Last year I took a (secular) mindfulness course and began a more formal practice of sitting each day. Little did I know the journey it would set me on. The course was the Mindful Schools Fundamentals class and I took it as a precursor to the organization's Mindfulness Curriculum course. I can't remember what brought me personally to mindfulness or why I feel so compelled to bring it to kids, but it has become as much a part of my life now as yoga.
(Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the most famous teachers of the practice, defines mindfulness as "paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." I won't go further into the definition of mindfulness and the research supporting it in this post. But if you would like some more background, this is a good place to start.)
Most days I sit in practice for anywhere from 20-60 minutes which I absolutely love, despite the fact that sometimes I may only find a few minutes of that time actually spent focusing on the present moment. My mind - like so many of yours I'm sure - has an amazing capacity to wander aimlessly through my past and future without so much as a cursory stop in the present. But the real gift has been the way that the formal practice has led to more informal practices in my everyday life as I move between meetings and kids, writing reports and planning, working out and making dinner. The idea of mindfulness has become so ingrained in my life that without thinking I find myself practicing as I walk to see students, sit in traffic, and eat my breakfast. Historically I have had a tendency to err on the side of anxiousness, and I am my father's daughter in my constant worries and planning about the unknown future. But in this year of practicing mindfulness, I have noticed a shift in those sides of myself. They aren't gone but they are diminished. I feel lighter and happier, and like I have much more effective tools for dealing with life's curveballs.
Luckily Mindful Schools offers their courses online and I just finished the Mindfulness Curriculum course. I have started using it with my individual students but also with one of our 4th grade classrooms. Kids just naturally have more open minds than we do and so most of them have embraced the idea of mindfulness wholeheartedly. After the first class with the 4th graders, I asked them to just try mindful listening (the skill we learned that day) for one minute each day until we met again. When I came back and asked how many had tried it, only a few raised their hands. But now, just four lessons in, when I ask them how many tried mindful listening or mindful breathing, at least half the class raises their hands. Unprompted, they tell me how they taught their mom to breath mindfully or how they used it when they were sad or trying to fall asleep. When I tell them we are going to sit for the short time of 60 seconds or 90 seconds and focus on our breathing, they no longer groan but eagerly ask to sit for even longer. When we finish a formal sit most of them say they could go for more. This is after just four lessons, 15 minutes each.
I don't think I ever thought much about how my passions fit into my job until the last year or so. The school I work at is VERY focused on teaching kids to find and pursue their passions, and as a side-effect I have focused on mine as well. Yoga and mindfulness brings me such amazing joy, and that excitement and enthusiasm I feel for my own practices gets amplified when I bring it to kids. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many opportunities to do so.
(If you are interested in ideas to start your own mindfulness journey, check out my resources page).