced yoga teacher and teacher trainer.

“You will be fine. It will be fun,” I affirmed for the hundredth time as I nudged my daughter out the door for her first soccer practice. 

She's a kid, I thought. What does she really have to be nervous about? Trying new things is supposed to be exciting when you are young. It is only when you are an adult that it becomes harder to step outside your comfort zone, correct?

That may be true for a very few select kids who sail through their childhood without an ounce of anxiety clouding their pursuit of trying new activities. However, the majority of kids worry and fret, just like adults.

As a mom of three and a teacher for over 18 years, I frequently see a recurring theme of anxiousness in children, and it is completely normal. Kids get nervous or stressed. Any different event such as starting a new school year, taking tests, trying new activities, and meeting new people can bring about uncertainty, unease, and worry.

When we worry, we take short, shallow breaths which continue to ignite the feeling of unease in our bodies. Slowing down our breathing and taking long, deep breaths naturally brings on a sense of calmness and peace.

Try these three breathing exercises with your kids. These calming techniques are effective for any age, and can be done anywhere - in the morning, during a car ride, sitting in school, or before bedtime. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Calming Young Minds (interview)

photo courtesy Sherri Snyder-Roche
Sherri Snyder-Roche, MA, LMHC is a psychotherapist in the Boston area who has worked with children, teens, and families. Pediatricians have referred hundreds of children to her for concrete techniques to help decrease their anxiety. Sherri is also a trained yoga instructor as well as a painter and photographer. She is the creator of the Calming Young Minds audio program based on her integrated approach to therapy, which include creativity, play, games, meditation, music, guided imagery, and yoga.

Your work with children incorporates a variety of different traditions. What are the benefits of an integrated approach, as opposed to separate classes for art, movement, mindfulness and so on?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Do-It-Yourself Mini-Retreat for Counselors and Teachers

stockimages for

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Howd, adapted from her book Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat, and published here with permission from Parallax Press.  For more information about home retreats, including a list of suggested home retreat itineraries, visit

In the midst of trying to meet the seemingly endless needs of our students or clients, teachers and therapists often feel there’s no time to breathe or to reflect, let alone to focus on our own, personal needs. A silent meditation retreat can be a life-changing experience because we intentionally let go of our commitments and distractions and come face-to-face with ourselves. And, even though retreats can prove to be quite challenging—I assure you they’re worth it.

If you’d like to get a taste of what it might be like before committing to a longer silent retreat experience, and/or it’s not possible for you to attend a residential retreat right now—you can start by creating a mini-retreat at home. All you need is a clear intention and some self-discipline.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sit. Walk. Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat (recommended book)

Day 1: “I just want to jump up and run the hell out of here.  I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the week.”

Day 6: “I knew all the happiness I was feeling wasn’t going to last.  This is all such a load of bullshit!... I can’t believe I have three more effing days of this.”

Day 9: “Tears of gratitude, joy, and relief rolling down my cheeks.  I did it.  I made it through.”

In Sit. Walk. Don't Talk, mindfulness facilitator Jennifer Howd takes us inside her mind during her first 9-day Vipassana (Insight) meditation retreat.  

Sharing her journal entries, notes to and from teachers, and interactions with fellow retreatants, Howd gives a no-holds-barred account of her ups and downs throughout the week.