Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Train a Wild Elephant (recommended book)


www.shambhala.com
Despite what you might think from the airborne pachyderm on the cover, this is a practical, down-to-earth guide to mindfulness practice.

There are fifty-three short chapters, each giving a specific focus for the coming week, such as “a media fast,” “mindful driving,” or “leave things better than you found them.”   There are clear instructions, along with suggested modifications to fit different life circumstances.

For example, if you don’t drive, you can focus on your experience riding the bus.  Or if the weekly focus is to “say yes,” you don’t have to let your children run amok: “You can hold an inward 'yes' to your child’s wish to jump on furniture, but redirect their energy to the playground instead.”

Most of the practices have a physical component, because
Many of us unconsciously view the body merely as a servant of the brain—the body is equipped to transport the commanding mind around, and with hands to get things the mind thinks it wants, such as ice cream.
About half of the techniques were new to me—which is pretty amazing given how much I read about mindfulness.  But I also found it helpful to read her explanations of the activities I was already familiar with and how my mindfulness practice can benefit others.   

For example, 
struggling to use the nondominant hand can awaken our compassion for anyone who is clumsy or unskilled, such as a person who has had disabilities, injuries, or a stroke.
(It can also awaken teachers' compassion toward young children, or toward students at any age who are beginners to our field.)

I also appreciated the reminders that we’re not doing the practices wrong if we find them challenging:   
This is why we call it mindfulness “practice.” We have to do it over and over again to truly become aware.  We set out to do the practice, then revert to unconscious behavior, then become aware again, then start the practice again, and so on.


I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in starting or enhancing your own mindfulness practice.  Most of the suggestions could also be adapted for classroom use.  
Mindfulness as a Way of Life (interview)

Yoga Sparks (recommended book)



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