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.