Exploring Our Humanity with Mindfulness: What Our Bodies Can Teach us
How can we, as teachers, use mindfulness, visualization and inquiry practices to study history and what it means to be human? One way is to look clearly at our own body and the way our mind works. We often overlook the obvious. We are our own most direct example of what it means to be human. And what could be more important in this time of high anxiety and threat than a better understanding of our shared humanity and ourselves?
Ask students: Did you ever consider that inside yourself might lie answers to some of the deepest questions about human history and what it means to be a human being?
Ask students to stand up from their chairs and stretch. Raise their hands over their heads, rise up on their toes and reach up to the sky. Then drop their heels and stretch to one side and the other without getting too close to their neighbor.
Say to them: Now stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, hands resting comfortably at your sides, eyes partly or fully closed. Put your focus on your breath. Feel how your body breathes in, and then out.
Put your attention on the area around your eyes and feel what happens there as you breathe in. Do you feel a slight expansion in the area as you breathe in? Then breathe out, and feel how that area breathes out. You might feel a release of tension, a settling down. You can feel the same in your jaw as you inhale, and exhale.
Then put your attention on your shoulders as you breathe in. Do you feel your shoulders expand as you breathe in? And as you exhale, feel how they contract, pushes air up and out.
Then put your attention on your hands. They, too, breathe. As you breathe in, feel your hands expand with the in breath—and let go, settle down with the outbreath.
As you breathe in, feel the air with your whole body. Feel the space around you, in front, behind, at your sides. And as you breathe out, just allow your attention to take in how it feels to stand there, strong, relaxed, and attentive.
What does standing upright like this enable you to do? Dogs or cats are amazing beings. They can leap, twist, and run for a short distance faster that you. They can smell and hear better than you. But not see better, not see over the grass or tables as well as you. A dog or cat uses their paws to run. But by standing upright, you can walk for long distances and free your hands for other activities. What else does standing enable you to do? What are the limitations of standing?
Now slowly breathe in. And as you exhale, open your eyes and come back to the room, noticing how you feel.
Sitting Mindfulness, Visualization and Other Inquiry Practices:
Choose and combine practices from those that follow, which fit your course material, age and interests of students. Have students sit up comfortably, breathe calmly, and close their eyes partly or fully. Then ask them to:
*Rest your hands comfortably on your lap or desk in front of you. Feel how your hands feel resting where they are. Move your fingers and feel their dexterity and strength. How many species are there that can do that? How are your hands different than a paw, your fingers different from a claw?…
To read the whole post, go to MindfulTeachers.org.