Spirit Music, and A Study in Sincerity

Today was a tough day. My body hurt in so many places and for reasons that are beyond my knowing. And the daily news is so mixed, the horrible mixed with the beautiful. Yet…

 

Even on days like today, we can read, hear, or see something that takes us someplace totally unanticipated, to a mind-state, or a universe so alive, so conscious, that moments which once seemed painful, tired, or sad are transformed into something wonderful we embrace with all our being.

 

I’m reading a book called Hunger Mountain: A Field Guide to Mind and Landscape, by the poet and translator of Chinese literature, David Hinton. And I feel this. I’ve felt this in other books by Hinton, and books by other poets, and philosophers, historians, meditators, travelers, and psychologists. I’ve felt this with certain people, animals, and places.

 

Books have forever been a way to inform, challenge, and inspire us, to understand what before was incomprehensible. They allow a depth of examination that other formats don’t. For me, the internet, tv, social media all favor little sound or information bites that keep us more focused on the surface of things.

 

But the words in books like Hinton’s are spirit-music. When we read them, if we’re open to them, if we can inhabit them so we walk as the inhabitants in the books walked, we create something never seen before, yet ancient. The very air breathes us, speaks the words with us.

 

Hinton says, “Things are themselves only as they belong to something more than themselves: I to we, we to earth, earth to planets and stars…” We recognize ourselves and become truly ourselves only with others, in whatever place, time, and universe we are in.

 

The first chapter is called ‘sincerity.’ Hinton says the Chinese character for sincerity depicts a side view of a person walking or standing next to words rising out of a mouth. A lie attempts to hide the truth from others, but usually hides the universe and others from ourselves. This creates an inner tension. If we’re sincere, our thoughts are the same as the words we speak; all of what happens supposedly “outside,” in language, mountain, and sky, opens inside. And what we say unites us with where we are and who we’re with; it reveals to us that, in fact, we’re the universe itself speaking.

 

Sincerity raises us like a parent’s love, one that is absolute, yet clear seeing and adapting. We each have different loves, different doorways to the mysterious. Everything provides such a doorway if we can find it. Sincerity is the sign that marks the door.

 

When I was teaching secondary school literature, philosophy, or history, the students and I talked about finding that doorway. Children, especially teenagers, are not shy about calling out insincerity and respect the care and trust expressed by sincerity. For example, poetry can often be so difficult to comprehend. But when we read a poem with full attention, a word, phrase, or image would stand out, but which word or image did that was different for different students. And once we realized the door was there, we could feel or question our way in deeper….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

The Hideous and the Beautiful: A Good News Newsletter on the Two and the Infinite Sides of Humanity

There’s so much in our society and world right now that angers or frightens me, but also so much that is providing optimism, maybe, or at least, reassurance, that what we need or wish for is possible. I’m often tempted lately to write a good news newsletter to cheer up and energize myself and others.

 

First, there is the news that our legal system is greatly damaged but not broken. In 2021 and 2022, the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of murder and hate crimes. The DOJ has also increased its efforts to prosecute hate crimes.

 

Secondly, it has been so jarring and has created such anxiety in so many of us to see DJT’s obvious criminal, unjust, even traitorous actions escape any legal consequences, until, maybe, now. The Jan. 6 Hearings have and will continue to present for all to see (if they’d look) new and old evidence of DJT working to violently overthrow our constitutional democracy. Then there’s the evidence collected at Mar-A-Lago that DJT illegally took government documents, including classified files, with him as he left office. He obstructed investigations into that theft.  And the DOJ has opened investigations into his election interference, and issued over 40 subpoenas to people in DJT’s orbit. He faces a very good chance of a criminal indictment.

 

The GOP cry they must enact controls on voting (i. e. suppress the vote) due to voting fraud, but the evidence shows their claims are disinformation. Such fraud is a GOP created myth.

 

The biggest voting fraud is by DJT followers, some of whom are now being held accountable. For example, GOP officials and lawyers, such as Sidney Powell, have been exposed for breaching and illegally sharing voting information. In Michigan, DJT’s pick for attorney general is being investigated for a conspiracy to get access to voting machines. There is Representative Scott Perry in Pennsylvania and a GOP election official in Troy, New York, named Jason Schofield. According to the DOJ, Schofield “was arraigned on an indictment charging him with unlawfully using the names and dates of birth of voters to fraudulently apply for absentee ballots for elections held in Rensselaer County in 2021.”

 

Then we have criminal investigations against DJT in Georgia, fraud investigations in New York. And the investigation into DJT fraudulently raising money to fight a fraud that never happened, but he spent the money for his own personal uses. Some of these charges could result in jail time and/or disqualification from running for office.

 

Thirdly, with abortion, the GOP have exposed their heartlessness. Having an abortion is an awful choice to make, but it’s a mother’s choice. The GOP are not only trying to rip from women the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies; they’re demonizing mothers who want the right to decide when, how many, or if they have children. They’re trying to ensure women are legally considered second to men.

 

This has frightened and angered so many people. And GOP Senator Lindsey Graham’s call for making abortion illegal nationally just increased that anger. The number of those registering to vote to protect the right to abortion even in red states like Kansas has increased dramatically, and with young people as well as women. The whole election calculus is changing. In many states, the number one concern motivating women and young people to come out and vote is abortion, second only to protecting democracy. This is happening in many other states as well.

 

People are saying, “enough.” …

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Seeing With a Diversity of Eyes, Revisited: Imagination Is a Brush We Can Use to Paint Our Way Anywhere, Even Home

It all began one evening when I got totally engrossed in viewing Japanese woodblock prints, especially the night scenes by Kawase Hasui. Hasui was one of Japan’s most prominent and prolific printmakers, who died in 1957. He created landscapes that beautifully merged humans⎼ their homes, boats, shrines, castles, and temples⎼ into the land around them.

 

I was looking through several paintings and when one stood out, I’d imagine myself in the depicted scene or sit with the mood the print and my seeing of it created.

 

One night scene was of the Chuson-ji Temple in Japan. A long series of wide steps led up through trees to the temple. There was moonlight and a bright star, but no moon. I slowed down, stopped rushing, and just lingered on the scene, let my eyes feel the steps so I could walk up them in my imagination and reach the building itself.

 

Then I closed my eyes and let the scene rest inside me, before opening them again to allow new details I had missed earlier to enter the picture. By touching in this mindful way, we are touched; we feel what we see. The artwork is perceived with more dimension. I learned this practice at a retreat organized by psychotherapist Lawrence Leshan.

 

Later that night, I drove into town to buy groceries. Along the way, I noticed the scenery took on a totally new quality. The homes surrounded by trees, the lights amidst the dark, the moon over the hillside⎼ one minute, the scene before me was the physical road, buildings, and trees. The next, a beautiful portrait of the same.

 

In the afternoon a few days later, a similar experience occurred. As I walked up a rural road, I saw as I might normally see⎼ light breaking through the hillside forest roof and bouncing off tree leaves ⎼ and then as Hasui might paint it. By viewing the art, my eyes were tuned to beauty; I now had two sets of eyes, two ways of seeing.

 

Hasui seemed fascinated with not just art as a creation, but vision itself. He painted the same scene in different seasons and times of day. There are at least three renditions of the Chuson-ji Temple, for example⎼ one at night, one on a spring day, another in the snow. But what we see in each painting is one moment, or each instant as a once in a lifetime event.

 

The beautiful temples Hasui painted were not just an external scene he perceived but an element of the artist, his society, history, mood, the time of day, the weather and quality of light. We are not a being locked in a wall of skin, but one movement in a universe dancing itself into being.

 

Sometimes, we get caught up in what we see or hear. Our focus becomes possessive and exclusive. The object we see over there reinforces the sense of a separate me over here. And we lose appreciation for the very act of seeing or hearing, or the fact we can perceive or know anything at all. We lose the mystery of it. Studying how we perceive, being mindful, can remind us to notice, and look beyond what we see in order to enjoy the act of seeing. That we see can be as miraculous as what we see.

 

Exercises looking out a window:

Is it possible to perceive each artwork as a window or a door to a hidden place in ourselves, or the universe, like C. S. Lewis’ wardrobe doorway to Narnia? Just like a painting might be framed, a window frames the world for us to view with care and attention.

 

Here are exercises we can use to expand our appreciation of art and perception. We can do them for ourselves or share them with students. Before we share them, we first practice them ourselves. We feel and reflect on how they affect us. We imagine each individual child doing it. Many of us are struggling now with painful traumas and loss. We need to develop trauma sensitive eyes and hearts. We need to hold our children and ourselves with hands of empathy and compassion….

 

*To read the whole piece, please click on the link to Education That Inspires.

 

**This blog is an expanded revisiting of one I wrote last year for The Good Men Project.

***Before doing any of the exercises, please consult the links for fuller explanations.

Last Night, A Dream: About The Handmaid’s Tale? The Supreme Court? Or Depths I haven’t Yet Realized?

I woke up from one dream and found myself in another. The first dream, which I barely remember, returned me to when I was a teacher. A school trip I was helping lead had gone bad. In the dream, a young man I don’t remember ever knowing was caught trying to steal from our group. I was holding him by the upper arm⎼ and then I was catapulted into a totally new scene.

 

I was in a city, like Manhattan, still holding the upper arm of the young man from the previous dream. We looked around us at a world gone crazy and which neither of us knew. It had all the energy of a war movie. Many people were running, rushing fast through the streets. There was a group of 5 or so white men, dressed in dark, maybe black clothes, walking deliberately, and carrying signs. “Join the chorus.” “Become a chorister.”

 

The apparent leader of the men with signs approached me and said, “You look like you could do it. Join us. We need you.” I didn’t respond and the group moved on.

 

We turned a corner of the street. I let go of the arm of the teenager and we talked about what we were seeing, and what we should do. “What do you think is going on?” I asked him. We were now allies, refugees together. I thought to myself maybe I should find the man with the sign and ask him what was going on. What is the chorus, besides people singing together? The horror of the novel, The Handmaid’s Tale  came to mind. Would it be better for me to be a chorister or leader than a foot soldier? Or maybe not? Could I be a leader? And of what?

 

I imagined myself reading books of fighting strategy. And then I woke up to daylight, morning. In my bed.

 

Is this related to the white men (and one woman) in dark robes now trying to turn our society into a Gilead, a patriarchal, white supremacist, totalitarian Christian state that treats women as property? The dream came to me a few days before news reports revealed a draft of a decision by 5 Conservative Supreme Court Justices to overturn Roe vs Wade.

 

Was my subconscious giving me a warning? Or trying to wake me from a sleep of inaction? Was the dark robed man in the dream trying to get me to join other white men as oppressors? Or to fight them?

 

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, said the story just exposes trends that she saw happening back in the 1980’s in the US. Her work was a response to people saying such events could happen in other nations, but never here. But here we are. We have 5 Supreme Court Justices taking away rights and health care from one half of all of us.

 

And how do they justify this? They say they are saving the lives of unborn children. They don’t seem to care about the lives of children once they are born, since many support executing people, including women who have had abortions. Many in the supposed “pro-life” movement supported cuts in programs to feed hungry children and deny affordable healthcare coverage to those with “pre-existing conditions.”

 

In the leaked draft opinion on the issue, Justice Samuel Alito relied heavily on 17th century English judge Matthew Hale. As Deanna Pan writes in an article for the Boston Globe, Alito argued that prohibiting abortion should be upheld because it has an “unbroken tradition” in the law. But slavery, in the 17th Century, had an unbroken tradition as did denying women the right to own property. So did, according to Hale, sentencing women to death for witchcraft and allowing husbands to escape criminal liability for raping their wives.

 

Human rights, democratically elected governments, also television, computers, baseball goes against what was established tradition in the 17th century.

 

Alito ignores the fact that Roe has been accepted legal precedent since 1973, almost 50 years. It was upheld in three previous cases, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Whole Women’s Health v. Herllerstedt, and in 2020, June Medical Services v. Gee. Alito’s arguments come from a time when only a few white men had any political power.

 

Or maybe the dream had nothing to do specifically with denying women the right to control their own body. There have been so many reasons we have protested lately, including Black Lives Matter, ending gun violence, and calling for DJT to be held accountable for treasonous acts. But there also are people forced to run through the streets due to the horror of Putin’s war against Ukraine.

 

Maybe the dream was about the need for action by anyone who thinks the whole drift toward Gilead is not only wrong but threatens the very future of democracy. And because many of those who push an anti-women agenda that criminalizes abortion also deny human-caused climate change, they threaten the ability of our planet to support the life not only of human children but of all living beings.

 

So, we must all ask ourselves: if we think this attack on women is wrong, what are we ready to do? How can we speak out? What creativity or specific skills do we have to make our speech heard and honored? What tactics have we read about in the past that have led to successful political actions or in evoking the attention and compassion of the nation?

 

Brian Resnick wrote an article for VOX outlining 4 Rules for Making A Protest Work, like keeping the protest nonviolent and more proactive (preventing an action) than reactive, making the message very clear and salient, joining different groups or issues under one banner, and aiming for specific actions or legislation.

 

We might think of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We might think Lacie Wooten-Holway, a mom and neighbor of Justice Kavanaugh, standing outside his home holding a candle of protest. We might think about the protests against the GOP Graham-Cassidy Health Denial Bill in 2017; the women’s wall in India in 2019, or the wall of Moms in Portland in 2020. Or the first Earth Day events in 1970 or maybe placing flowers in gun barrels and levitating the Pentagon during the anti-war movement in the sixties.

 

And especially joining the upcoming Women’s March on May 14 and working to protect and get out the vote this November.

 

The fight here is first for a woman’s right to abortion. But it is equally for equal justice for all before the law, voting rights and protections, environmental justice and protections, healthcare for all, and the advancement of public education.

 

**This article was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

Difficult Conversations, And Crossing the Divide

Question:  Being an ally is important to me, but an obviously important piece of what that means is having difficult conversations with people who either believe that allyship is unnecessary or worse, some kind of liberal conspiracy.  I want to have better tools for dealing with people who are fact-resistant and believe the false stories in the right-wing media.  When I present multiple sources that contradict the lies they have heard, I feel like we end up on a merry-go-round in the he said/she said tradition where nobody learns anything and we both end up frustrated.  What can I be doing better?

 

Oh, yes. This dilemma is so familiar. It is so important that those of us who are white allies try to have those difficult conversations with the fact-resistant people that you refer to, about racism and other intersectional issues. And with those who might agree with us about the facts but can’t get motivated to act.

 

As you said, it has become increasingly frustrating, and I can’t claim much success. We can all think we know what’s right, so changing someone’s mind about anything important can be brutal, if not impossible. Simply mentioning certain issues can lead to anger or anxiety. Just presenting reliable evidence or showing how their evidence is contradictory or comes from unreliable sources doesn’t usually work. Our nation is on edge, suffering not only from what filmmaker Ken Burns called the three pandemics, COVID, white nationalism, and misinformation, but a climate emergency, so the tension we feel makes what’s difficult even more so.

 

In the political situation we are in today, the strongest wall the right-wing leaders have built is clearly not at our southern border, but down almost the middle of this nation. This wall was very deliberately constructed. Making conversations difficult is one way that differing viewpoints are turned into a wall.

 

When I taught a class on debate, I did research on persuasion.  A key point is to first get your foot in the door. Get any point of acceptance, of something we share or agree about. Say ‘yes’ and hopefully they will do the same. Establish a relationship so we are no longer on the other side of a door, or wall.

 

When disinformation is mistaken for truth, and truth becomes indistinguishable from belief, anyone who doesn’t reside on our side of the border on an issue is perceived as an enemy. And one of the main components of that wall is racism. So maybe the best thing to expect from ourselves is speaking to that reality as clearly as we can.

 

George Lakoff, in his books The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant, Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, and Your Brain’s Politics: How the Science of Mind Explains the Political Divide, provides clear, explicit methods for doing this. First, listen for the person’s values and speak to them. Don’t just negate or argue with the other person’s claims. Then, re-phrase or reframe the issue. And once that reframe is accepted in the conversation, our point of view can follow naturally from it, as common sense. Don’t be a patsy to their way of framing or misrepresenting the world. Use frames we really think are true based on values we hold. And recognize who might be more inclined to listen to us….

 

**To read the whole post, go to the Ask An Ally column of the Good Men Project.

Mindfully Healing from Hurt and Feelings of Revenge

Teachers know just how traumatized both adults and children have felt this past year, with all of the political tension and ongoing COVID crisis. As we hope for a more positive year ahead, mindfulness can be the first step in letting go of pain, but it has to be used in a trusting space, with awareness of what we as teachers and our students might be facing.

 

A trauma is an incapacitating form of stress. Stress by itself can be helpful or harmful. But when it is deep and we can’t integrate or face it, it can become traumatic. The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines a traumatic event as exposure to “actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence.”

 

In his book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, David Treleaven makes clear that this exposure can come in many ways, from directly experiencing or witnessing a trauma or from learning about what happened to a relative, loved one or close friend. Children are especially vulnerable. One in four children in the U. S. have experienced physical abuse, one in five sexual. Then we add a pandemic, political instability, and oppression, whether it be sexism or violence directed at one’s gender identity, race or religion, etc. and we have a huge number of people who have suffered from trauma. We have not just a coronavirus pandemic but a pandemic of extreme emotions like hate and a craving for revenge.

 

Teach Compassion and Turn the Classroom into A Compassionate Learning Community:

 

Compassion can include but is more than empathy. It is close to kindness, with the added commitment to taking action to relieve the suffering of others as well as ourselves. It is one of humanity’s greatest strengths. And when it lives in us, the hurt lessens or disappears.  In fact, practicing compassion is a way to skillfully let go of any hurt. By acting with compassion, we walk a bigger road and rediscover our strength.

 

Having students research compassion can be a way for them to teach themselves the benefits. A wonderful resource is the Greater Good Science Center

 

Explore what emotion is and specifically what revenge is.

 

How do we as teachers explore negative or hostile feelings if they arise in class, either online or with in-person instruction, considering the time restraints, stress, degree of trauma, and unique circumstances we face today? [https://www.badassteacher.org/bats-blog/for-blended-teaching-its-not-just-the-covid-its-the-stress-by-dr-michael-flanagan]

 

A useful guideline especially on-line is be short and simple, with processing afterwards and weaving the practice into the subject matter of the day. Before introducing any type of meditation or visualization to our students, we must first practice several times by ourselves and then imagine how specific students would feel doing this type of practice. Provide choices in all aspects of practice, including postures, whether we keep our eyes open or closed, etc.

 

Start with asking questions to stimulate engagement and intellectual curiosity. What is emotion? Feeling? How do you know what you feel? Why have emotions? Work on increasing self-understanding and our ability to calm mind and body and focus through mindfulness. We strengthen ourselves and our students with visualizations, compassion, and other exercises, then apply those practices to better understand the person and situation that hurt us, and how to respond in the most healing fashion.

 

A student once asked me what to do about his “feeling” he needed to take revenge on a classmate. He obsessed over it. Young people can be especially vulnerable to this emotion, as they are so aware and sensitive to how others treat them

 

I told him that it was a difficult question, but like any emotion, the inner push or craving for revenge can seem like it is one humongous stone in our gut that we can’t handle. But it is not one thing and not just a feeling. It is composed of many components that can be broken down so we can handle them.

 

What is emotion? Daniel Siegel makes clear emotion is not just feeling. One purpose of emotion is to tag stimuli with value so we know how to think and act. There are phases in the process of constructing emotion. The first phase is jolting the system to pay attention, what he calls the “initial orienting response.” The second is “elaborative appraisal,” which includes labeling stimuli as good or bad, dangerous or pleasing. We begin to construct meaning and then prepare for action, to either approach or avoid something. This sets up the third step, when our experience differentiates further into categorical emotions like sadness, happiness, or fear. Memory and thoughts are added to feeling and sensation. Teaching about emotion, its uses and how it’s constructed is one of the most important subjects we could teach our students. In fact, it takes up most of my book on teaching compassionate critical thinking.

 

Revenge is a complex of emotions, like anger, hate, humiliation, fear and a sense of being threatened. According to Janne van Doorm, hate, anger, and desire for revenge are similar but have a different focus: “anger focuses on changing/restoring the unjust situation caused by another person, feelings of revenge focus on restoring the self, and hatred focuses on eliminating the hated person/group.” …

 

To read the whole article, please go to MindfulTeachers.Org.

Using Imagination and Mindfulness to Inquire into Big Questions

**This article was written and scheduled to be published by the Education that Inspires online magazine 6 – 8 weeks ago, before we knew the devastation the coronavirus could have on our world. The post now seems to me an artifact of a lost time. But one thing I hope we learn from the response to this pandemic is how important it is to constantly improve our critical thinking capacity and enhance it with emotional awareness and compassion. And our whole culture needs to put education, public education, in the prominent position it and our children deserve. Our public schools need to be set free from Betsy DeVos and those like her, set free from the 30+ years of corporate attacks on public education masquerading as “reform,” and allowed to teach critical thinking enhanced by imagination, social-emotional awareness and compassion. If we learn how to think more critically and compassionately, and we study our world and examine what our political representatives say, and do, more clearly, maybe there will be less of a chance anything like this situation will happen again. For now, maybe this post can inspire online educational discussions.**

 

Teenagers are natural philosophers, when the educational environment is open to them asking sincere questions. They are constantly asking themselves, their friends, and, hopefully, their teachers questions like: “Is love real? What does friendship mean? Who or what am I?” So, one of the first things to do is discover what questions the students have related to the course ⎼ or life⎼ and what questions they think must be answered to better understand the course material.

 

One of the big questions often raised, although sometimes students can’t verbalize it, is “Do we have free will or is that just a comforting illusion?” It is related to the question of “Who am I?” And: “How much freedom do I have to shape who I am and what I feel?” Such questions provide educators opportunities to develop their students’ critical and creative thinking and engage with the Philosophic Imagination.

 

I remember students gleefully proclaiming in a class discussion that we have no free will. I don’t know if they did this after studying in a science class how every event has a cause, and they were saying to me or to the rest of the class: “I know something you don’t.” Or if saying “there is no free will” was an assertion of it, like saying “I am not bound by old ways of thinking.” It didn’t matter that by saying there was no free will they were denying what their emotions were proclaiming. Or maybe they were just daring me to prove otherwise.

 

Once in a psychology class, we were discussing compassion and one student asked: “Are we really free to be kind when we want? Maybe some people are just born nice. With all that we learned in science about how chemical and electrical messages and genetics control us, how can we be free to decide anything?”

 

I asked: “What does it mean to be free? Does it mean we act without any reason or that there are no restraints on what we do? Or that every time we have a thought or desire, we act it out? Would we feel free then?”

 

“I would feel a slave if I had to express every thought I heard in my mind,” responded one student.

 

“But would I lose my spontaneity if I didn’t act on my thoughts?” asked a third student.

 

Then I asked: “Does what we know or believe influence how we act? If we learned about experiments that show people can learn to act with more kindness and compassion, would we be more kind? Or if we studied experimental evidence that mindfulness training strengthens the parts of the brain that prepare us to act to help others⎼ would knowing that change your mind, or not, about being free to be kind even if you weren’t born kind?”

 

How do you start the discussion? Decide on a question for imaginative mindful inquiry.

 

After students have settled down and we have greeted them, tell them the question for the day. “Our question for today is What does it mean to be free?” Ask them to raise their hands if the question has come up for them in discussions with friends or family.

 

In engaging in this discussion, we need to keep in mind religious beliefs about the question. We might also have to re-shape the questions we ask to meet the age and personal history of our students.

 

One way to start is with an exercise in imagination and mindful inquiry. This can not only introduce the question but develop the skill of self-awareness that is crucial in actually acting freely. And being able to imagine a situation, the implications of one’s words or the consequences of one’s actions, is central to critical thinking and making decisions….

 

To read the whole post, go to the EducationThatInspires magazine.

 

 

Mindful Practices to Use Throughout the Day, To Help Us Face the Coronavirus Crisis

We are, all of us, in a situation few of us, maybe none of us, have ever faced before. It is frightening, because of that newness and because it poses a threat to our health, the health of people we know and care about, and the schools and society that we know and care about.

But how we respond to it is extremely important. We can’t control the situation. But we can control how we respond.

If we take control, plan our days and our time and our actions, then we can feel more powerful. We can do something. We grow stronger.

And as teachers, we have a unique opportunity and responsibility not only to stay healthy, develop our own practice and maintain as clear a mind as we can, but help our students and their families do the same.

Due to the school closings throughout our nation and world, we may have more time on our hands and have to decide how we’ll use that time. Or we may be expected to continue ‘business as usual’ by suddenly coming up with ways to teach online.

When we wake up every morning, although we aren’t usually aware of it, we have a choice. Every morning we can choose how to greet the day.

We can decide what we must do or could do and the best time to do it. We can tie activities that are more unusual or difficult with things we already do, like waking up, going to sleep, and hopefully, eating meals. We can use the activities we do daily already as the basic structure to add the new to the old.

[Teachers, please note: As with any guided meditation or visualization, please try these practices yourself before sharing them with your students. Imagine how your students might respond and make adjustments to fit their needs and history.]

If You Want to Practice in the Morning

When you wake up, you might feel fresh and ready to go, or feel tired, lethargic, or stiff. In any case, your mind is probably clearer in the morning than later in the day. Your body also needs gentle stimulation and stretching. So, it’s one of the best times to do a little exercise and then a mindfulness practice.

 

To read the whole post, please god to MindfulTeachers.org.

Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion Through Seasonal Moments

To understand the season, winter, spring, summer or fall, what must we do? What is a season? Understanding the seasons is not just a matter of looking at a calendar or being aware of what the weather was yesterday, and the week or month before that, or today.

 

It is not simply exploring the basic science: The earth rotates, causing day and night. And it is tilted on an axis, so it follows a path around the sun. In summer one half of the earth faces the sun more directly so it gets the light from the sun more intensely and for a longer period of the day. The other half experiences winter, as it is turned away from the sun.

 

To understand what the seasons mean to us, we utilize memories of past years, and past moments. We become aware of how everything is constantly changing. That life itself is change. One minute is different than the last.

 

And we must be aware how we, also, change. Not just our moods, sensations and thoughts, but how we feel as the earth changes.  We and the earth change together, although maybe not in the same way or at the same pace. Because the earth moves around the sun and is tilted at a certain angle, we experience sensations of cold or warmth. We become aware of what it feels like to be alive on this earth in this particular moment.* We become aware that to understand the seasons we must understand the being who is doing the studying, namely ourselves.

 

And one way to generate compassion for other humans is to imagine how people throughout history have tried to live a seasonal moment similar to this one. Here are two seasonal mindfulness practices. As with any guided meditation or visualization, please try these practices yourself before sharing them with your students. Make adjustments to fit their needs and history.

 

Winter

 

You might ask students: What purposes, ecologically and psychologically, might the seasons serve?  In the fall, when you see the first snowfall, what do you feel?

In November, when we set the clocks back, what do you feel?

 

I know some people love the snow and look forward to winter. When I was still working as a teacher, I remember the joy that filled the school with the first snowfall. Students could barely focus on the academic lesson when Mother Nature had a deeper lesson in store for us. They would rush to the window and look out with wonder. Each snow was the only snow they had seen, ever, so beautiful and exciting.

 

Yet, for others, winter is a turning in. We cuddle within an extra blanket of clothing to find something kinder than the chill we get from fear and doubt. We wonder if the warmth will ever return. Will the earth ever bear fruit again? Will the dark continue to dominate the light?…

 

*The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, by David Loy, can be extremely helpful for developing lessons using modern fantasy literature and films to teach lessons about time, nonviolence, and engaging in the world.

 

To read the whole post, go to: MindfulTeachers.org.

 

What You Model, You Teach: The World Is A Miraculous Place, If Only We Can Imagine and Act to Make It So

One of the most important lessons a good teacher teaches, beyond the subject matter, is how to live a moment or a year of moments. On the first day of classes, you teach how to meet new people, how to start an endeavor, how to imagine what might be and yet be open to whatever comes. On the last day of classes, you model how to end something and how to say goodbye.

You model how to face freaky spring weather in winter and winter weather in the spring. How to face a test, sickness or other challenges. To share insights, listen to the insights of others, think deeply about questions raised, and fears and joys expressed. How to face evil with insight and violence with clarity.

In this way you create a community and you model the most important lessons one person can give to another. You model with your very life that a loving, caring community is possible and, thusly, create the seeds for a more loving and sustainable future.  Without such a model, it is nearly impossible for a young person to imagine that such a community, or relationship, is possible.

You think of teaching not as a job, not even an avocation, but just what you are doing, now, with your life. You think of each moment as an opportunity to learn, to expand your sense of self, to see others in you and you in others. All of us, in this world that we share, need this sort of gift daily.

Starting the School Day

So, before you enter the classroom, or maybe before you enter the school building, stop in a safe location, maybe near a tree or a place with a pleasing view, close your eyes, and take 2 deep breaths. You might then pick one area of your body to focus on ⎼ the area around your eyes or mouth, your shoulders or belly ⎼ and simply feel how the area expands as you breathe in, and relaxes, settles down as you breathe out.

You might imagine yourself in the classroom ⎼ calm, ready to listen to your students, emotionally strong. Then bring to mind your students. Imagine how they walk, stand, enter the classroom. If you feel tension with anyone, bring him or her to mind. Imagine how they might feel, and that they feel and think, in a manner similar to, yet different from, your own. Hold them in your heart for a moment.

Then take another breath in and out. Open your eyes and look around you, noticing how you feel….

 

To read the whole post, please go to Education That Inspires.