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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Breathe, Laugh

Last night I attended the book launch for Friends Council on Education’s new publication, Tuning In: Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning. I went partly as a university teacher, partly as a parent and former school committee member at a Friends school, and partly to support members of my meeting–Irene McHenry, the book’s editor as well as one of the contributors, and Christie Duncan-Tessmer, a contributing author­. Unlike most book launches, the evening was designed to be experiential. Most of the contributors who spoke directed us in the kinds of exercises teachers might use to introduce mindfulness to their students (or calm themselves down when necessary), such as closing one’s eyes and observing one’s thoughts or following one’s breath. For one exercise, each of us received a gold post-it with four pairs of words: in–out, deep–slow, calm–ease, and here–now. We were directed to use these words along with our breath, thinking “deep” on the inhale, for example, and “slow” on the exhale.

The mindfulness refresher came in handy last night, as both of my kids were having trouble falling asleep. I directed them to follow their breath, and that seemed to help. This morning when we jumped in the car (running late, as usual), they saw the post-it stuck to my dashboard and asked what it meant. I explained how mindfulness was about paying attention to what is happening right now, not worrying about what is going to happen, and how paying attention to one’s breath can help us do that.

“Do you have to use those words?” asked my ten-year-old son.

“No, you can use any words that work for you,” I responded.

Then from the backseat I heard him chant, “Dog–chicken, human-cannibal.”

So, now in addition to a practice to calm me down whenever we’re running late, I have something to think of that will always make me laugh, which is one of the best ways of being present I know.


Blogger Deborra said...

I also attended the "Tuning In" book launch and loved the centering practices led by the contributors. I had the opportunity to use a selection from the book the very next day at a workshop I was leading for Educators New to Quaker Schools. 33 educators from about 10 different Friends schools found a sense of peace and openness in the midst of a very full workshop agenda. As the workshop leader, I felt a renewed sense of focus by taking just a few minutes to be present in the NOW.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

That's a great testimonial, Deborra. And a good reminder to me as a workshop leader that these things can be used in different settings.

9:36 AM  

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