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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mindfulness Increases Harmony, In More Ways Than One (interview)

photo courtesy Kimberly Hoffman
Kimberly Hoffman is the founder of Your Mindful Solution, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Ms. Hoffman received her training in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, where she also completed their Intensive Teacher Training Course. She recently participated in the Mindful Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.

You’ve worked both as a teacher and in labor-management relations for a teachers’ association. What are some common areas of tension between teachers and administrators, and what are the best ways to address them?

The most common area of tension stems from miscommunication. Much of our communication is via email due to the ever increasing demands on both teachers and administrators. A tremendous amount of clarity is lost when we don't communicate face to face and our own insecurities wreak havoc. 

We tend to assume the worst when we read text instead of seeing facial expressions and hearing the tone of voice. The ability to be present and listen without judgment allows us to be receptive to the needs and priorities of everyone involved.

After spending twenty years with the 132nd Army National Guard Band, do you see a place for mindfulness in the National Guard? How can mindfulness help military personnel and their families?

The Army National Guard has recently incorporated a required quarterly training on resiliency that deals with positive thinking and stress management, but the key piece missing is mindfulness. 

Military life can be extraordinarily stressful for soldiers, but family members have as much, if not more stress, handling the long deployments, frequent relocations and potentially dangerous assignments of their loved ones. 

Daily mindfulness practice helps us to be a more understanding and compassionate spouse/parent, and to deal with feelings of fear and loneliness, by skillfully stilling the mind.

In previous interviews, we’ve seen how the arts connect with mindfulness. For example, Ronit Jinich  explains how dance can help us shift our point of view.

As a flutist, what do you see as the connection between mindfulness and playing a musical instrument?

The beauty of music is the expression that flows through combined consciousness and skill. Mindfulness reduces performance anxiety, improves productivity of practice sessions, and creates a space to fully experience the emotions that arise while performing. 

My initial struggle with meditation stemmed from my constant control of my breath as a musician and the inability to let go and just breathe without effort. My "anchor" has evolved to being aware of my jaw and letting go of any stress as my reminder to stay present.

What is “mindful leadership,” and how does it benefit schools and communities?

My training in mindful leadership is geared towards teachers and administrators to focus on choosing their response, instead of reacting, in high-stress situations. Both schools and communities benefit when we have a collaborative and collective effort to educate our children, and this is most successful when we approach challenges with an open and clear mind. While there are wonderful practices and skills for students in the classroom, my focus is on the leader in and out of the classroom.

What does “mindful teaching” mean to you?

For me, the practice of mindful teaching is incorporating self-reflection, compassion and kindness in the classroom, while fostering your best self as an educator.

What do you do in your own personal mindfulness practice, and how does it help you with your work?

I take purposeful pauses throughout the day, along with my daily dedicated practice, to stay present and centered. These moments can occur at a red light where I check in to see if my mind has wondered to random thoughts, or the moment before I answer a phone call by taking a cleansing breath.

These short, but frequent, moments continually bring me back to the present moment, thereby increasing my productivity and the overall enjoyment and satisfaction of my work.


related posts:
Relaxed Abdominal Breath: Stress Reduction Through Mindful Breathing

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