I am not a trendsetter. I am a reluctant, late adopter of newfangled technology, and I want to see the research before I try something with my students. True, in the tech realm, I have had a blog for over four years, which in blog life, is kind of long, but it’s because my trendsetter friend, Jennifer, encouraged me to start it. I was late to join Facebook because I thought it was like MySpace, and thought MySpace was dumb and basically just for tweens and bands. My bestie, Kendra, encouraged me to join Facey Face and I can’t believe I resisted so long. I even copied the trends of Mrs. Mimi of It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages Blog by starting a Facebook page, twitter page, and Amazon.com links for my blog. If we weren’t Internet BFFs, she might say, “Seriously. Stop copying me.”
Now, I come to you with my latest reluctance that I know is supported by research, and is so hot right now, but I can’t find myself jumping on board to use it: mindfulness. In essence, mindfulness is a practice in which we teach students (and adults for that matter) to be aware, present in the moment, and non-judgmental through a variety of techniques (e.g. deep breathing, meditation, visualization, etc.) I’m sure there’s more to it, but like I said, I’m not that into it. I do know that research is emerging that mindfulness techniques have been shown to reduce stress and increase positive feelings. I am totally on board in theory, but when I try it myself, I am mindful of how lame it seems. I just don’t feel happier or more centered listening to a Tibetan singing bowl’s vibrations or really feeeeeeling what it’s like to wash my hands (seriously, it was a “tip” at a conference to be really aware of the sensation of having soap trickle off your hands when you are washing them).
But I can’t run from mindfulness practice anymore. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, after all. It infiltrates my life. For example, the last several professional developments in my school district have had mindfulness themes. We listened to drums, singing bowls, did deep breathing, and visualization exercises. I was only mindful of how friggin’ hot it was in the room and started making my mental to-do list instead of feeeeeeling my brain waves align with the drums. You can’t blame me for not trying. I tried Tae Kwon Do, which is all about eastern patience and such. I quit it though because it didn’t move fast enough for me (what? after a month I just get a black mark on my white belt? I just kicked a board! Upgrade me to a yellow belt, at least!). I also tried yoga, and after 30 minutes of listening to the Aboriginal didgeridoo in child’s pose, I excused myself to go to the bathroom and never returned. Next pose! Next pose! Let’s keep it moving, people.
Sigh. Perhaps this is the very reason I need mindfulness meditation?
I shouldn’t deny the children the benefit of mindfulness though, right? So last school year, I went out and bought a deck of mindfulness cards and plopped them on my desk for kids to choose from if they wanted to. One day, after getting kicked out of class for laughing hysterically for no reason, a middle school girl came to my office and took the mindfulness bait. Together, for 30 minutes, we went through several of the mindfulness cards together. She went from hysterical to calm and at the end of our session said, “I feel like myself again” and skipped off to class. She did fine the rest of the day. Now I realize this is a sample size of 1, but I may, just may dust those cards off for this year too. I may not be down with alternate nostril breathing and imagining my heart is a flower, but I can’t deny that there’s something to this mindfulness practice for some students.