Deepen Your Practice This Summer

Parents and teachers are busy, period. We have suit up and show up. Self-care? Tomorrow. But tomorrow shows up with a whole new list of activities to accomplish. This summer take time to reset and take care of yourself.

Add “Mindfulness” to Your Summer Checklst

This summer there are many opportunities to establish or reestablish your mindfulness practice. You can take the six-week online course (for more information see Embracing Mindfulness. But that is not your only opportunity!

Need time to practice Mindfulness? Want to experience mindfulness for your self? Join us June 3 for “Mindfulness for Educators.” These dates will be an hour and half of guided practice with alternating sitting and walking mindfulness. Join us at the Meaningful Life Center from 6:30pm-8pm.

Summer break can be a great time to reset and re-establish your balance. Save the dates- June 3 for guided practice at the Meaningful Life Center and register for Embracing Mindfulness course set to begin May 29.

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A gift for you! Learn mindfulness for less.

I meet people all the time in pain or just wanting to find ways of dealing with stress. So many are interested in learning mindfulness but don’t know how or can’t afford courses. I want that to change. I offer courses at severely reduced rates (usually 50% off what other individuals and groups charge). But if you fall in my main community- parent, teacher, or person in recovery $75 can still seem unreachable. I want to make it more attainable. Register from May 11-May 17 for $25, from May 18-May 24 for $50. May 25 the registration goes back to $75. If you have been thinking about learning mindfulness- do not delay. This is your chance. You are worth it.

Want to learn mindfulness but don’t know where to begin? Need to get re-established in your practice? In this six-week online course (yes, you can learn mindfulness from the comfort of your home), you will learn the basic practices for mindfulness including focusing on the breath, sitting with feelings and connecting with others in meaningful ways. Each week there will be a live conference call (which will be recorded and accessible for later viewing if you are unable to attend or simply want to review it) with the guided practice for the week, forums to extend the practice and support along the way.

There will be individual forums for each of the communities- teachers, parents, and people in recovery. The mindfulness practices are the same but you will build community and discussions around the issues that affect you the most.

The courses will run May 29-July 10, 2019. Access the course, forum, and support from anywhere you have an internet connection. Register here for Embracing Mindfulness: An Introductory Course. To find out about other workshops and courses offered by Mindful Us click here.

Selfless Service: Accepting Love

When thinking about “being of service” we often think of feeding the homeless, tirelessly helping a friend, or going the extra mile with a kid or loved one. Parents, Educators, and People in Recovery (PIR) all have something in common- one of our main goals is to be of service to others- it’s part of the job and it’s kind of a big deal. Parents are the first teachers and we show up daily to serve, protect and nurture our children. Educators work long hours (who has weekends and summer break?????) thinking about, working to help, and training to serve our students better. PIR (yeah, that’s People in Recovery) strive to help others in recovery by setting up meetings, picking up the phone when someone calls and sponsoring new people. But when we begin to practice mindfulness we may find that we overly depleted. How can we be of service when our cups are empty?

Empty Cup

Ask a parent, teacher or PIR about self-care and the majority of them may say, “Yeah, I need to do that” or “I tried that once” or “I will do that just as soon as I’m done helping this person.” But at some point we all need help. As the old adage goes, “You cannot serve anyone from an empty cup.” But most of us try. We will squeeze every last drop of moisture out from the cup. The problem also arises when we actually begin taking care of ourselves. When we start adding to our cup many find we are so depleted that any self-care we practice is immediately withdrawn. This can be confusing and frustrating. Self-care is important but what we need to do is add more service to help fill our cups.

A Different Kind of Service

By practicing mindfulness we become aware of our limitations while also opening ourselves up for new experiences, insights and ways of living. In Narcotics Anonymous’ Basic Text it defines proper service as “Doing the right thing for the right reason” (p. xv). When we think of service only as us helping others we often lose sight of the fact that we, as humans, also need help. Most parents, educators, and PIR resist when anyone tries to help them. They will walk a thousand miles with you but will shut down like a turtle under attack when offered help. Bringing mindfulness to this experience I have found that I am limiting myself by not allowing others to be of service to me. In fact, allowing others to help me is an extension of my service to them!

The Gift of Mindful Service

By allowing others to help us we are actually being of service. We are allowing others to feel the joy of helping, supporting their development of skills, and showing them that service is important. Not allowing others to serve us is actually one of the highest forms of selfishness. Who are we to say we are the only ones who can be of service. Not only are we being of service to others when we receive help, we are being of service to ourselves (but not being selfish about it!). We cannot fill our cups alone. With the help of others we may find that we reach a healthier level of balance between giving and receiving- that is a huge gift.

Asking for Help

When people ask me, “What can I do to help?” I am often left with, “I don’t know.” I find myself becoming the turtle retreating into my shell. I realized that when someone asked me if they could be of service to me it triggered an automatic response. To counter this I began being proactive. What I do now is mindfully think about what I really need and then I ask for it. Asking for help is the biggest part of service because it really takes me getting outside of my comfort zone. But incorporating mindfulness I realize my discomfort, know that it “just is,” and I move forward with letting others help me. Having practiced being proactive in asking for help I have now moved to the next stage. When someone asks what they can do for me I tell them, “I need help with…….” I realize that the person may be unable or unwilling to help but I allow them the opportunity to make that decision.

The Practice

Sit for a moment- breathe in and out. Follow the breath. Allow yourself to ask the question, “What do I need?” Notice any thoughts, judgments, or feelings that arise. Sit with whatever arises breathing in and out. Allow yourself to know that it is alright to have wants, desires, and needs- allow yourself to be human. Watch for judgment about “selfishness.” When judgment arises, notice it and allow it to fade as much as possible. Keep coming back to the breath and to the idea of what you need. Sit with this experience as long as possible. When someone says, “Let me know if you can help” tell them what you need. Let the outcome just happen. If the person can or can’t help it doesn’t matter. Just letting someone know what you need is the main objective of the practice. See what happens!

How to Talk to People about Mindfulness- Upcoming Workshop

There are many people who are interested in knowing more about mindfulness. Knowing how to address various questions or giving specific audiences the information they want and need is important. On Monday, May 6 join us for the monthly Mindful Educators workshop where we will do a guided mindfulness practice and then discuss the topic of how to talk to people about mindfulness. For more information about the time and place of the workshop click here.

Recovery Yoga- Foundational Series: 8 Limbs of Yoga

The Foundation Series is a set of workshops (the 3rd Saturday of each month from 6:00pm-7: 30 pm) to develop the groundwork for a personal yoga practice. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga is an approach that leads toward personal insights. Each month you will learn ways to easily integrate traditional yogic principles and practices into your life in meaningful and ways.

Recovery is a return to normal state of health, mind and strength. People can be recovering from drugs, alcohol, unhealthy relationships, struggles with eating, grief or just living life on life’s terms. The eight limbs of yoga are not simply a way to become spiritual giants but a step-by-step process to recover health, peace of mind and strength.

What:  Monthly yoga workshop that includes guided meditation, teachings on yoga principles, kiirtan, sharing session and a guided practice to take home. In a year we will go through all 8 limbs of yoga. Drop in for one class or come for all of them!

When: 3rd Saturday of each month (Starts May 18), 6:00pm-7:30pm

Where: Renegade Yoga Center, 516 Renford Rd, Knoxville, TN 37919

Who: Everyone is invited, especially those seeking a more meaningful life!

Why: Because you are worth it!

Cost: Donations accepted. No one turned away. (Suggested donation $12).
For more information contact Lucius at mindful-us@teachers.org

Embracing Mindfulness: An Introductory Course

Want to learn mindfulness but don’t know where to begin? Need to get re-established in your practice? In this six-week online course (yes, you can learn mindfulness from the comfort of your home), you will learn the basic practices for mindfulness including focusing on the breath, sitting with feelings and connecting with others in meaningful ways. Each week there will be a live conference call (which will be recorded and accessible for later viewing if you are unable to attend or simply want to review it) with the guided practice for the week, forums to extend the practice and support along the way.

There will be individual forums for each of the communities- teachers, parents, and people in recovery. The mindfulness practices are the same but you will build community and discussions around the issues that affect you the most.

The courses will run May 29-July 10, 2019. Access the course, forum, and support from anywhere you have an internet connection. The course is $75.00. Scholarships and discount rates are available.

Register here for Embracing Mindfulness: An Introductory Course. To find out about other workshops and courses offered by Mindful Us click here.

Mindfulness for Teachers/Parents/Recovery Course- now open

Join the community of mindfulness practitioners.

In this six-week online course, you will learn the basic practices for mindfulness including focusing on the breath, sitting with feelings and connecting with others in meaningful ways. Each week there will be a live conference call (which will be recorded and accessible for later viewing) with the guided practice for the week, forums to extend the practice and support along the way.

There will be individual forums for each of the communities- teachers, parents, and people in recovery. The mindfulness practices are the same but you will build community and discussions around the issues that affect you the most.

The courses will run May 29-July 10, 2019. Access the course, forum, and support from anywhere you have an internet connection. The course is $75.00. Scholarships and discount rates are available.

Register here for Mindfulness for Teachers/Parents/Recovery Course.

Mindfulness for Educators (it’s official)

Each month you will get a chance to practice mindfulness (which as a parent and an educator I am well aware is a challenge), workshop ideas and share successes and challenges.

If you are a professional interested in teaching mindfulness to children and youth (PreK-12 educators, social workers/school psychologists, therapists, after school providers, etc.) and you live in or near Knoxville join us the first Monday of each month from 6:30pm-8pm at the Meaningful Life Center. Together we can do what we cannot do alone!

To learn more see the link below (registration is not required but may be helpful). You can join the group at any time.

Mindfulness for Educators

Is Mindfulness a form of Meditation?

Building on the post “Mindfulness in Education: Is It Religious?” I wanted to address another question that is often raised, “Is mindfulness a form of meditation?” This is a seemingly tricky question because people associate different ideas with the word ‘meditation.’ Some associate the idea with yogis in the mountains or perhaps peace and tranquility. Whatever association exists or does not exist, the question needs to be addressed.

People often think of meditation as a practice of Hinduism.

Meditation Defined

Let’s start with the word “meditation.” To meditate means to think deeply and carefully about something. So when you focus on anything or contemplate an idea you are actually meditating, plain and simple. Meditation can be simple or complex. It can religious, philosophical or secular. What you focus on dictates what kind of meditation you are doing. All meditation is NOT religious/spiritual in nature.

Umbrella- The Metaphor

We can think of meditation like an umbrella. Similarly when we think of the word education we can use the same analogy. Education is like an umbrella term. Under education we can see that there are many different kinds of learning, some of which are completely unrelated. For instance, under the term education we find religious education, public education, private education, formal education, informal education, youtube tutorials, etc. The list goes on and on branching off into subsections as we go. Religious education may be completely different than watching a youtube video on fixing your car. However, they both are forms of education. Meditation is the same.

Under the umbrella of meditation we find various kinds: religious, philosophical, and secular with an endless list of subsections of each including problem solving, contemplating love, self-reflection, etc. My Granny used to say every time she saw me, “I’ve been studying about you.” Knowing she was a very religious woman I thought she was studying the Book of John (my given name) in the Christian Bible. It took a long time for me to understand that she was actually thinking about me. She was meditating on me, given me close consideration. When someone says mindfulness meditation we may think they mean they are meditating on something religious. But this is not always the case.

Forms of Meditation

Religious

In traditional religious/spiritual paths the object of meditation may be God, a mantra, or prayer. Often the goal is to connect with a Higher Power, to “see the reality of things” in a spiritual sense, to “let His (or Her or Its) will be done.” This can be found in almost every religion/spiritual path including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and many more.

Religious meditation can take many forms including contemplation, prayer, mantra, and chanting.

Philosophical

Thinking about the underlying nature of reality without a religious/spiritual interpretation is meditation. As a Religious Studies major in undergraduate I was shocked when I picked up a book with ‘meditation’ in the title but on further study realized there was nothing about “meditation” in the book. This was my first insight into how even I had preconceived notion of what meditation was. Thinking deeply on Reason and Logic is indeed meditation. It is meditation on philosophy, not religious meditation.

Thinking deeply about Reasoning and Ethics is an ancient form of meditation associated with Philosophy.

Secular

Under the heading of “secular meditation” most ever other kind of meditation arises. People can think deeply about their day to day problems, the object of their love, or sensations in the body or on their breath. There does not have to be a focus on religious ideas, a foundation of belief or an philosophical stance. Mindfulness practiced in public education settings can thus be defined as a form of meditation. However, just like the umbrella term ‘education,’ the kinds of topics/subtopics that fall under the umbrella term ‘meditation’ may just as unrelated. While there may be some outward characteristics that look similar religious meditation is not associated with secular mindfulness meditation. For more insight into this see “Mindfulness in Education: Is It Religious?

While secular mindfulness meditation practiced in education may share some outward characteristics with religious meditation, what we practice in public schools is not religious.

Clarification

When someone asks me, “Is mindfulness a form of meditation?” I take a deep breath. I am not always sure what motivates the question. Often I ask a clarifying question like, “That is an interesting question, what do you mean?” I can determine whether someone has a preconceived notion, perhaps some fear related to term ‘meditation’ and can more easily answer whatever concern or idea someone might have. I remember that we do not all start with the same information and it is best to meet people where they are. I want to be clear in how I explain and educate people instead of trying to dance around the topic. I will directly answer the question posed and explain it: Mindfulness as practiced in public education is meditation but it is not religious.

Mindfulness in Education- Is it Religious?

Mindfulness is becoming very popular in K-12 settings. As rising stress levels for teachers continue and students present more and more social/emotional struggles educators are looking for solutions. Having show immense success in scientific research helping adults deal with difficulties, mindfulness is showing promise with children and young people.

Questions about whether mindfulness is religious or not are on the rise with the growing use of mindfulness in schools.

Rising Concern

As mindfulness becomes more popular some people are fearful that religion is being brought into schools. Many simply have a basic misunderstanding of what mindfulness is and its purpose. While the topic of science is often given for the explanation as to the “why” mindfulness is important, some people need to know what it is before they will even listen to what research shows. And sometimes it is even more important to state what mindfulness is not before people will listen to what it actually is.

Religious???

Getting my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies was helpful in my understanding that mindfulness in schools is not religious. The characteristics of religions include a set of beliefs about the nature and cause of the universe usually including some supernatural or superhuman power, a set of devotional rituals and practices, and a moral code. By this very definition mindfulness, as presented in schools, is not religious.

Mindfulness in education does not include or need any of the following to be implemented:

  • a set of beliefs about the nature or cause of the universe
  • any concept of a God, supernatural or otherworldly power
  • devotional rituals or practices
  • moral code

What about Buddhism?

While we can determine that mindfulness in education is not religious some are still concerned about what role Buddhism plays. Look up the word “mindfulness” and undoubtedly you will get all kinds of links about Buddhism. This is enough for some people to be completely convinced that educators are trying to bring religion into schools. And to a certain degree, I understand. Even though I know that the mindfulness in schools is not Buddhist, I have never heard or read anyone explain it clearly and directly. This topic needs to be addressed.

Mindfulness and Buddhism- what is the connection?

Historical Ties vs. Association

Education itself has historical ties to religion. The earliest versions of formal education was with priests of both polytheistic (many gods) and monotheistic (one God) religions. Pretty much everything we do in education has a historical tie to people whose culture was religious. Writing, Mathematics, Science, History- all originated from cultures that held specific beliefs about the nature of the universe, a concept of supernatural powers, rituals, moral code.

A distant relative of cuneiform and stylus, writing and pencil, as used in public schools, are not a religious practice

For example, the earliest writings were created and used by Mesopotamians called cuneiform using a stylus. These people were polytheistic. However, most people are not concerned about students writing in school or using a pencil as being a  “religious practice.”  But if we are teachings things that originated with a people who were religious why should we not be concerned that students are being taught religion? Because while there is a historical tie, the practices we use in school are not associated with the religious beliefs and rituals of the people who created the activities. We have brought the methods that serve us and our students into schools while leaving the culture and religious beliefs of the people who began the practices in the past (aka, historical tie, not association). If there was an association then we would connect what we do with the people who created those practices. Do we praise the Mesopotamian god, Nabu, the patron of scribes, literacy and wisdom? Absolutely not! Writing, while having a historical tie, is not associated or connected to those early Mesopotamians nor their religion. We simply use the activity of writing to benefit us and our students.

Mindfulness- Historical Tie, Not Association

While mindfulness is practiced in different forms in almost every religious and spiritual tradition (although it may be called something else) many of the practices that we see in education today look more similar to those practiced in Buddhism. This is the area that confuses most people and they assume that Buddhism is being brought into schools.  Mindfulness as practiced in public schools has a historical tie to Buddhism, but there is no association. Just like writing, Astronomy, Mathematics, Science, we have taken the essence of a practice and left the cultural and religious beliefs in the past. We have found something, like writing, that can help us and our students. Does that mean that we praise the Buddha or follow the Four Noble Truths? Absolutely not! Mindfulness, while having a historical tie, is not associated or connected to Buddhism in any way. We simply use the activity of mindfulness to benefit us and our students.

Clearly Stated

Let me clearly and succinctly state it: Mindfulness as practiced in public schools is not religious. Mindfulness as practiced in public schools is not Buddhism.

Is using mindfulness without acknowledging its historical tie to Buddhism cultural appropriation?

Cultural Appropriation

As a middle-aged straight white male with an education, relative good health, and just a little bit of money in the bank (hey, I am a teacher, so yes, it is very little) I admit that I have biases. The idea of cultural appropriation has been something I have wrestled with. My conclusion is that educators must be careful to not culturally appropriate mindfulness. The misappropriation may simply be done out of fear. Most educators who use mindfulness know they are not practicing nor teaching Buddhism but are afraid or unaware of how to convey this to people who accusing them of bringing religion into schools. I personally do not like conflict or having someone assume bad intentions about my motive for bringing something that is actually helping kids into the school. However, as educators, this is nothing new. We are often on the front lines of illogical and unreasonable attacks about what we do. Why should bringing a beneficial practice to help students learn skills they can take with them and help them the rest of their lives be any different? It is not.

Educators- speak decisively about what mindfulness is and is not

Educators who are teaching mindfulness need to stand firm and decisively state that we are not teaching religion nor are we trying to bring religion into the schools. At the same time, in order to not be cultural appropriating, we must recognize and acknowledge that mindfulness does have a historical tie to Buddhism while also resolutely affirming that there is not any association to the religion. Not everyone will understand, not everyone will agree. Welcome to education! With a growing track record and adoption of mindfulness in education the results will speak for themselves. While mindfulness will not solve all of educators and students’ problems, we have found a bit of the solution with mindfulness. Have courage, speak the truth, and breathe!