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.
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.
Comparison with others
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”?