Sunday, May 19, 2019

Three Different Approaches to LovingKindness Practice

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

by Catharine Hannay

I've heard different opinions over the years about whether lovingkindness meditation should be considered part of mindfulness teaching or a complementary practice. I've sometimes even seen it dismissed as "just a 'feel-good' practice." 

In my opinion, lovingkindness or compassion is the reason to practice mindfulness.  I want to pay attention to my thoughts, words, and deeds so I can avoid harming myself or others.

Sometimes compassion can arise naturally during mindfulness meditation. Other times it's beneficial to intentionally focus on sending good wishes to ourselves and other people.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

How Mindfulness Can Help Us Wake Up to Oppression and Suffering

Jade Bryan is the author and illustrator of Dragon Girl, a children's book based on the Lotus Sutra and traditional Buddhist cave paintings.

In this interview, Jade shares her thoughts on Buddhism and mindfulness with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: The basic premise of Dragon Girl is that an 8-year-old girl

from a very privileged background realizes there must be more to life than toys, treats, and jewels. She wants to wake up, but she’s surrounded by people who aren’t awake and can’t see beyond the walls of the palace. 

In your opinion, how can kids help adults to wake up to the suffering in the world?

Jade: I believe that kids are more awake than adults imaginewe can learn a lot from how they see the world! 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Three Useful Animal Metaphors for Teaching Mindfulness

In traditional Zen teachings, agitated mental activity is often compared to a monkey jumping from tree to tree. When we practice mindful awareness of our thoughts, it’s like we’re observing the monkey and noticing its movements.

Here are a few more metaphors that can be useful in explaining how mindfulness helps us calm down, think clearly, and respond effectively.

Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Blue Red Yellow: What Do You See?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

Here's a simple exercise to try yourself or with your students (either adults or kids).

Close your eyes, take a couple of breaths, and think about the color blue. Blue… blue… blue… Now open your eyes and look around. 

What do you see?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Recommended Resources on ADDRESSING Diversity

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

by Catharine Hannay

Here's my latest guest post at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog, with resources to help you support students and clients from different backgrounds:
One of my most sobering moments as an English as a Foreign Language teacher came during a discussion about Martin Luther King’s ‘crusade for justice.’ Some of the students didn’t know what ‘crusade’ meant, so I asked for a volunteer who could define the word. 
A young man from Saudi Arabia raised his hand. “I don’t know how to explain in English,” he said. “But I know it means something bad.” All of the Muslim students nodded their heads in agreement. 
It made me realize how much I’d been influenced by my own upbringing in a Christian family of western European descent, and that a lesson on civil rights wasn’t just a Black and White issue. 
According to Pamela Hays’ ADDRESSING Framework, cultural influences are a combination of Age, Developmental and acquired Disabilities, Religion, Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Status, Sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, National origin, and Gender. 
As David Treleaven explains in his book on Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness
Systems of oppression divide groups into two categories: those that are privileged and everyone else… By ensuring we’re attuned to the social identities someone carries—and considering how those identities might interact with ours—we can adjust our interventions to try to effectively meet the needs of the person we’re working with.
Treleaven gives the example of Yvonne, a middle class Black woman who was having panic attacks because a neighbor muttered racial slurs every time she passed him in the hallway. Yvonne’s therapist tried to be supportive by leading her in a guided meditation. 
“Know that you are safe… Safe in this office, and safe in this world. Mindfully rest yo—” 
And that’s as far the therapist got before Yvonne stood up and reached for her coat.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

What Does the Bible Say About Mindfulness and Compassion?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

In this Q+A, Dr. Irene Kraegel of shares some of her favorite biblical passages related to mindfulness and compassion.

In an interview on How Christians Can Benefit from Mindful Practice, you mentioned that 
The Old Testament is filled with accounts of meditation and exhortations to be still before God. In New Testament accounts, Jesus frequently withdrew from people to spend long periods of time alone with God. 
Could you expand on this and cite some specific biblical passages? Let’s start with the shared Judeo-Christian tradition of the Hebrew Bible and biblical prophets.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Silent (and Sound-Optional) Videos for Mindfulness, Meditation, and Yoga

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

Here are some mindfulness, meditation, and yoga videos you might want to try:

  • if you or your students are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing, 
  • if you tend to get distracted by spoken instructions and commentary.

Some of the videos have sounds or music playing in the background. I've provided a brief description for d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing folks in case you're curious, but the sound isn't at all necessary to follow the practices

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Buddhist vs. Secular Mindfulness Training

Dr. Seonaigh MacPherson is a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer who began meditating over 40 years ago. She has studied with leading meditation teachers, including HH the Dalai Lama, Ven. Tara Tulku, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. 

She participated in a formative Mind and Life dialogue at the Dalai Lama's residence in India in 1997, observing week-long exchanges between the Dalai Lama and leading Western physicists. 

She collaborates closely with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto, and has taught undergraduate courses in Buddhism and mindfulness at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). In September 2019, UFV will launch a graduate certificate program in Mindfulness-Based Teaching and Learning

In this interview, Seonaigh discusses her perspective on mindfulness with Catharine Hannay, editor and publisher of

Catharine: Your career covers nearly the same time span as the increase of interest in Buddhism and meditation in North America. What do you see as the pros and cons of the popularization of secular mindfulness in recent years?

Seonaigh: The pros of the popularization of secular mindfulness in recent years are that it has enabled the core practices of mindfulness to be disseminated to a much broader group of people who are able to benefit from the practices. 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Realistic Self-Care: 12 Key Questions to Figure Out What Works for YOU

Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

by Catharine Hannay

What does 'self-care' mean to you? 
Lying on an exotic tropical beach?... But  you're thousands of miles from the coast. 
Taking a relaxing bath every night?... But your kids always interrupt you, or there's a drought, or you live in a tiny apartment with a shower stall and no bathtub. 
Buying yourself flowers, expensive chocolates, or a whole new wardrobe?... But you're on a tight budget, and you worry about the environmental impact, and who has time to shop in the midst of everything else you have to do? 
Maybe it's time to rethink self-care. 

To me, it means finding ways to nurture yourself in the midst of your current life and responsibilities.

Realistic self-care: 
  • doesn't cost a lot of money; 
  • doesn't take a lot of time; and
  • doesn't diminish the care you give to others.

It is NOT about:
  • being selfish;
  • shirking our responsibilities; or
  • ignoring the needs of our families, communities,  students or clients.

It IS about:
  • being honest with ourselves about what we can and can't handle;
  • figuring out what aspects of our work and schedules we have control over; 
  • making choices about how to most effectively spend our time and energy; and
  • recognizing that we all have unique gifts, preferences, circumstances, and challenges, so there's no 'one size fits all' approach to self-care.

Here are a dozen questions to help you think about what works for you:

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Befriending Yourself and Creating a Mindful Learning Community

The following is a guest post by Ira Rabois, author of Compassionate Critical Thinking: How Mindfulness, Creativity, Empathy and Socratic Questioning Can Transform Teaching.

For too many of our children, unconditional love, and a sense of security and safety, are more of a yearning than a reality. They need to learn how to be kind, compassionate and non-judgmental to themselves so they can more easily show it to others, and the classroom provides a golden opportunity to practice this.

One of the most valuable lessons a teacher can teach is how to be a friend to yourself and to others. You teach this when your classroom functions as a mindful learning community and when students cooperate in their own education. It needs to be taught through modeling by the teacher as well as through designed lessons.

A Classroom Practice of Mindful Questioning and Inquiry

After you enter the classroom and greet students, you might ask:

What do you want from a friend? What does the word ‘friend’ mean to you? 

Then ask students if they would like to go deeper with this question. If they answer affirmatively, ask them to sit up comfortably and close their eyes partly or fully. 

Then say something like this: