Mindfulness can take many forms in education. For example, meditation on the cushion, self-reflection, contemplation, mindful listening, mindful communication, playful learning, and being present in the moment of studying (when learning is perceived as joyful). To teach mindfulness, teachers need to be mindful. And students being mindful in concert with mindful teachers creates a mindful classroom conducive for learning. The cultivation of mindfulness in the teachers (self-care) creates well-being and will naturally translate into an environment of wellness for the students. Mindfulness is only taught through the transmission of an experienced practitioner. This requires to nourish the inner lives of our students and teachers. Our inner peace and tranquility mirrors our outer world (e.g. relaxed conversations instead of tense, stressful, and fast-paced talks), and vice versa. Mindful learning environments provide containers to improve scientific and technical learning as well as emotional and social competencies, such as self-management, self-awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision-making.
There are many ways mindfulness can enhance our classrooms, teaching, and learning.
We can focus with our eyes, our ears, our sense of touch, our breathing, our tasting. If you can experience it, you can focus on it. An exercise (5 min. or longer) may focus on opening our attention non-judgementally, watching our thoughts, emotions, sensations pass by us. In a science class, an exercise may invite students to focus their attention on a science experiment, taking in all the steps, watching attentively how the experiment proceeds, and noting the outcome.
Pause and Stop
When rushing to class, squeezing in another assignment in the busy work schedule, near exhaustion after hours of work without a break. Simply
T: Take three deep breaths
O: Observe your body and mind
P: Proceed with kindness, compassion and joy
Experience the rejuvenation of a silent moment reconnecting to yourself. Feel re-energized through slowing down, relaxing into the moment.
Instead of copying and pasting text and rush to finish an assignment I can take a deep breath, focus my attention on the breath, relax, connect with my body, listen carefully, let go of thoughts and focus deliberately on the writing assignment. I ignore the noise and mindfully write.
Journal writing is another way to contemplate and self-reflect. It allows us to connect to what’s inside; what may hold you back. Close your eyes and center yourself. Be open whatever wants to surface and write it down.
Meditation on the cushion is a traditional mindfulness practice. A fixed time to meditate (e.g., in the morning or evening) for a certain length (e.g., 10 min., 30 min. or longer) allows you to get to know your mind and your self. Regular meditation practice has a positive effect on your day-to-day life because it makes you less reactive, enhances your ability to be mindful whatever crisis or stressful event you face (e.g., exam), content, compassionate, and ….
Having an authentic and meaningful conversation is fulfilling. It builds on deep listening to oneself and another, trust, asking questions, and meeting the other. The opposite of a mindful communication occurs through interruptions, pushing one’s own agenda (superimposing thoughts and beliefs onto others), others not listening to the discussion (e.g., distracting mannerism like attending to a smartphone in the middle of a conversation).
Contemplation and Reflection
Deep reflection means looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. Contemplation involves opening to what is bothering us without being emotionally swept away, holding on to a belief. Instead, we befriend it from different vantage points. Paradoxically, leaning into something instead of ignoring or rejecting it often dissolves the issue, event, or relationship we have been ruminating.
Our bodies store wisdom and insights from which we are often disconnected. Our bodies are our vehicles to connect to something bigger outside of ourselves, where we feel our emotions, where we have our thoughts and experience perceptions. A common confusion in practicing mindfulness is in thinking that the goal is to transcend the difficulties in our human bodies. This is not the case. On the contrary, our bodies are our teachers, and befriending and coming home to our bodies allows us to heal, learn, and experience contentment. Embodiment refers to the state or fact of being embodied – literally embodying our physical human body, or an energy body, spirit, abstraction, idea or construct.
Touching the Earth
A mindful walk in nature bathing in the beauty of a slow flowing creek in a wonderful landscape with flowers blossoming, trees so green and butterflies in the most beautiful colors. The sky evokes joy and spaciousness so vast letting us feel elated.
Mindful nature walks allow us to connect with the Earth and natural elements. It refreshes our senses touching the Earth, destresses and allows to enjoy the beauty of this world.
Our intention with heartfulness is to cultivate a compassionate presence with ourselves and other beings. With heartfulness practices, such as loving-kindness meditation, we learn to support the happiness, kindness, gratitude and other beneficial qualities.
Many of us have developed an emotional armor around our hearts limiting our capacity to give and receive love and we feel disconnected from ourselves. Instead of trying to get rid of our difficult emotions, we bring the light of our compassion to melt our inner armoring. With an integrated emotional self we can bring our compassion, forgiveness and kindness into the world. Emotional armoring can hold us back from learning and reaching our full human potential.
Barbezat, D.P. and Bush, M. (2014). Contemplative practices in higher education – powerful methods to transform teaching and learning. Jossey-Bass Publ., San Francisco, CA.
McCown, D., Reibel, D., and Micozzi, M.S. (2010). Teaching mindfulness – a practical guide for clinicians and educators. Springer Publ., New York, NY.
Palmer, P.J. and Zajonc, A. (2010). The heart of higher education. Wiley Publ., San Francisco, CA.
Rechtschaffen, D.J. (2014). The way of mindful education – cultivating well-being in teachers and students. Norton Books, New York, NY.
Schoeberlein David, D. Mindful teaching and teaching mindfulness. Wisdom Publ., Boston, MA.