M5S1 Decision-Making, Mindfulness, and You

Module 5 Session 1 Mindfulness, Responsible Decision-Making, and You

April 2, 2019

CASEL defines their fifth competency of SEL, “responsible decision making”, as:

The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others.

  • Identifying problems

  • Analyzing situations

  • Solving problems

  • Evaluating

  • Reflecting

  • Ethical responsibility

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1.Reflection and Meditation on decision making

  • What is a decision you’re pondering recently? What are the ethical issues involved? Write about this for 3 minutes.

  • Now meditate

  • Now write more...what values are dearest to you? What values are needed in your life right now? What feels like the most ethical decision you could make in this instance, given the resources that you know you definitely have, and on the real-life timeline you’re working with?

2. Discuss

This fifth competency of SEL is its own group...linking the personal and the relational. Mindfulness embodied.

“Responsible” vs. “Ethical”

  • Social responsibility vs ethical responsibility

  • Eating meat to keep the peace socially vs. one’s ethical position about it

  • Being compliant for the sake of the whole, rather than our own wellness or our own values

“The gap between “ethical aspirations” and “ordinary ethical behavior”

Remember our definition of mindfulness...and your experiences with mindfulness (both long term AND your recent (just now) experience in meditation)

How can mindfulness affect decision making? Why?

3. Research

Gap between ethical aspirations and ordinary unethical behavior:

In many cases, decision makers hold high ethical standards, but fail to adhere to these standards. If lack of awareness is one contributing factor to this phenomenon, then the cultivation of awareness through mindfulness offers a possible avenue for curbing unethical behavior. Ultimately, greater mindfulness may enable us to close the gap between ethical aspirations and ordinary unethical behavior.

Appearance and identity as “Ethical”:

This indicates that more mindful individuals are less concerned with creating an outward image of themselves as ethical by, for example, buying products or joining clubs that signal these characteristics to others. Though we did not predict this relationship, it is consistent with the notion that mindfulness promotes a focus on internal versus external rewards; one interpretation is that while more mindful individuals care more about being ethical, they care relatively less about appearing ethical. Mindful individuals might also have a higher preference for authenticity, thus diminishing the importance of crafting a particular image to manipulate others’ perceptions of oneself.

Mindfulness improves decision-making because:

  • We tend to make decisions first and then rationalize them later (and trick ourselves into remembering the order differently!)

  • Even simple decisions are complicated

  • We are drive by sensations

  • We are all biased

  • We can be more open to multiple perspectives

  • Our brains can deceive us into making things that are really WANTS feel like NEEDS

  • Not making a decision is a decision -- we are good at rationalizing non-action

We closed with a short mindful breathing moment and a friendly reminder to KEEP PRACTICING DAILY :)

Excerpts and inspiration from this session came from:



M4S3 Relationships, Mindfulness, and Research

Module 4 Session 3: Relationships, Mindfulness, and Research

March 5, 2019

I had attempted to open with a meditation guided by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the foremost secular mindfulness teachers and researchers but we had some technical difficulty! So instead, I’m linking to a meditation by him here!

After our opening meditation we shared the ups and downs of our attempts at regular daily practice. A lot of people shared that they’re feeling good about their informal practices. That is wonderful! I would encourage you to still keep the goal of formal practice as well. Just as in ballet there is no substitute for plies at the barre, in mindfulness, many people consider seated practice to be the foundational practice of mindfulness. And if not seated, at least formal in another sense (a truly mindful walk for example, is a different speed than a casual walk “with mindfulness”).

This week we touched briefly once again on the practice of NVC, as a theme that links the sessions of our relationship module.

Discussion—what does the research tell us about using mindfulness to improve relational skills? We will look primarily at the relational skill prosocial behavior. “The term prosocial behavior means positive actions that benefit others, prompted by empathy, moral values, and a sense of personal responsibility rather than a desire for personal gain.” (Kidron & Fleichman, 2006; citation)

We discussed the main findings from the following three research articles. I’ve provided a more in-depth sharing of their findings here, much of which is excerpted straight from the original material.

Donald et al 2018 Does your mindfulness help others?

Meta analysis of mindfulness and prosocial behavior. N=31 studies.

meta -analysis confirms hypotheses:

Mindfulness as a trait increased prosocial behaviors.

  • By having a non-judgementally aware disposition towards one’s experience, individuals are more likely to respond to the needs of others in helpful ways. Preliminary mediation analysis indicates that this may happen via increases in empathic concern, emotion regulation, and positive affect

Trait mindfulness increases both self-reported prosocial behaviors and other-reported.

  • Prosocial behaviors towards known others were strengthened, but not towards unknown others (making the natural human tendency to help kin stronger)

Mindfulness was most strongly linked to prosociality among adults as compared to emerging adults and adolescents.

  • This finding is consistent with the idea that perspective-taking ability develops with age and is more advanced among adults than children (Kegan, 1982). However, it is notable that the mindfulness–prosociality link was positive for all age categories.

Mindfulness as an intervention increases prosocial behaviors.

  • Exercises that specifically focus on prosocial behaviors didn’t have better outcomes than general mindfulness exercises. Evidence to-date suggests that these effects may occur via greater empathic concern (compassion), emotion regulation, and positive affect. Mindfulness interventions did not show differences in effect sizes between known and unknown recipients of helping behaviour. There is experimental evidence elsewhere that mindfulness practice. Why do you think mindfulness as a trait would not have benefits for prosociality towards unknown others, while mindfulness practices WOULD lead to prosociality towards unknown others? Authors hypothesize  these experimental effects are for measures that immediately followed mindfulness meditation. It may be, therefore, that the effects of mindfulness meditation on intergroup biases are relatively short-lived, explaining why they are not reflected across studies of trait mindfulness and prosociality.

Length of the intervention doesn’t appear to matter!

  • We did not find evidence that variables relating to study design, namely intervention intensity, type of control used, or randomization, moderated intervention effects. The results regarding intervention intensity are surprising, as they suggest that relatively brief interventions (i.e., <1 hr in duration) have similar-sized effects on prosociality as multisession interventions lasting between 1 and 10 hours, up to a 1-month intensive retreat

Limitations and Future Directions:
One limitation is that for nearly all studies included in this review, there was no evidence provided that the sample was representative of the broader population from which the sample was drawn...There was substantial diversity in the mindfulness interventions included in this review. This diversity limits the inferences that can be drawn from the pooled effects reported here. This review was not able to resolve the extent to which high levels of mindfulness, versus increases in mindfulness, lead to more prosocial behaviour.

It may be that changes in mindfulness, rather than high levels of mindfulness lead to prosocial outcomes. For example, increases in nonjudgemental awareness may signal safety and the likelihood of social reward, which leads to prosocial behaviour – similar to findings from studies of positive mood

The second article we discussed was about Promoting Adolescents’ Prosocial Behavior

There is much more research on reducing anti social behavior, but less on prosocial behavior. Implementing these changes below takes a large investment of time and money and should only be undertaken (and will only work!) if educators WANT to take part in these changes.

Research suggests that the following three schoolwide approaches can promote pro-social behavior in schools.

Train teachers to integrate values instruction into classroom management.

  • Class decision-making

  • cooperative/group tasks and assignments.

Foster a caring community throughout the school.  

  • Role of ALL adults involved with school in modeling this.

  • Pairing students as buddies.

Use positive discipline practices.  

  • clear expectations, discussions, and modeling

  • No threats, punishments, etc.

  • positive behavior interventions

The third article we talked about was Jennings and Greenberg, 2011

This article proposes a model of the prosocial classroom that highlights teachers’ own social and emotional competence (SEC) and well-being. These factors contribute to the desired outcome (of prosocial classrooms) by creating a classroom climate that is more conducive to learning.

A teacher who recognizes an individual student’s emotions, understands the cognitive appraisals that may be associated with these emotions, and how these cognitions and emotions motivate the student’s behavior can effectively respond to the student’s individual needs. Also, teachers higher in SEC are likely to demonstrate more effective classroom management; they are likely to be more proactive, skillfully using their emotional expressions and verbal support to promote enthusiasm and enjoyment of learning and to guide and manage student behaviors. Third, we propose that teachers with higher SEC will implement social and emotional curriculum more effectively because they are outstanding role models of desired social and emotional behavior. Finally, we recognize that various contextual factors, inside and outside the school building, may influence teachers’ SEC.

So what does this all mean for us, in B-COME? Thoughts about what to do or not do, what to expect or not expect, when sharing mindfulness with your students?

Our closing practice for today was meditating with the mantra: “may all beings be safe and loved”

Your invitations this week:

Informal practice --three times during your day, find someone say to yourself “just like me, ___wants to be safe and loved”

Formal practice- a daily five minute seated meditation practice saying to yourself “may all beings be safe and loved”

may all being be safe happy loved.jpeg

It would be more beneficial to set your timer short of 5 minutes (i won’t know!) than to skip the practice on some days, or do it while walking, etc. Maintaining the disciplined aspect of seated meditation, in a format that doesn’t require a guide or audio teacher, may have different benefits than other practices. At the very least, it’s important for us to become familiar with because it’s HARD and we ask our students to do hard things all the time :) It’s one of the main things (not the only thing!) i would like each of you to have a close personal experience with by the end of this program. It doesn’t mean that I expect you will love it or even that it will necessarily get easier, but you should be able to talk about what a SUSTAINED attempt at a disciplined daily formal meditation practice was like for you.

M4S2 Relationships, Mindfulness, and Your Students

Module 4 Session 2 Mindfulness, Relationships, and Your Students

February 19, 2019

Opening practice:

meditation brushing teeth.jpeg

What [Observation - Feeling - Need - Request] arises within your body when you meditate?

Check in on the past two weeks of formal and informal practice.

  • Formal practice. Does five minutes a day feel like brushing your teeth yet?

  • Informal practice. tell us about your NVC experience!

Relationships and your students

Our discussion question for today:

What do you think would be the hardest part of the NVC format for your students to use, if they were to start?

Our activity:

In pairs, work on one of the following two-part questions that your dyad chose:

Option 1: student communication

  • Name one recurring aspect of your class (or school) that requires students to communicate with one another. What mindfulness-based exercise could you reasonably incorporate into the introduction of that activity?

  • Describe your mindfulness exercise and communication activity here. What would you tell students about this addition, if anything? What are the ideal outcomes for the communication activity that you would hope to see by by incorporating mindfulness? What could go wrong?

Option 2: student social engagement

  • Name one recurring aspect of your class (or school) that requires social engagement (clubs, activism, group decision-making? etc.) What mindfulness-based exercise could you reasonably incorporate into the introduction of that activity?

  • Describe your mindfulness exercise and social engagement activity here. What would you tell students about this addition, if anything? What are the ideal outcomes for the social engagement activity that you would hope to see by by incorporating mindfulness? What could go wrong?

Option 3: student relationship-building

  • Name one recurring aspect of your class (or school) that requires students to build relationships with one another? What mindfulness-based exercise could you reasonably incorporate into the introduction of that activity?

  • Describe your mindfulness exercise and relationship-building activity here. What would you tell students about this addition, if anything? What are the ideal outcomes for the relationship building activity that you would hope to see by by incorporating mindfulness? What could go wrong?

Option 4: Student team work

  • Name one recurring aspect of your class (or school) that requires students to work together as a team. What mindfulness-based exercise could you reasonably incorporate into the introduction of that activity?

  • Describe your mindfulness exercise and teamwork activity here. What would you tell students about this addition, if anything? What are the ideal outcomes for the teamwork activity that you would hope to see by incorporating mindfulness? What could go wrong?

We closed with three long breaths together.

M4S1 Relationships, Mindfulness, and You

Module 4 Session 1

Relationships, Mindfulness, and You

February 5, 2019

In our session today, we began with a brief meditation, focused on the concept of mindfulness as a way to create and deepen a relationship with ourselves.

We dove into a 20 minute overview of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), including some of the foundational beliefs of the system. The hardest one for me is that when we make a request of someone, they can say yes OR NO! We have to know and accept this up front in order to be able to use the language honestly and empathetically. Honesty and empathy are considered the two “parts” of the model and the avenue for linking mindfulness to the process. There are many ways to use the NVC formula in an inauthentic or manipulative manner, but getting honest with ourself about what we need and value, being empathetic about the other person’s own needs, values, how they hear our request, etc. are required for this to truly be a “non-violent” form of communication.

We spent time breaking down the first part of the process, observation. We worked in partners discussing something someone does that we don’t like, then re-visiting that phrasing and removing judgment, speculation, etc. so that it became a true observation. With limited time I chose to break down this first step because the way we word that initial observation can really put someone on the defensive and make the feeling, need, and request, fall on deaf ears.

The full format might look something like this:
”When I see that _____,
I feel ________,
Because my need for / value of ________ is/not met.
Would you be willing to____________?”

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Here’s some more about feelings and needs to clarify and inspire your ideas for using this approach:

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My request is, that as an informal practice of mindfulness in action, you try out the NVC format when discussing something challenging with someone in the next week. Come prepared to discuss how it went!

After we finished our NVC time, we spent about 20 minutes on the yoga mat, listening to what our bodies might say to us. I asked you “if your body used the NVC format right now, what would she want to discuss? Now, hearing that, can you bring that to your practice?” After flowing for about 20 continuous minutes, we rested in savasana, then took a deep mindful breath together to close the practice.

Thanks for practicing with me! Happy meditating and NVC-ing, until next time!

M3S3 Social Awareness, Mindfulness, and Research

Module 3 Session 3

Social Awareness, Mindfulness, and Research

January 22, 2019

Last session we looked at what it takes to make space for social awareness through mindfulness, when it comes to your students. We read “The Guest House”, and meditated on the openness and spaciousness needed to accept others, and which is needed even more deeply for us to help students accept EACH OTHER. We talked about the relationship between mindfulness and social awareness, whether one necessarily leads to the other (or not!) and we will continue that thread in our discussion today. We talked about the phrase “holding space” and issues of cultural responsiveness. We practiced a tonglen meditation, transforming the suffering of others by bringing it in to the spaciousness of our own hearts, and sending it back out as positive energy. We “cleansed” any remaining darkness with a few releasing breaths at the end of the session :)

Today we looked a bit further at social awareness and specifically the development of empathy (taking perspective) and compassion (doing something about it) ---how researchers are studying it, how they are thinking about it, and what their research suggests we do.


Early MBSR research in 1998 showed the program increased empathy in medical students (8 week prgm). But HOW? Shapiro suggests these three ways:

the parable of The Good Samaritan

the parable of The Good Samaritan

  1. Mindfulness is not just about paying attention but HOW you pay attention. What you practice becomes stronger. Compassionate, kind, curious attention is key.

    • Metaphor---mindfulness is a big cooking pot. I put all of my experiences in. The pot is always kind but the stuff isn’t. I cook all the pain, the confusion, the sadness, the joy, steadily, consistently, holding it in the kind compassionate pot of mindfulness. By relating to my experiences and emotions this way, i’m better able to digest and receive nourishment from all of them.

  2. Seeing our interconnectedness more clearly

  3. Mindfulness guards against the feelings of stress and busyness that make us focus more on ourselves and less on others.

    • We discussed the classic good Samaritan study from the 1970s---those who were late to seminary, to preach about The Good Samaritan Bible story, didn’t stop to help someone in need!


So, how do you cultivate compassion? Longitudinal research from 1979 to 2009 suggests that self-reported concern for the welfare of others has been dropping since the early 1990s. Desteno at Northeastern University studied whether meditation can foster compassion. 39 novice meditators were recruited and randomly assigned to either an 8 week meditation course or a waitlist. After 8 weeks they went back to lab to supposedly measure attention and memory. But the real study was in the waiting room, when another person entered with crutches, wincing in pain. There was no chair for her. The meditators had a much higher rate of spontaneously offering their seat (10 of 20) compared to 3 of 19 nonmeditators. Then they repeated the study with an app. Randomly assigned 56 people to complete three weeks of training with the app or 3 weeks of a web based brain training program. When they were given the same situation in the waiting room, the results were similar. 14% of nonmeditators helped while 37% of meditators helped.

Compassion fatigue is a big issue...distress is contagious and it can be uncomfortable to see others in distress! Matthieu Ricard and neuroscientist Tania Singer showed meditation training reduces activation of the brain networks associated with simulating distress, and instead activated feelings of social affiliation. A neuroanatomical basis for something many practitioners have observed...a LACK of compassion fatigue among meditators. Meditation allows practitioners to move from distress to compassionate action. It keeps us from being paralyzed!

Finally, we moved to an activity on the dry erase board, brainstorming ways that teachers co-regulate with their students’ to guide their development and how that differs from the more common concept of self-regulation. The idea of “co-regulation” seems intuitive to many of us when it comes to soothing infants. If we touch babies in a calm and loving way, it makes sense that we can calm them, and help them learn to access that state more easily without us. Co-regulation is a process throughout the lifespan, and relevant to teachers as much as their primary caregivers. Here was our attempt at co-creating the co-regulation chart :)


And here is the original chart, from the website of Susan Kaiser Greenland, a mindfulness teacher and researchers.

music and empathy.JPG

Finally, we discussed how literary fiction can help elicit empathy. Similarly, we touched on interesting research about music and empathy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201806/empathic-people-use-social-brain-circuitry-process-music

When we think of research-based ways to elicit social awareness, particularly the prosocial feelings we want to engender, like empathy and compassion, there is a great deal of research that can guide us and it is my hypothesis that mindfulness-based approach can make each of these practices more potent and more authentic.

Thanks for all you do with your students!

M3S2 Social Awareness, Mindfulness, and Your Students

Social Awareness, Mindfulness, and Your Students 1/8/19

We did our opening meditation on spaciousness and openness. I read the Rumi poem The Guest House and we practiced inviting space into the body and space into our thoughts with each breath.

guest house by rumi.jpg

It’s important to be spacious and open to guide students toward mindfulness and increased social awareness. CASEL defines the core competency of social awareness as follows:

  • The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

    • Perspective-taking

    • Empathy

    • Appreciating diversity

    • Respect for others

We discussed: What is the interplay between mindfulness and social awareness in your opinion? Can you have mindfulness without social awareness? Can you have social awareness without mindfulness? We touched on one participant’s family member who she described as “not neurotypical” and how this person feels they are mindful and that it is an entirely solitary practice/state. We looked back at our definition of mindfulness “a particular way of paying attention: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.” to discern what aspects of social awareness are closely related to mindfulness, if any.

I also read an excerpt from an online mindfulness conference I recently participated in which helps to show how one practitioner sees the interaction between mindfulness, culture, social-emotional skills, and more: “We focus on cultural responsiveness and humility. So really understanding that people from different diverse cultures experience events in different ways, and understanding that, and responding, and being open to what are the different ways that people express things, and move to the world, help this better be able to hold and support kids. We look at safety and predictability. So what are strategies that we can do so that school is a place that we're actively engaging in safe, predictable environments for kids, to mitigate some of those adverse experiences? We look at compassion and dependability. So how are you attuned in your relationship? So how do you recreate that attachment and co-regulation with kids, and part of that piece is a lot of mindfulness because our ability to be attuned, again, has to do with those practices of your self-awareness. What else do we look at? We look at adult kind of resilience and social-emotional learning, and in that space, we do a lot of that, a lot of that mindfulness piece.”

We discussed practices to use with your students:

How can we encourage students to use mindfulness to increase their own social awareness?

  • Raisin meditation

  • Lovingkindness

  • May i be ___, may all people be ___

  • Theatre exercises

  • Other ideas?

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Our closing practice today was a somewhat “advanced” practice, called tonglen. “With Tonglen, the goal is to change our attitude towards pain and to open up the heart so that we can be more loving and kind as we dissolve the pain around us. The practice is focused on taking the pain of others, breathing it in and allowing that person to relax and find peace…Tonglen is a Tibetan word that is contrived of two terms “tong” which means “letting go” and “len” which means accepting. So, translated, Tonglen means to let go and to accept.

We brought to mind someone who was suffering, “breathed in” their challenge, pain, or suffering and then let it transform to light or ease, for us to symbolically exahale back into the world. This is a great article and description of the practice: https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-tonglen/.

It is one way that we can “hold space” for the suffering our students may be going through. At the end, lots of participants reported that they felt the need to “let go” more, so we did three releasing breaths together and try to let go of any residual tension we were holding.

M3S1 Social Awareness, Mindfulness, and You

We had a brief opening practice and dived into discussion today!

The CASEL definition of Social Awareness is “The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.”

Concepts include:

    • Perspective-taking

    • Empathy

    • Appreciating diversity

    • Respect for others

You read this article before our session this week: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/08/10/meditation-isnt-just-about-self-help-heres-what.html

We had a challenging but ultimately productive conversation about “a path toward equity”.

    • What does “a path toward equity” mean in your life?

    • What does “a path toward equity” mean in your classroom?

    • How can you use mindfulness to “increase your sense of agency, not submit”?

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Participants shared that they felt their student body was particularly challenging for them to relate to, given the level of trauma many experience at home. We talked about whether equity means something different to different people. Does equity mean different things for each of us at different points in our lives?

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives” Therefore, it may also be true that how we spend our days is how we shape our students’ lives! What is one thing you’ve started doing with your students since enrolling in B-COME this year? What is one thing you can start doing next week?

Finally, as an exercise in perspective-taking, a crucial aspect of social awareness, I asked you to put yourselves in the mind of a specific student that was close to your heart. We started working on a description of that one specific student’s “Average Perfect Day.” This concept was tricky for some people, as they felt that everyone’s perfect day would be similar. I disagree that the perfect day for each of us would be the same, even within the confines of the school schedule and structure. It’s also important to note the work “Average” in the activity description. If the student you have in mind often misses their bus, for example, their average day would include getting on the bus on time! What kind of attention (or space) do they crave? What kind of greeting, what kind of feedback, what kind of activities make up their average perfect school day? We will build on this in sessions to come.

Thanks for a great session!

M2S3 Self-Management, Mindfulness, and Research

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Our opening practice was from UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Please peruse their excellent offerings of guided practices here when you have time!

We also did some mindful movement, moving each body part with focused attention. It can be interesting to experiment with a top-to-bottom and a bottom-to-top approach when we move sequentially through the body. If you begin your practice with an awareness that you need “grounding” or “uplifting” for example, it can be helpful to imagine the energy in your body moving the direction you need, checking in with each body part as you head in that direction.

Then we moved on to discussion. This was our third and final session working with the SEL Competency “Self-Management”. A reminder again that CASEL defines it as:

  • The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

    • Impulse control

    • Stress management

    • Self-discipline

    • Self-motivation

    • Goal-setting

    • Organizational skills

Today I situated our session about “research” on the topic of holiday stress! In an earlier session we already delved into some interesting research which describes mindfulness as the flexibility to switch between systems of self-processing. So ideally we are not JUST self-aware, we integrate mindfulness and its elements of non-judgment. This way we can continuously adjust our perspective and continually adjust our interpretations of things and continually adjust our emotional reactions. This way we can be more likely to RESPOND vs. react. All of that said, I’ve looked at some of the most common stressors around the holidays. We used those stressors as a jumping off point for the following activity:

How can you make each of these common stressors MORE JOYFUL FOR YOURSELF over the winter break? Now, I’m very skeptical of the “McMindfulness” approach to such practices. I do not believe that we, and we alone control our destiny. Life is very hard for some people and hardship fluctuates throughout each of our lives as well. Our joyful intention-setting can not overcome all! That said, this exercise itself is meant to help you in particular with the problem of unrealistic expectations. If there’s one thing you can do about food, money, etc. that will make YOUR holidays joyful (not your children’s or anyone else’s!) perhaps making that promise of self-care right now will alleviate the burden of unrealistic expectations if it creeps back up later.

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  • Family

  • Money

  • Food

  • New routines

  • Comparison with others

  • Unrealistic expectations

Afterwards I invited participants to share their thoughts about one of these aspects with the group. Participants shared commitments to simplifying their food traditions, maintaining their physical health with sleep and exercise and mindful eating, and simplifying the amount of financial stress they took on with gift buying.

Finally, today I passed out a printed copy of our reading for next time, which addresses issues of social justice in our classrooms. I love the transition between the last module and this one, because remember that intentions are meant to be “a healthy bridge between where we are and where we want to be”. And there’s nothing surer than the realization that teachers have a huge role to play in our society with regard to perspective, empathy, social and ethical norms, and appreciating diversity. As you read this article over the next two weeks, please come back ready to discuss:

  • What does “a path toward equity” mean in your life?

  • What does “a path toward equity” mean in your classroom?

  • How can you use mindfulness to “increase your sense of agency, not submit”?

M2S2 Self-Management, Mindfulness, and Your Students

We continued our module exploring self-management with the powerful, uncomfortable, boring, enlightening work of total silence and stillness for five minutes :) A five minute seated meditation without instruction, other than a reminder at the beginning about how we attempt to guide our awareness back to the present moment over and over. Your reflections afterwards were honest and unsurprising. It’s hard for many of us! A guided meditation offers a lot more entertainment by way of sensory stimulation…a pleasing voice becomes like music when silence is so deafening! I suggested that when we tune into the breath deeply that can become our own internal music, and a rhythm to “count time” in a way. Thanks for powering through that with me. Here’s to many many more practices in silence in our efforts to become more mindful this year.

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Today we also practice chair yoga. Chair yoga is great for accessibility, less disruption, a quicker transition into the practice in the middle of the school day, and a creative way to connect with postures you’re familiar with—if you’re a regular yogi. Our sequence today was as follows:

  • Arm lifts with breath

  • Chair twist → chair side bend

  • Eagle arms

  • Leg lifts with breath

  • Chair warrior 2 → chair reverse warrior

  • Chair warrior 1

We also checked in about your feedback from last week’s home practice having to do with intention. How did it go? Most people chose a different intention each time they sat down to meditate. That is interesting to note. It certainly would have a different flavor to set an intention and spend time with it day in and day out. What do you think the difference would feel like? Richer? Less authentic? Something else?

Today participants also turned in their SWOT analysis and consulting requests.

Split into pairs to discuss one of the facets of self-management

  • how that component of self-management relates to your students

How mindfulness-based practices can help students with these challenges

We reviewed the article that people read before today’s session and I shared with them some further interpretation from the original academic publication it references. Mindfulness affects emotion regulation by increasing our SENSITIVITY to cues about emotion so that we can manage the emotion and its physical expression before it spirals out of control.

Discuss: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/How_does_mindfulness_help_control_behavior

Thanks for a great session!

M1S3 & M2S1 Self-Management, Mindfulness, and You

M1S3 and M2S1 Self-Awareness & Research + Self-Management & You

Groundedness!   image from: https://energeticsinstitute.com.au/grounding-body-in-present-time/


image from: https://energeticsinstitute.com.au/grounding-body-in-present-time/

I was elated to be back at Barrow after five long weeks away from y’all! We opened our session with a brief illustration of the power of intention. We first practiced a simple balance post without intention. Then we invited balance and groundedness into our bodies by saying to ourselves “May I be grounded, may I be strong, may I be balanced, may I be unwavering” and tried the posture again. After a brief 5 minutes standing practice (Half Sun Salutation, ___ Spinal Rotation, Eagle Arms) a face massage for ourselves, and a short meditation, we discussed whether there was a difference between the two balancing sessions. It was not immediately evident from watching you that there was a difference because you’re all fairly experienced with yoga and fitness, and make it look easy! Nonetheless, almost everyone nodded and chimed in that they felt more stable after setting the intention for groundedness.

We talked about intentions as “a healthy bridge between where we are and where we want to be”. I shared these possible roots for setting intentions:

  • May I feel…

  • May I know…

  • May I honor…

  • May I connect to…

  • May I be…

  • We also had some great discussion about how intentions differ from affirmations. For the purpose of our discussion we talked about affirmations as statements that are made in the present tense such as “I am healthy”.  Some participants felt that affirmations are less “honest” or less “gentle” than the same concept worded as an invitation “May I appreciate the health I have today”, for example. One participant had more familiarity with affirmations and she shared a more nuanced opinion that affirmations are meant to put you in a receptive or inviting space. It sounds to me that a mindful approach to affirmations can have similar benefits as intentions.

CASEL describes self-management as:

“The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations — effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself. The ability to set and work toward personal and academic goals.

  • Impulse control

  • Stress management

  • Self-discipline

  • Self-motivation

  • Goal-setting

  • Organizational skills”

We discussed how self-management often looks WITHOUT mindfulness. We talked about strategies, tools, and approaches such as calendars, incentives, timers, managing stress with practices like eating chocolate, etc. Then we brainstormed how self-management can look with a mindful approach -- “on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment”. Ideas like positive self-talk, taking healthy breaks, remembering the big picture, and breaking work into small chunks intentionally came up. We noted that there is a small but important difference in our mindset when we approach self-management from a kind and non-judgmental place. We strive to model that for our students and encourage them to develop self-management skills from a place of mindful awareness.

Lastly, we returned to the article I posted on the site last month by Black & Fernando.

We discussed how it was not surprising to us that more mindfulness sessions improved teacher-reported attention but not other outcomes. It’s possible that it’s easier for teachers to perceive this compared to the other more nuanced outcomes (engagement, social interaction, etc.) so their ratings may have been more accurate. But perhaps the most obvious explanation for this finding is that attention is most closely aligned with the mindfulness practices themselves.

I selected this article because it’s a great example of some frequent issues that come up in classroom mindfulness research. Issues related to self-selection, lack of controls, and the impossibility of blind or double blind research. Having some or all of these research features does make research findings more robust but they are not absolute requirements. In the early days of a new line of inquiry we do what we have to do, particularly working with the ever-changing and complex world of education!

On the topic of self-management...I want to get you all thinking about your professional goals and how I can help you! My contract includes time for classroom observations and/or individual consulting sessions for each of you as desired. To that end, please start this conversation with me now, via the SWOT analysis. This is a commonly used tool in the nonprofit sector and invites us to look at our strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats, with regard to a specific goal. The packet I provided includes space for you to write your intention for including mindfulness in your classroom, apply the SWOT analysis to that specific goal, and identify ways I can help you get there. We worked on it for 10 minutes during our session today. Please bring that completed by next session so that I can begin to offer specific consultation plans to each of you!

Helpful words for your intention.   image from: http://haveheartmagazine.com/guide-setting-intention-yoga-class/#sthash.nWn5F6Z7.dpbs

Helpful words for your intention.

image from: http://haveheartmagazine.com/guide-setting-intention-yoga-class/#sthash.nWn5F6Z7.dpbs

Before our next session, please practice a daily 5 minute meditation with an intention. It could be the same intention each day, or you may find it evolving on a daily basis. Report back to us how that goes!