Sunday, April 15, 2018

Mindful Moments in Nature

The following is a guest post by Bianca Brownea certified children's mindfulness and meditation facilitator who offers classes and  workshops in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mindfulness and nature. For me, the two go hand in hand. There is something about being in nature that encourages me to pause and be still. 

Maybe it is the abundance of fresh air. 

Maybe it is that wonderful, earthy smell. 

Maybe it is the soothing sounds of nature. 

Maybe it is an awakening of all my senses that helps me to be present in the moment. 

All I know is that nature is my go-to place to find the calm within. 

It is for this reason that I run my “My Parent and Me!” mindfulness workshops in our nearby forest whenever possible.  

Recently we had a wonderful workshop in the forest with the focal point being the river. Despite the severe drought in Cape Town at the moment, the river was still flowing gently. What a privilege to be able to sit on its banks and listen to the soft, soothing sound of the flowing water.

“I breathe slowly in, I breathe slowly out.  
My breath is a river of peace. I am here in the world.  
Each moment I can breathe and be.” 
~ from “Breathe and Be” by Kate Coombs.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Songs About Nature and the Environment

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers. This time the focus is on protecting the environment, appreciating nature, and treating all creatures with respect and compassion.

As always, please read the full lyrics and watch the full video before deciding if a song is appropriate for your particular context.  And scroll to the bottom of the post for questions to prompt reflection and discussion.

Come Walk with Me
Liz Weston
lyrics not available; video with singing by Martyn Wyndham-Reid and photos of nature
“Where wren and robin sing in the green and leafy shade... All this I will show you as we wander hand in hand. Come walk with me, and learn to love the land.

Global Warming, Niyorah
lyricsaudio + album cover
Global warming, the cry is out. The earth is getting hotter, without a doubt. The glaciers are melting in the north and south. Our lives are about to change.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Using Mantras While Teaching Kids Yoga (guest post)

The following is a guest post by Sara Weis of Go Go Yoga for Kids, adapted from her books A Complete Guide to Yoga with Kids and Yoga Lessons for Children.

We live in a fast-paced world and so do our children. How can we, as adults and teachers, help children connect with themselves and others and also learn to enjoy the moment they are in? 

What we think about ourselves can often impact how we develop. 
  • If we feel we are inadequate, then we'll behave like that. 
  • If we believe we are special and loved, we will most likely behave as if we are special and loved. 

This is one reason why affirmations and mantras can be an important tool to help children develop positive foundations on which to grow.  A positive self-belief system built in childhood will hopefully stay with a person throughout their life.

Monday, March 26, 2018

How Our Own ACEs Impact Trauma Work with Youth (guest post)

I am honored to have the opportunity to write another guest post for the Center for Adolescent Studies blog.

Here's the introduction... 

While you were growing up:
  • Were your parents or caregivers unloving, unsupportive, or neglectful?
  • Were you threatened or abused?
  • Did you witness the abuse of one of your caregivers?
  • Did you live with anyone who had a mental illness or a problem with alcohol or drugs? 
These are all examples of ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. The term ACEs first appeared in a study of the relationship between childhood trauma and adult illness. 
Over the past few years, there’s been an increasing awareness of ACEs and interest in trauma-informed teaching and therapy. We should also keep in mind how much our own trauma histories may continue to impact those of us who work with youth. 
In her book on Trauma Stewardship, Laura van Dermoot Lipsky explains that

“Some people feel driven to work in a field that is connected to an earlier trauma in their life; consciously or not, they intend to master the haunting echoes of a previous time… The more personal our connection to our work, the greater the gifts we bring to it—perhaps. 
At the same time, the more we identify with the type of trauma we’re exposed to, the greater the impact on us may be… to the point that we experience their anguish in a debilitating way… 
We can sustain our work with trauma only if we combine our capacity for empathy with a dedication to personal insight and mindfulness.”

You can read the full post at:

Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Go Go Yoga for Kids: Yoga Lessons for Children (recommended book)

Sara Weis is a mother and elementary school teacher, as well as an experienced kids yoga instructor and teacher trainer. So she has a lot of useful suggestions for how to structure and pace a class while keeping kids safe and engaged. 

But her biggest strength is as the creator of fun yoga-based activities. Her new book, Go Go Yoga for Kids: Yoga Lessons for Children has dozens of games and activities: Yoga Bingo! Princesses and pirates! Not to mention the four seasons, birthdays, the Olympics, and trips to the farm and circus. (Although I suspect one of the most popular themes might turn out to be the "Quick-and-Easy No-Time-to-Plan Kids Yoga Lesson.") 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Mindful Listening: Only If You Listen Can You Hear

The following is a guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking, explaining the ways that mindful listening can be integrated into academic courses.

I had a discussion with a friend yesterday. I made what I thought was a logical and possibly obvious suggestion to help him with a difficult problem he was facing. The result was my friend yelling back at me all the reasons not to do what I suggested—and then apologizing.

I realized he wasn’t arguing with me but himself. He was shouting back against the universe that had sent him the problems, hoping the vehemence of his objection would obliterate the reality. So today, when he brought up the topic again, I just listened, sometimes asking questions to check if I understood, and empathizing with him. The result: he came to his own conclusions.

I've seen this dynamic many times in the classroom. Students often argue a point not because they truly believe it, but because they don’t want to believe it. They hear something from friends or family and don’t want it to be true and want you or the class to argue them free of it. They might feel conceptually stuck and want a way out. They might say there is no such thing as love, for example, or all actions are selfish, because they fear a life without love or they have been hurt by the selfishness of friends, and don’t want to feel their own lives are meaningless.

Instead of dictating answers of your own, which will often be resisted, ask questions to help students better notice and understand their own experience and improve their ability to reason. For example, if a student says love is impossible or an illusion, ask them one or more of the following:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Using Mindful Questioning to Enhance Academic Learning (interview)

Ira Rabois has many years of experience as a secondary school teacher, instructor in the traditional Japanese martial arts, and meditation practitioner. While teaching for 27 years at the Lehman Alternative School in Ithaca, N. Y., he developed an innovative curriculum in English, Philosophy, History, Drama, Martial Arts, and Psychology, and refined a method of mindful questioning. He writes a blog on education and mindfulness. Mr. Rabois is the author of Compassionate Critical Thinking: How Mindfulness, Creativity, Empathy, and Socratic Questioning Can Transform Teaching.

What does ‘mindful teaching’ mean to you?

First, what does mindfulness mean? Mindfulness is a study of mind and heart from “the inside.” It is a moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations illuminating how interdependent you are with other people and your world. 

Without being judgmental, it notices whatever arises as a potential learning event. It is both a practice, as in meditation, and is also a quality of awareness or of being in the world.

When I first started teaching, like most educators, I made a number of mistakes. When you make a mistake, it is easy to get down on yourself, and then you don’t learn all that you could. 

The more mindful I became, the more I could take in, the less judgmental I was, and the more I thought of my students as my teachers.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Compassionate Critical Thinking (recommended book)

"Often, you have little choice in what material you teach; the only choice you have is how the material is taught... When a teacher enters the classroom with awareness and genuine caring, students are more likely to do the same."

Compassionate Critical Thinking by Ira Rabois

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Songs about Regret and Forgiveness

Here's is the latest in the popular series of song lists on compassion, gratitude and so on.  This time, the focus is on regret, forgiveness and reconciliation.  

Music styles include ska, Sesame Street, and salsa-infused hip hop, so hopefully there's something for everyone. 

Teachers, I've included a brief snippet of the lyrics for each song, but be sure to watch the full video and read the full lyrics before sharing any of these songs with your class. I try not to include anything offensive, but with a readership on six continents teaching pre-K through post-graduate, I can't guarantee that everything will be appropriate for your particular context.

Apology Song, The Decemberists

lyrics; video (audio + album cover)
"I'm really sorry, Steven, but your bicycle's been stolen. I was watchin' it for you 'til you came back in the fall.  I guess I didn't do such a good job after all... So I wrote you this song in the hopes that you'd forgive me even though it was wrong."  

Begin Again, Rachel Platten
official lyrics video
"I need a wrecking ball. I want the sky to fall. I feel so small tonight... I need a tidal wave. Come and wash away all the mess I made  to make it right. I need to make it right."

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Children's Author Teaches Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion (interview)

Susan Verde has bachelor's and master’s degrees in Elementary Education and Reading Remediation, and is a certified kids yoga and mindfulness instructor as well as an award-winning author of children’s books. Her upcoming books include Rock N Roll Soul (May 15th), I Am Human, and Hey, Wall! (about street art and community). Susan lives with her 3 children in East Hampton, NY and speaks and gives workshops throughout the United States at yoga studios and elementary, middle and high schools. 

Why did you choose to call your books I am Yoga and I am Peace rather than “I Do Yoga” and “I Feel Peace,” or “I Practice Yoga and Mindfulness”?

The practices of mindfulness and yoga are really ones that we embody, not just engage in at a distance. They are ways of being in the world. 

When I work with kids doing yoga and mindfulness they become the practice. When we are in tree pose they are trees…exploring how it feels in their minds and bodies. 

Once you understand that you are something, it informs how you live your life.