Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Buddhist Perspectives on Mindfulness and Compassion

image of Theravada Buddhist nuns 
by truthseeker08 from Pixabay

by Catharine Hannay

“A participant asked me, ‘Are you going to be teaching us meditation in a spiritual way?’ I told her that I’d prefer not to respond, but would rather welcome her to answer that upon completion of the series [of classes]. 
When we arrived at the last class, I circled back to her question. ‘Well, you didn’t teach meditation like it was a religious thing,’ she reflected. ‘But I found it deeply spiritual. I connected to my soul in a whole new way.’” 
Harrison Blum, “Dare We Leave Our Buddhist Centers?” in Still, in the City: Creating Peace of Mind in the Midst of Urban Chaosp. 25

With the ever-increasing popularity of mindfulness, there continues to be a lot of misunderstanding about Buddhism and how it connects to secular mindfulness teaching.

As I mentioned last week in a post on Christian Mindfulness, Yoga, and Contemplative Practices, I have no agenda in terms of trying to convince anybody to practice a particular type of meditation or prayer. 

My only goal with this post is to help spread accurate information about the range of perspectives among Buddhists and how they connect with the popular forms of secular mindfulness teaching.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Christian Mindfulness, Yoga, and Contemplative Practices

Image by reenablack from Pixabay

“A certain amount of silence and solitude is necessary for any appreciation of the sacred… A sense of the sacred is necessary if we are to become truly human, and… it can’t be experienced without the kind of prayer that can be born only in silence.” 
Orthodox priest John Garvey, in Only Wonder Comprehends

I'm writing this post for a couple of different reasons: 

  • A Catholic friend recently told me, “I'm interested in mindfulness, but some of the meditation doesn't resonate with me. And I’m so so tired of the attitude [among some secular mindfulness teachers]* that Buddhism is better.”
  • I've also had a few conversations with Protestant Christians who were drawn toward mindfulness and yoga but told by their families that these practices are against their faith. [This is a complex issue, as there's a wide range of mindfulness and yoga practices and a wide range of Christian denominations.]*

I hope the following resources will be useful both for Christians and for secular teachers, to learn about the variety of ways Christians engage with mindfulness, yoga, meditation and prayer.

*[added for clarification because of Facebook comments]*

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Coping During COVID: Mindfulness and Self-Care for Adults and Kids

    Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

    by Catharine Hannay

    Depending on where you live, things may be getting back to relative normalcy or you may be under quarantine for the umpteenth week in a row. In either case, most of us are feeling a lot of anxiety as we're wondering whether the situation will get better or worse over the next several months.

    To make it easier to access the resources you need, I've gathered together all of the recent posts on coping during the coronavirus crisis. You might also find these posts useful during other times of challenge and uncertainty.

    Friday, May 22, 2020

    A Very Brief Introduction to Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Teaching

    Photo by Isabell Winter on Unsplash

    by Catharine Hannay

    Over the past couple of years, one of the phrases I keep hearing from reputable mindfulness trainers is first, do no harm.” That may seem surprising. After all, no one becomes a mindfulness or meditation teacher with the intent to cause harm. But even well-meaning teachers can unintentionally mislead students about what they'll experience in meditation.

    In his Seven Ethical Guidelines for Teaching Mindfulness, Dr. Chris Willard says that, 
    To protect everyone, we need to ethically and honestly characterize the benefits of practice, as well as potential risks. Overstating the... benefits sets up students for disappointment and... is risky not only to our credibility but to the movement's credibility at large... Likewise, understating any known risks, especially when working with higher risk populations, can do the same.

    There are many benefits to mindfulness and other types of contemplative practices. But these tend to be more subtle and harder to measure than what's often reported. (See, for example Mind the Hype, as well as my own perspective on Three Challenging Questions About the Benefits of Mindfulness.)

    There is also the potential to reactivate trauma. If you work with so-called high risk populations, you're likely aware of this. But teachers may not know their students have experienced trauma until they've had a negative reaction to meditation or relaxation practices. And even then, the students may not feel comfortable telling the teacher about their experience.

    Here is a brief introduction to some of the issues that can arise, along with a few recommended resources to learn more about how to teach mindfulness without unintentionally causing harm.

    Tuesday, May 19, 2020

    3 Actividades 5 Sentidos

    5 Senses Activities in Spanish 

    Click here for the English version: Five Senses Worksheets for English and Language Arts Classes

    Photo de Sharon Pittaway en Unsplash

    por Catharine Hannay

    Estas tres actividades de plena conciencia son algunas de las más populares del sitio MindfulTeachers.org. 

    Espero que les sean útil para hispanohablantes y para los profesores y estudiantes de español.

    Friday, May 15, 2020

    6 Ways Parents Can Share Mindful Moments with Kids

    image courtesy Empowering Education

    guest post by Noah Teitelbaum of Empowering Education

    It can be tricky to figure out how to introduce mindfulness to children in a way they’ll enjoy and appreciate. For teachers or parents who practice mindfulness themselves, this pandemic (or any stressful time) may seem like the perfect time to plop kids down and get them counting their breaths. 

    That might work for some kids, but many respond better to less formal and more active versions of mindfulness. In fact, some kids will get anxious when forced to sit in traditional seated mindfulness practice—especially those who have experienced trauma. As an alternative, you can try one of the ideas below.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2020

    Children's Stories for Social Emotional Learning

    Noah Teitelbaum is an advocate for social-emotional learning programs and a leader in social emotional curriculum design. He is the Executive Director of Empowering Education, which provides a K-8 SEL program that is mindfulness-based and trauma-informed. His new children’s book, Munchy and Jumpy Tales, is a book of illustrated stories from that program, teaching lessons such as gratitude, diversity, inclusion, and equity.

    In this Q+A, Noah shares some personal and professional insight on emotional intelligence for children.

    In your opinion, what are the primary components of an effective SEL program?

    There are so many ways to do social-emotional learning in school and so many great programs out there to help do that. Of course, there are a lot of factors that make a program effective: is it trauma-informed, culturally-relevant, research-based? 

    But an important issue often gets ignored: if a program isn’t used, it won’t work. That’s why we focus a lot on ease-of-use, accessibility, and fun.

    Friday, May 8, 2020

    A Gratitude Practice for Challenging Times

    image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay

    by Catharine Hannay

    Barn's burnt down--now I can see the moon.

    Mizuta Masahide


    Be grateful in all things.

    1 Thessalonians 5:18 

    Today I'd like to expand on an approach to gratitude I discussed briefly in a previous post:
    The idea is to be grateful in all things, not necessarily for all things... [When] both my mother and my uncle were seriously ill, we weren't at all happy about the challenges we were facing, but we did feel tremendously grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. 

    The point is to look for the good. To find something positive to focus on rather than sinking into cynicism or despair.

    Tuesday, May 5, 2020

    Many Paths to Mindfulness (podcast)

    by Catharine Hannay, founder of MindfulTeachers.org

    I had the honor of appearing on the Present Moment podcast, which features a wide variety of perspectives on mindfulness research and practice. 

    With podcast host Ted Meissner, I discuss:

    • Being You: A Girl's Guide to Mindfulness, my workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance;
    • my own favorite ways to practice mindfulness, empathy, and compassion; and
    • the importance of a multi-cultural/interfaith approach to mindfulness.

    You can listen to the interview at 


    (recorded February 29th and broadcast May 3rd)

    Friday, May 1, 2020

    Coronavirus Song and Video Playlist

    Focusing on Empathy, Compassion, Kindness, and Service

    Continuing the popular series of song and video playlists for teachers, here's a selection of perspectives on COVID-19.

    There's a seemingly endless number of song covers and parodies on youtube (some of them quite clever), but for this list I went with originality and sincerity.

    I'm sure a lot of kids will be able to relate to the song called, aptly enough, "A Song About Coronavirus from the Perspective of a Senior in High School":

    "I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to the last year of teen age. This all just feels so strange. Will I walk across a stage? I know I need to do my part stay inside. The world is torn apart. That matters more than a little year even though it breaks my heart." 
    by Jazzy Anne