Sunday, November 27, 2016

How Mindfulness Benefits Physical and Emotional Health (interview)

photo courtesy Erin Sharaf
Erin Sharaf spent many years as a primary care provider and university professor, has a master’s degree in Integrative Medicine and is passionate about helping others find true wellness. She leads mindfulness groups, virtually and in person, joyfully coaches those interested in shedding limiting beliefs, and believes that inner transformation is the key to global transformation.

What are some of your favorite mindful eating practices?

For me, mindful eating means staying as conscious and awake as I can for every step of the process of nourishing myself, starting with buying the food. I ask myself questions like:

  • Was there cruelty and suffering involved with this? If so, I don’t want to contribute to that or put it into my body. 
  • Is it loaded with artificial ingredients and extra sugar or is it close to the earth? 
  • Is it genetically modified? 
  • Sprayed with pesticides? 
  • Treated with hormones? 
  • How far did it have to travel to reach me? 
  • Was a virgin rainforest cut down and many animals displaced for this to reach my plate (as often happens with palm oil)? 
  • Is this food or industry contributing to global warming (as with the beef industry)? 
I do all this with great love so it doesn’t feel complicated or burdensome. By the time I’m actually eating, I can stay present with my food and be grateful for it bite by bite, because I know I made the highest and best choice I could make for my individual body and for my planet.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Building Narratives of Inclusion

Mitigating Implicit and Explicit Bias in Our Own Stories 

The following activity was created by Brandi Lust of Learning Lab Consulting and will appear in her upcoming book which explores practices of mindfulness, gratitude, growth, and connection as tools to enhance our humanity. 

Note to teachers: This activity is intended for adults, but may also be appropriate for mature teens. 

“…most often people who have power turn their stories into a wall keeping out somebody else’s truth…” 
James Hannaham, Delicious Foods (the following activity was inspired by this quote)

We all have power. In addition, we all have the desire to see ourselves positively, as worthy of love. Sometimes, in order to protect our own value and worthiness, we avoid seeing the ways in which we exclude others through either conscious choice or implicit bias. None of us are exempt from these human conditions: the desire to be worthy of love; the urge to protect our self image; the ability to be exclusionary in thoughts, actions, and community choices. 

This practice is an exploration of the ways we as individuals act out our human condition. Using personal narrative as a tool, the goal is to closely examine our own experiences in order to see the ways we may have been blinded by circumstance or choice to those who represent “otherness,” a term which means something different for every single person. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mindfulness Increases Creativity, Spirituality, and Connection (interview)

photo courtesy Brandi Lust
Brandi Lust is the founder of Learning Lab Consulting, which was created as a tool to improve the quality of life and performance of organizations and individuals seeking to grow in a more mindful, creative and connected manner.  She is also a writing consultant certified by the National Writing Project and is writing a book about her experience with mindfulness in her own life and her professional work.  It will include reflections and practices to increase mindfulness, gratitude, growth, and connection to others

Your work incorporates ‘mindful creativity.  What types of activities do you include, and how does mindfulness assist in the creative process?

Creativity is an inherent aspect of the human condition. However, our mindsets, beliefs and self-talk can create obstacles to accessing it.  Mindfulness cultivates ways of thinking and being that can counteract these obstacles.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mindfulness and Self-Care for Caregivers

My family is very private, so I won't go into too much detail. But I will say this:

My mom died of a brain tumor a few months ago. Prior to her illness she was a professor and a renowned scholar in her field. I'll leave it at that, but I'm sure you get the picture.

Since she was diagnosed after I started Mindful Teachers, I've sometimes felt like I've been living in an intense personalized mindfulness retreat. I've learned an incredible amount about the mind, and the brain, and myself, and mindfulness, and compassion, and teaching.

That journey has indirectly affected much of what I've written on other topics, but I wanted to devote an entire post specifically to caregiving. If you're a caregiver (carer), whether professionally or for a family member, I wish you all the best and hope the following advice and links give you some comfort and strength.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

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

stockimages for
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.