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For anything new to emerge there must first be a dream, an imaginative view of what might be. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.  Then venturesome persons with faith in that dream will persevere to bring it to reality.

Some ideas whose time has come will spread as in a forest fire. But most need the help of a teacher.  I had the good fortune to have an extraordinary one.  He dreamed a great dream of how servanthood could be nurtured in the young, and he spent his best years in bringing it to pass (page 9-10).[1]

Where I work at Kaplan University they encourage not only the students to volunteer and make a difference in their communities but they encourage all faculty to do so as well through The Virtual Difference Makers. Here is a list of some of the things they did in 2016: ran a Spring Virtual Serve-A-Thon, hosted a Stress Management Series, a Virtual Celebration of Rio, sponsored their first annual Health and Wellness Fair, held a Fall Serve-A-Thon and more!.

I have been invited to Lynn University to participate in an interfaith dialog and will be back there again in April for another interfaith dialog.  The hall was jammed with students!  Standing room only!  They asked wonderful questions of the panel.

These were the words on the Flyer for the event: Healing the Divide: Interfaith Dialogue.

In a world where religion so often is the cause of hate and intolerance, we stand infaith-headtogether at Lynn to create a world where our religious differences are not simply tolerated but celebrated. This event is precisely that; where religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Atheist traditions will come together in celebration of our diverse faith traditions.  Come and be amazed!

Imagine the great education the students are receiving at both Kaplan and Lynn and many other colleges around our country when their faculty and administration support such events.

If you are able to create similar events on your campuses I encourage you to do so.  Create a Virtual Difference Makers club for students and faculty, run interfaith dialogues, offer training for faculty on meditation and mindfulness.  Be the change you want to see in our world! Be the catalyst for peace, love, and kindness spreading around your campus and beyond!  The time has come to spread the message of servant leadership at all levels.  Change has always come from the bottom up not from the top down! Be the change you want to see in the world!

Good luck with that!  Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

 

[1] Greenleaf, R.K. (1987) Teacher as Servant: A Parable. The Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership: Indianapolis, IN

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Teaching with mindfulness and contemplative practices is like wearing a MASCC while at the same time creating a road map for your students and for yourself.  When we use Mindfulness, Artfulness, Simplicity, Compassion, and Connectedness (MASCC) to design our courses, prepare to teach them, and actually teach them we empower our students in many important and exciting ways.

As educators it is our responsibility to educate our students not only in the course content, but also in how to live mindfully, compassionately, and successfully in an ever changing and challenging world of war, hunger, prejudice, poverty, disease, and climate change.  The power within each of your students lies dormant until we help them discover it.  But for that to occur we must first discover it within ourselves.  We must create a MASCC for our lives and the circumstances within which we live and move and have our being.

So the first step in this process is to find a practice that resonates with your belief system and discover the power that it has to expand your life in these areas.  Chose one area at a time and focus your reading, research, attention, time, and talent in that direction. Make it fun, make it experiential, and make it an integral part of your life.  Then watch what happens with your teaching ability, your creativity, and your responses from your students, friends, and family members.

Change is not easy, but it is important. Stagnation often appears as a very slow death. So slow that we often don’t even recognize it until it is too late.  Stagnation can mean the death of a relationship, a job, your health, and more.  It hinders the growth and learning for yourself and your students.

Today’s students have sensory overload with the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more! They have trouble focusing and quieting their minds and thus it makes learning very difficult. Their attention span is short and getting shorter every day!  So if you think how and what you taught last year or two years ago or five years ago will work today think again!

mindful-games-book-coverSusan Kaiser Greenland in her book “Mindful Games” shares with her readers an exercise that I think you might like.  It is called “Drop the Monkeys (page80-81).”[1] In Buddhism we talk frequently about the Monkey Mind! Monkeys represent thoughts, sensations, distractions and emotions running around our heads throughout the day.

So what do we do with them? She has her student’s remove their power by adding them to a chain (like a necklace) filled with monkeys.  Once they’ve filled up the chain she has them dropping the chain into a barrel, letting go of them quickly and easily! Whatever you do don’t go back and take them out of that barrel!  Getting rid of the Monkeys will put you on the fast track to creating a powerful MASCC that can change your life forever!

Let me know how it goes!

In gassho,

 

Shokai

[1] Greenland, S.K. (2016) Mindful Games. Shambhala: Boulder

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mindful-teaching-schoeberlein-david

“Mindfulness and education are beautifully interwoven. Mindfulness is about being present with and to your inner experience as well as your outer environment, including other people.  When teachers are fully present, they teach better.  When students are fully present, the quality of their learning is better. It’s a ‘win-win’ equation that can transform teaching, learning, and the educational landscape (page xi).”[1]

Mindfulness is the newest craze in America, although it has been around for many centuries throughout many cultures, religions, and countries it is becoming more available to the secular world every day.

As a Zen Buddhist priest and college professor I have been incorporating mindfulness exercises in my classes and workshops for many years.  Regardless of whether I am teaching a live group in a classroom setting or out doors on an adventure training course or online the principles are applicable.

It really began for me when I was asked to teach developmental English at Broward College.  The first day in the classroom I could see the students were scared to death of me and the course.  Every student in the room had failed the English part of the entrance exam and thus could not take for credit courses unless they passed my class!  Wow.  Scared is probably not even a powerful enough word!

I was mindful as the students entered the room and watched their body language, facial expressions, and heard what they were saying to each other.  I thought about what I could do to help them get calm and ready to learn and I remembered a simple little exercise that I came upon one day in a great little book of Buddhist exercises—How To Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness by Jan Chozen Bays, MD.  “Just Three Breaths” gave very simple directions she wrote:

The Exercise: As many times a day as you are able, give the mind a short rest.  For the duration of three breaths ask the inner voices to be silent. It’s like turning off the inner radio or TV for a few minutes  Then open all your senses and just be aware—of color, sound, touch, and smell (page76).[2]

I revised it just a little for my classes by leaving out the part about thinking!  I never start a class without first taking 3 breaths and I invite my students to participate with me.

Read these steps aloud and do the exercise along with the class. After the exercise is completed get their feedback on how they feel and how it may help them during the class:

  • Shake out your hands to release the tension in them then place them comfortably in your lap or on the desk or table where you are sitting.
  • Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so as it will help keep out the visual distractions. If you are not comfortable with that keeping them open is okay as well. Simply focus your eyes on one small object.
  • Take three slow deep breaths counting one on the in breath and two on the out breath.
  • Be careful not to breathe in so deeply that it makes you cough.
  • Is everyone ready—then let’s begin.

This helps me be a “mindful teacher” throughout the class and helps the students open their minds to learn!  Try it and let me know how it works!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Schoeberlein, D. (2009) Mindful Teaching & Teaching Mindfulness: a guide for anyone who teaches anything. Somerville, MA:Wisdom Publications

[2] Bays, J.C. (2011) How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness. Boston, MA:Shambhala

 

 

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What does it mean to be free?  There will be different connotations if you live in the middle of a war zone in the Middle East, or in a job that you feel chained to that is joyless and boring, or if you are incarcerated in a prison “behind the fence” as we say.  Then there is the prison of our minds and emotions that keep us from being free of our thoughts of lack, limitation, and ill health.

As a college professor I have seen that fear in my students eyes when they enter my developmental English class and know that they will not be free to take the “for credit courses” and earn a degree in their favorite area of study if they don’t pass my class. And yet at some time during that semester I can see the light go on in their minds when they finally “get it.”  They are finally free of their negative thoughts and fears and able to move on with their education.

H. Emily Cady in her book Lessons in Truth wrote:

You may think that something stands between you and your heart’s desire, and so live with that desire unfulfilled, but it is not true.  This “thing” is a bugaboo under the bed that has no reality.  Deny it, deny it, and you will find yourself free, and you will realize that this seeming was all false.  Then you will see the good flowing into you, and you will see clearly that nothing can stand between you and your own [good/freedom].[1]

You will be free!

Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years and yet he was still able to be a powerful symbol of black resistance to apartheid. On February 11, 1990 he was released by President de Klerk and in 1991 he was elected president of the African National Congress. In 1993 Mandela and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling apartheid.

A similar story can be told in our country about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Susan Bright Eyes LaFlesche (Omaha Native American civil rights activist.) and R.C. Gorman painter, sculptor and Native American the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.

R.C. Gorman Native American artist

Freedom: Nothing stood in the way of their “hearts desire.” Do not let anything stand in yours either. Freedom is not a place—it is a consciousness.

Be free to meet your good today!  Let me know how that goes!

In gassho,

Shokai

[1] Cady, H.E. (1903).  Lessons in Truth. Unity Village, MO: Unity House

 

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Yesterday was filled with unforgettable moments from sharing my knowledge on conflict resolution with coaches and kids–to giving a helping hand in setting up the St. Thomas University sports center for a half day of leadership for the youth of Miami Gardens High School. The event was sponsored by my friends at  The Global Team.

In each moment I was given the opportunity to praise and compliment the kids from three years old and up–to find the good in them, to listen to their ideas, dreams, hopes, and fears.  I looked for the best in them, I challenged them to work together in small groups and large with kindness and creativity.

In each one of those moments I was given the opportunity to use my own creativity and passion for teaching and training. As I waited in my classroom for the coaches to appear to share with them information about conflict resolution what I saw was a long line of young men, members of the football team, entering the room.  As Youseline Poteau, the founder and head of The Global Team, appeared she said, “Would you mind if the boys sat in here as the coaches you were to have taught did not show up yet.”

Wow!  That was a twist to my mind set for sure.  There in front of me were 20 young men from 14-18 staring back at me wondering what I would do, who I was, and if I would bore them to death!  So I took a deep breath and told Youseline, of course, I’ll be happy to help you out!  And so the game I had ready for the coaches I played with the boys and they were great!  One of them figured out the mystery of the puzzle and in no time led his team to a victory!

Every moment can give you an opportunity to give to the world in one way or another, in a big way or a small way. Every moment can give you an opportunity to grab onto a challenge and run with it. All the parents, teachers, speakers, and volunteers gave up a Saturday to help the youth develop skills that will last a life time. Who knows which one of those skills will be unearthed in a moment when the person needs it the most?  There will be many moments in his or her life when their ethics will be challenged. When adults give of their time and talents to help the youth in their community no one really knows how that can save a life.

Giving a moment of your life can make the difference in the life of another.   Thanks in advance for caring…thanks for sharing a moment of your life. It just might save a life someday—you never can tell and you may never know.  But that doesn’t matter, do it anyway! Give all you can and when you’ve done that—give some more.

In gassho,

ingassho

Shokai

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Metta
May I be happy.
May I be free from stress and pain.
May I be free from animosity.
May I be free from oppression.
May I be free from trouble.
May I look after myself with ease.

May all living beings be happy.
May all living beings be free from animosity.
May all living beings be free from oppression.
May all living beings be free from trouble.
May all living beings look after themselves with ease.[1]

Kazuaki Tanahashi, in his book, Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary, writes this:

Buddhaghosa does not recommend that the practitioners simply focus on an aspiration that they themselves be happy or attempt absorption. Instead, the meditators are urged to use themselves as an example: “Just as I want to be happy and dread pain, as I want to live and not die, so do other beings, too.” And thus when we pray the Metta we pray and chant for self and others (page 136).[2]

As we watch the news each evening and see the students on campuses around the country protesting for things that I thought would not still exist in 2015: hiring discrimination, race discrimination, hate speech, unresponsive administrations, sexual assaults, and more. Each of these protesters want for themselves the list of things we recite in the first verse of the Metta and they also want it for everyone else on planet earth. And thus, we chant for them in the second verse.

We can add those in the prison system in America and those in the Middle East who are being killed and bombed in their countries and homes, and in airplanes flying through the air after a family vacation. As a human race we need to work at learning how to live together with our diversity and cultures and religions or we will soon be an extinct species and all that will be left are the birds, the bees, and the trees.

Besides chanting this verse each and every day with love and passion, what can you do each day in your families, homes, workplaces and communities? Think small or think big but please think and then act. You just may save someone’s life. You never know.

May you be happy and find ways to share your happiness with everyone you meet.

In gassho,

ingassho
Shokai

[1] Tanahashi, K. (2015) Zen Chants Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Shambhala: Boston & London

[2] Ibid.

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