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Posts Tagged ‘Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education’

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“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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Browsing my email this morning I came across a discussion digest from a wonderful organization that I belong to the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE).  It led me to a section on their website “The Tree of Contemplative Practices” which led me back to my talks on ethics and the first of the Eightfold Path, “Know the truth.”

Below is the picture of the tree and the items on the tree reflect some of the contemplative practices “currently in use in secular organizations and academic settings.” These practices help us to “know the truth.”  And when they are integrated into our lives will help us “live the truth.” Many of the practices listed on the tree are linked to areas that are directly related to areas of ethical conduct and practice. Some of them are listed below:

  • Justice issues
  • Volunteering
  • Loving-kindness
  • Deep listening
  • Establishing a sacred/personal space for self and others

ACHME describes the tree thus:

The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts.

The branches represent different groups of practices.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices ACMHE

When used and contemplated they can help us know what is true for us and provide us with simple practices to help us live an ethical life.

My goal this week is to choose one area and focus on it knowing that doing this will help me maintain peace, love, and compassion in my life and hopefully make this a better place in which to live.  When you go to the link you will find a blank tree there that you can copy and print and put your personal contemplative practices on the tree.  This may help you focus on your opportunities to merge your ethical, spiritual, and practical life into one union of knowing the truth and being one with it.

In gassho,

Shokai

ingassho

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