Tuesday, July 7, 2020

How Mindfulness Can Help Us in Challenging Times

Mark Pallis and Christiane Kerr are the authors of Crab & Whale, a mindfulness story for children aged 2-8, based on 20 years of experience in teaching mindfulness and yoga to kids. The book helps grownups and children experience quiet moments of connection, as they become more aware of their bodies, breath, emotions and surroundings.

In this Q+A, Mark and Christiane discuss the benefits of mindfulness for adults and kids.

When Whale is stuck on the beach, Crab realizes she’s much too small to push him back into the ocean. So she shows kindness to Whale by providing a calm, reassuring presence while they wait for the tide to come back in.

With all that’s happening these days, many of us can relate to that feeling that we are very small compared to all of the huge problems in the world. Christiane, how can mindfulness help adults and kids to not feel overwhelmed?

Mindfulness can give all ages the skills to be more aware of where our attention is and learn how to bring it back to the present moment using our breath and our bodies. That often brings a feeling of space into overwhelming situations. The science of mindfulness has given us an understanding of what’s happening in our nervous system and we can use this knowledge to build those skills.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Resources for Teachers on Equality, Diversity, and Civil Rights

photo by Kiana Bosman on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

Here are a variety of resources you may find useful for professional development and in teaching different ages of students (from young children to university and adult education) about equality, diversity, and civil rights.

First, Here's My Personal List 

These are the resources that I've found most useful in challenging my assumptions and helping me see from different perspectives. Some of them are written for teens, which is helpful to me as a middle-aged White American woman trying to better understand youth of color.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Buddhist Perspectives on Diversity, Discrimination, and Social Justice

Photo by Oluremi Adebayo from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

Here are a variety of thought-provoking perspectives for individual reflection and for possible use in teaching. I've gathered these quotes and links from a variety of sources, including the popular Buddhist magazines Lion's Roar: Buddhist Wisdom for Our Time and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.

Perspectives on Buddhism and People of Color

"To be marginalized in spaces like these means you are doing much more emotional labor than others simply to stay in the space... so you can then do the actual dharma practice you came to do... this extra emotional labor may eventually lead to emotional burnout."
No One Like Me by Lama Rod Owens

"As I sat listening to the guided meditation on the 32 parts of the body... after the directive to contemplate the skin, the recording had nothing more to offer on the subject of skin color. How could that be all there was to say about such a complex issue? And why had I not been prepared for the upheaval it could and did cause? 
It was clear to me that any consideration of the weight of racial experience as it pertains to skin color had been totally overlooked—and in a class meant to deepen our understanding of diversity through the dharma, at that! In that moment, I was doubly wounded—but perhaps not surprised." 
Brown Body, White Sangha by Atia Sattar 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Song Playlist: the Civil Rights Movement and #blacklivesmatter

Continuing the series of playlists on mindfulness, compassion, and values-based teaching, here's a selection of songs that inspired and are inspired by the civil rights movement and the movement for black lives.

As always, please watch the full video and listen to or read the full lyrics before deciding what's appropriate for your own classroom. (Think about the age and background of your students, and how they might react to certain words and images.)

At the end of the post, I've included links to more playlists and teaching resources about the music of the civil rights movement.

Breathe; india.arie
official video

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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

updated July 13, 2020 

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.

Update July 13, 2020: All over the U.S., stress levels are going through the roof at this point, since educators, students, and parents keep getting conflicting information about whether schools should reopen and under what conditions, and how on earth this is all going to work. 

Hang in there, everybody! Here are a few links that may help.

Here are the Mindful Teachers posts from March through May 2020: 

Mindfulness Activities for Families at Home:

You may also be interested in the many other activities for exploring the five senses. Any of the five senses can be a good anchor, or point of attention, which can be less problematic for many people than focusing on the breath. (Some people find that focusing on their breath actually increases their anxiety. Do what's best for you, and be sure to give kids options, as well.)

Self-Care for Teachers, Parents, and Other Adults:

You may also be interested in the many other self-care resources.

Video Playlists

You may also be interested in the many other song playlists and video playlists on mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, etc.

Looking for even more suggestions? There are hundreds of posts here at MindfulTeachers.org on practicing and teaching mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, and social-emotional skills.

About the Author

Catharine Hannay is the founder of MindfulTeachers.org and the author of Being You: A Girl’s Guide to Mindfulness, a workbook for teen girls on mindfulness, compassion, and self-acceptance. 


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.