Over the past two years, whenever I actually made the time to close my eyes and meditate for 10 minutes in the early morning, I felt a sense of calm and happiness, as well as an ability to focus, that stayed with me all day long. A peaceful feeling emerged when my brain 'let go' from its busy-ness. It's liberating to detach from and get outside of the mind! Mindfully meditating made me a better teacher, coach, and parent. What's incredible to me is that meditating impacted not just me and my health. It also worked through me, impacting the people I interacted with daily. This is a powerful concept that applies to all healthy choices we make for ourselves. Kids need us to help them learn and adopt healthy practices.Interestingly but not surprisingly, I don't meditate consistently even though I know it's good for me and will help me be the best version of me.
Clarify: What is meditation anyway and how is it related to mindfulness?
Meditation is the bigger umbrella word.
“At its core, meditation is when you intentionally set aside time to do something good for yourself,” explains (author and PhD Elisha) Goldstein. And that’s all! Really. As long as you’re doing something good for you on purpose, whatever it is that may be, that’s meditation. “For instance, there’s exercise meditation, in which you intentionally set out to exercise to clear your mind," says Goldstein. "There’s prayer meditation, when you intentionally send prayers out to the universe. There’s music meditation, where the whole purpose is to relax you, and the list goes on. ~Annie Daly, Womens Health Magazine
Mindfulness is a type of meditation.
"Mindfulness is the "awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn, p. 145
Fortuitously, I stumbled across InsightTimer App a few weeks ago. I've been using it daily ever since--everything in one place. I wake up excited to use it. What I like about Insight Timer App Insight Timer is available on both IOS and Android. It used to be a paid app. Now it's free. (There are a few things you can purchase, but they are extras to the app, not basic parts of the app experience.) Insight Timer provides meditation choices for all levels of expertise from beginner to master including self-timer, music & playlists, bells & ambient music, and excellent and wide-ranging guided meditations from over 900 teachers. In addition, you get access to your own cumulative stats, journaling after each session, and community groups. One group is "365 Days Together." The discussions shared in the groups are honest and caring. I find them meaningful. I started meditating on Insight Timer to the Top 20 guided track called "Morning Meditation", which I still listen to. I now frequently use the self-timer with ambient music or just silence in the background during my quiet time with my eyes closed. I like exploring the new guided tracks each week.
When I read about their dedicated project, a 365 day Meditation Challenge, I was 100% in. I thought immediately about how this could help me be a better educator for teachers and kids. I am blogging about this because I want to invite you to try it with me!
5 Reasons I am doing the Insight Timer 365 Day Meditation Challenge:
1) I don't meditate consistently, even though I know it positively impacts my health and happiness. I have a group of 30,000+ supportive people worldwide to motivate me to meditate, share, and grow on the app and social media. (Check out the December 30, 2016 blogpost about the Challenge written by CEO, Christopher Plowman)
2) As a teacher and coach, I must explore mindfulness before I can ever hope to share the mind/health benefits with kids and teachers. The 365 Day Challenge will motivate me to experience it on my own. If I find it powerful and useful for kids, I have something to work from, to teach from, to lead from.
3) Professional Learning Journey--with people and educators across the globe. I can form friendships, experience something new, deepen the connectivity in our education ecosystem, and talk mindfulness ideas for education via Groups on Insight Timer such as "365 Days Together" and on the #insighttimer2017 hashtag on Twitter.
4) Many kids show up to school with brains affected by trauma--minds in fight or flight; minds not in a state of calm and flow. I was one of those kids. A process for relaxing and observing the mind objectively would be a lifelong gift to kids. Trauma impacts academic, behavioral, and social development. Mindfulness can help students (and teachers) train their brains to focus and feel a sense of relaxation, empowerment and joy. The power of being completely in the moment means you're not at the mercy of emotions, thoughts, and worries. This helps you OPEN up to learning and self-worth.
5) Research on mindfulness initiatives backs up mindfulness--for both teachers and students.
"Early research results on three illustrative mindfulness-based teacher training initiatives suggest that personal training in mindfulness skills can increase teachers’ sense of well-being and teaching self-efficacy, as well as their ability to manage classroom behavior and establish and maintain supportive relationships with students. Since 2005, 14 studies of programs that directly train students in mindfulness have collectively demonstrated a range of cognitive, social, and psychological benefits to both elementary (six studies) and high school (eight studies) students. These include improvements in working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood and decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue." ~Integrating Mindfulness Training into K-12 Education: Fostering the Resilience of Teachers and Students by John Meiklejohn & Catherine Phillips & M. Lee Freedman & Mary Lee Griffin & Gina Biegel & Andy Roach & Jenny Frank & Christine Burke & Laura Pinger et al.
A few years ago, my 6th graders and I enjoyed the short meditation times we experimented with during one unit of ancient world history. Some of my kids said they had aha moments, some experienced relaxation, and others felt a peace and joy. A few of my students went home and spent time in mindful meditation. I noticed a difference in the room full of 29 kids afterward. We only did this for 2-3 weeks.
The 365 day Meditation challengestarts January 1, 2017 and ends Decemer 31, 2017! I'd love to mindfully meditate with you there.