Sunday, October 21, 2018

7 Ways Our Thoughts Deceive Us

Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash

The following post is adapted from Letting Go: A Girl's Guide to Breaking Free of Stress and Anxiety by Christine Fonsecaand is published here with permission from Prufrock Press.

Our brains work tirelessly to keep us safe. But it isn't just things out in the world that our brains protect us from, they protect us from our inner monsters as well. And these are often perceived as more threatening than anything outside the body.

The brain doesn't base decisions on Truth with a capital "T," but rather on our perception of reality at the moment. This perception is heavily influenced by our internal monsters.

How does our brain lie to us? It uses what I like to refer to as "cons," specific thoughts that lead our conscious mind to misperceptions and cognitive errors. There are seven cons that our brain regularly utilizes to convince us of the 'truth' of a particular cognition error.

Here's a look at the specific cons our brain uses to maintain our stress and anxiety. The chart below will help you to understand the different types of cons and how they influence your own thoughts.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Effective Mindfulness-Based Approaches, for Students and Teachers (interview)

Keith Horan is a school teacher and qualified meditation teacher with an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice at Bangor University, Wales. He offers day-long workshops and 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses in Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland, and online guided meditations at

One of the key themes here at is self-care for educators and other helping professionals. In your opinion, what’s the connection between mindfulness and self-care, and why are they so important for teachers?

It is great to see the idea of self-care coming into the teaching profession.  Teachers are beginning to understand that caring for themselves is necessary if they are to care for their students.

So, the importance of self-care is becoming an accepted idea.  The challenge for teachers though is to turn this idea into a practice.  Can teachers remember to practice self-care when they need it most?  Or, as I often see, does self-care fall down the list of priorities once the pressure comes on?  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

How Christians and Buddhists Can Teach Each Other About Mindfulness

I recently saw the sarcastic comment, 
“If Christians don’t want to meditate because they think it’s Buddhist, doesn't tea ceremony mean they have to stop drinking tea?”
That really bothered me for a few different reasons. 

First of all, it's totally unacceptable to ridicule anyone's religious beliefs. That should be the bare minimum of tolerance. 

Secondly, I'm tired of facile comparisons based on a superficial understanding of Buddhist theology, as well as ignorance of the actual concerns many Christians have about what is taught in mindfulness classes

The third reason this bugged me is that I have never seen a comment like: 
Maybe Buddhists should stop using mindfulness bells because of all the handbell choirs at Christian churches.
Why is there such a persistent assumption that mindfulness teachers are all Buddhist? In fact, many Buddhists are bothered by the way traditional teachings have been secularized and taken out of context. And there are many Christian mindfulness teachers, as well as teachers who happen to be Christian but are reluctant to publicly discuss their beliefs.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Metaphors for Mindfulness and Meditation

Photo by Inge WallumrĂžd from Pexels 

What is the nature of mind and what happens when we meditate and/or practice mindfulness? Here's a sampling of metaphors, analogies, and parables from  a variety of traditions. 

Awareness of Thoughts

Huston Smith expands on the traditional concept of ‘monkey mind’:
“The mind is like a drunken crazed monkey with St. Vitus’ Dance who has just been stung by a wasp. Those who have seriously tried to meditate will not find this metaphor extreme. 
I tell my hand to rise and it obeys. I tell my mind to be still and it mocks my command.” 

In The Meditative Mind, Daniel Goleman quotes Indian philosopher Krishnamurti's advice to children:
You have to watch, as you watch a lizard going by, walking across the wall, seeing all its four feet, how it sticks to the wall, you have to watch it, and as you watch, you see all the movements, the delicacy of its movements. 
So in the same way, watch your thinking, do not correct it, do not suppress it—do not say it is too hard—just watch it, now, this morning.” 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Mindful Cell Phone Use, for Students and Teachers

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

How difficult is it nowadays to engage students in a deep discussion? Or if you’re a parent, how difficult is it to engage the whole family in a talk?

There has been much debate about the role cell phones and other digital media has played in making face-to-face in-school discussions more difficult in the last few years.

A colleague recently told me about the problems with phone use at her school. Some students even use their phones to order food to be delivered to the classroom!

When I asked why the teachers put up with it, she said they felt like they couldn’t do anything. Constant cell phone use is too engrained in the school (and national) culture. Kids do everything on their phones, and parents add to the problem by wanting 24/7 access to their children.

I was as frightened by this situation as my colleague was. How can anyone learn well, and engage with others in meaningful discussions, when their attention is constantly tuned to the expectation of a text?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Inspiring Videos of Service to Humanity

This video playlist focuses on individuals who are helping alleviate severe problems in the world, in some cases risking their lives to do so. 

As always, please watch the full video before sharing it with your class, and use your own best judgment about what's appropriate for your particular context. (I'd consider most of these appropriate for adults or mature teens. If you teach kids, you may prefer last week's collection of Inspiring Videos of Young People Serving the World.) 

In a remote Arctic village facing a youth suicide crisis, Maggie MacDonnell teaches her students resilience and self-belief through projects that contribute to the community in meaningful ways.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Inspiring Videos of Young People Serving the World

Here are videos about children, teens, and young adults who've made a difference in their own communities or communities in other parts of the world. 

I don't think there's anything here that would be offensive or inappropriate for most classrooms. However, as always, please watch the full video before sharing it with your class. 

Use your own best judgment about whether it's appropriate for your particular context, as well as what type of support your students might need in order to understand an unfamiliar accent or unfamiliar culture.

Ryan Hreljac was only 6 years old when he started raising money to build wells for communities who didn't have clean water.

Jimmy Akana was one of the children who benefitted from Ryan's Wells. Now Jimmy and Ryan are friends who work together to help bring clean water to communities around the world.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

An Interfaith Perspective on Compassion and Service

"What is Zen? 
Simple, simple, so simple. 
Infinite gratitude toward all things past; 
Infinite service to all things present; 
Infinite responsibility to all things future."

This is what Huston Smith's roshi  told him at the end of an intensive retreat, as recounted in Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine

If you're not familiar with his work, I encourage you to read Mr. Smith's classic textbook The World's Religions or to watch his series of interviews with acclaimed journalist (and former pastor) Bill Moyers. Huston Smith had an incredibly gentle and thoughtful presence, and was able to listen to and learn from other traditions while keeping his own faith. A Methodist Christian, he also did yoga every morning, prayed five times a day in the Muslim tradition, and participated with his daughter's Jewish in-laws in sitting shiva as a way of comforting each other when she died.

As he explains in Tales of Wonder
"The major religious traditions address the mysteries, but they have other business to do: widen understanding, give meaning, provide solace, promote loving-kindness, and connect human being to human being."

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Power of Intention Setting for a Mindful School Year

The following is a guest post by Holly Duckworth, host of the Everyday Mindfulness Show and author of Mindful Leadership: The A to Z Guide For Stress Free Leadership. 

At the beginning of every school year your desk is buried in the to-do list, the goals, everything that you want your students to achieve. All of these are very important.  However, there is one key aspect to planning the year that most teachers and school leaders miss: Intention setting.  

It takes just a few moments, and is the most powerful way to set in motion a successful school year.  

Intention setting is about how you want to be as you are caught up in all the doing.  

As a mindful educator, I invite you to step back from the doing/goals and pause long enough to think through your intention for this school year.  Intention in mindfulness practice means focusing our energy on our highest values.  By setting an intention, you invite your mindfulness to support your doingness.  

To set your intention this year:

Sunday, August 19, 2018

My Goal in Heart, Mind, and Body

How Yoga and Mindfulness Can Support Life Goals

Teens Share How Yoga Helps Them In Life

The following is a guest post by Abby Wills of Shanti Generation.

Note: This lesson plan was originally designed for teaching youth, but it could also be appropriate if you teach life skills to adults who are preparing to go back to school or reenter the work force. 

Before explaining about this goal-setting lesson plan, I want to be very clear that it is NOT about setting goals FOR yoga practice. Instagram has done a fine job of instigating ‘pose goals!’

Yoga and mindful practices are non-competitive and process-oriented by nature. And that is exactly why yoga class can be a supportive environment to help students cultivate a positive vision for their future.

The purpose of this lesson is to:
1) help students set positive, conscious goals for their lives; and 
2) help them discover how their yoga and mindfulness practice can support them through the inevitable obstacles life will present.