On the subcontinent, where I have lived and taught most of the last 20 years, the seat of wisdom is considered to be in the heart. What a beautiful thought! In the West, we think of the mind; and therefore, wisdom, as being in the head, the intellect. In Sanskrit, the word describing the energy of the heart is anahata; literally meaning unstuck. For at the very heart of our day-to-day lives, including typical teaching days, beyond limiting thoughts and emotions of the intellect and unbound by time or space, there is an inner dwelling of the heart, a place stemming from a deep peace and all-knowing, a spaciousness of heart and mind that is always "un"-stuck, always whole. The practice of mindfulness cultivates this unfolding process and by teaching from the heart of mindfulness, teachers; and by direct consequence their students, are welcomed into this spaciousness of heart and mind- this peaceful place of being.
Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness invites mindfulness in an accessible way to all educators at all levels of interest, commitment or experience. Mindfulness as a positive forward-moving action, stemming from a discerning, heartfelt vibration, expansive and healing in nature - is the starting point from which the rest of the book flows. Teaching while combining and developing one s inner practice of mindfulness both in and outside the class is an essential element of this book. You are invited to use the book in ways that best resonate: as a professional tool, reference guide, inspirational journey or for practices in mindfulness. The book is divided into two sections. The first section is presented through a variety of themes that reflect different facets of mindfulness. Each theme cultivates a spaciousness of mind and an expansiveness of the heart rather than an experience exclusively from the intellect. The chapters begin with a mindfulness practice related to that chapter s theme, inviting you into this expansive nature. Following the mindfulness practice, the theme unfolds into a concrete, specific classroom example. These real classroom situations, seen through the lens of an innovative Mindful Lesson Design, link a reflective, experiential process and a cognitive, professional protocol. The second section describes the user-friendly Mindful Lesson Design in detail for easy teacher implementation. This section also includes helpful techniques that support mindfulness throughout the school day. By experiencing and cultivating mindful teaching from the heart and being equipped with practical professional tools, mindfulness as a way of teaching and mindfulness as a way of being can become a reality.
Why This Book?
It is heartening to witness the field of mindfulness in education explode. There are now a number institutes and university programs leading towards becoming a certified mindful teacher, there are mindfulness-based schools students can attend, and mindfulness curricula teachers can choose to follow. Local and international conferences on mindfulness in education are proliferating as are websites providing useful and accessible information on mindfulness in education for teachers, students and parents. And it is a global phenomenon. So why this book? Why Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness? Why now?
Surprisingly, in the new yet burgeoning field of mindfulness in education, there are only half a dozen books at most. Of these, the primary focus encourages mindfulness for the student. Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness focuses on the teacher. It also emphasizes the nature of mindfulness in education away from something that is done in the classroom to mindfulness as a process, to a way of being and becoming. Students notice the difference between a teacher who does a 15-minute mindfulness activity but is highly stressed throughout the school day versus a teacher who is in the process of becoming more and more mindful while implementing that same activity. Just like students can tell the difference between a teacher who teaches mindfulness versus a mindful teacher, Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness, written by a teacher with almost three decades of teaching experience and a mindful practitioner for even more, adds an important voice to teachers dedicated to bringing mindfulness into the classroom and into their lives.
As exemplified by a February 2014 Time magazine cover: "The Mindful Revolution, " the word mindfulness has quietly yet powerfully entered into our daily lexicon: in education, parenting, health fields, TedTalks, and the business arena to name but a few. With the exciting synergy between East and West occurring in the area of mindfulness, insights into the understanding of the word mindfulness may be useful. In Eastern traditions, mindfulness has deep roots, with written instruction on its practice reaching back over several thousand years. In the West, researcher, scientists, neurobiologist and others are quantifying functions of the brain to explain the benefits of mindful practice. Pioneering researcher Richard J. Davidson has shed more light into the potential effect of mindfulness by showing how expert meditators change the actual make up of their genes. (Psychoneuroendrocinology, Feb. 2014). The positive impact of mindfulness on academic, social and emotional learning is now understood as fact, thanks to many of these scientific studies. Yet mindfulness remains something to describe rather than pinpoint or make into a fixed entity.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has the following operational definition of mindfulness: The awareness that comes from paying attention in a purposeful way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." Thich Nhat Hanh, the world famous monk, revered for embodying mindfulness writes, ..".mindfulness is to become completely alive and live deeply each moment of your daily life. Mindfulness helps you touch the wonders of life for self-nourishment and healing." My own description is, "A hallmark of mindfulness is the silencing of the mind giving way to the expanding expression of the heart in the all-knowing present moment. And in that stillness there emerges a sacred connection to all." Translations of the original Pali word from which mindfulness is derived include: concentrated attention, inspection, reflective awareness, and retention.
All of the aforementioned examples from science, tradition or experience are not mutually exclusive; rather, they all fortify mindfulness as a practice and a way of being from the heart. As an educator, mindfulness can fortify the practice of teaching. On the personal level, mindfulness can fortify the individual. Thus teaching from the heart of mindfulness becomes a realistic goal for any educator. Ultimately each person's journey is unique. By sharing our journeys, we can become inspired to strengthen our own. I hope my continued journey cultivating teaching from the heart of mindfulness, shared in these pages, lends inspiration to yours.
"Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda"," written in Lauren s simple, yet inspiring and eloquent style, brought the concept of mindfulness to thousands of children and adults. Lauren now does the same with Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness, bringing mindfulness to thousands of teachers and in so doing benefiting their students. Teaching from the Heart of Mindfulness" "will resonate with public school teachers, international educators, parents of school-aged children and laypeople alike. Lauren will be available for a national book tour and international conferences."
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