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It is important to know the connection that exists between our minds and our bodies.  In America we have a tendency to separate these two things as if they were total strangers.  In reality they are all one.  There is no separation between them.  When we are happy and laughing and enjoying life we rarely have physical pain.  Unless, of course, if we are laughing so hard that the muscles in our stomach area start to hurt!  When this happens you can see the children grab onto to their stomach and yet they continue to laugh. When was the last time this happened to you!

So let’s take the time to add some fun exercises into our classes that help the children in several ways. Susan Kaiser Greenland in her wonderful book, Mindful Games Sharing Mindfulness and Meditation with Children, Teens, and Families, invites us to have the children “send their bodies friendly wishes by silently saying phrases like “May my foot be warm and cozy in this slipper, may my legs be strong when I ride my bike, and may my tummy be full (page 107).[1] This helps the children see how what they think affects how they feel and how connected the mind and body really are.

She goes on to share another wonderful game that children can play to help them see the connections between the mind and the body.  She calls it Mind, Body, Go! mindful-games-book-cover

Children roll a ball back and forth as they quickly name a sensation and an emotion that they’re feeling right now.  It can be played with or without a ball in partners sitting across from one another, or with a group sitting in a circle (page 107).

The teacher might say something like, “My body feels stiff, and my mind feels a little nervous.”  Now you name something and roll the ball back. (For example, “My foot itches, and I feel silly”) (page 108).

As you can see this can be done with any age kids or adults.  You can think of many different and positive ways to play this game and how it can help the participants make that mind body connection.  Once we get more in tune with our bodies we will have less stress in our lives, less fears, anxieties, and shorter bouts of headaches, stomach aches, and the like. Once we learn how to talk to our bodies with positivity, acceptance, and love we will have an elixir that will help improve our health in mind, body, and spirit. And this elixir is free for the taking, you don’t have to drive down the street to get it or across town.  It is right where you are 24 hours a day 7 days a week!

So try it I think you’ll like it! I know your mind and body will that’s for sure! Let me know how it goes!

In gassho

Shokai

 

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

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All great teachers have the ability to make learning fun.  It not only helps the student learn more easily and retain the information better but it makes our jobs more exciting and fun!  Who wants to be bored at work, who wants work to be drudgery?  No one I know.  I want to be excited every morning as I wake up thinking about the great things I can do at work.  To hear the students laugh, see them smile, and to see them waiting with bated breath at what I’ll do next!

Even in my adult corporate training classes I play games, I surprise them with treats, compliments, and more.  They soon begin to expect the unexpected when they are in a class with me.  This encourages them to want to come to training, to realize that making life at work less tedious for themselves and their team will help them live longer and increase the team’s productivity and decrease its sick days!  Yes, live longer and healthier!

I don’t believe the adage that “The good die young and the obnoxious live forever.”  I believe that laughter is the best medicine and it opens my mind to creativity!

In my developmental English classes I have them write a “chain story” and in one class the last student actually killed the teacher off at the end.  Yes, the class killed me off!  I just loved the story it was such fun and they all expressed themselves so well.  They were able to see how creative they could be in just a sentence or two and how teams can work together easily and without their egos or fears taking over. Even the shy and quiet ones got to participate fully.

mindfulness-on-the-go-book-coverIn Jan Chozen Bay’s book Mindfulness on the Go, she has a great little exercise you can use with your classes she calls it “Say Yes.”  Find every opportunity to say “yes” to people. She invites us to put stickers up with the word “YES” in spots where you’ll notice them in your home and workplace.  She even encourages us to write “YES” on the back of our hand so we can see it frequently.  She writes, “This task helps us see how often we take a stance that is negative or oppositional.  If we are able to watch our mind when someone is talking to us, particularly if they are asking us to do something, we can see our thoughts forming defenses and counterarguments (page 127).”

She shares some examples of how people have used her technique.  “One person noted that an external ‘yes’ might not match the real attitude of ‘no’ inside, and that the task helped him detect a hidden constricted state of mind (page 128-29).”

So say YES to life, say YES to FUN and begin to bring it into your classrooms, work rooms, and living rooms and watch what happens.  Try it I think you’ll like having FUN for a change!

Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

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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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In the book The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal the authors write about this idea of connectedness or lack thereof in our lives, schools, and communities.

the-heart-of-higher-edMany of us bear the wound of invisibility, believing, not without reason, that no matter how hard or how well we work, no one really sees us. When we invite each other to tell our stories, we have a chance to create community in the simple act of saying “I see you.”

Storytelling can create community at an even deeper level: the more one knows about another person’s story, the less one is able to dislike or distrust, let alone despise, that person. This is a good thing in and of itself, but it serves a larger purpose as well by helping us weave a more resourceful and resilient collegiality. At some point down the road, when we need to solve a problem or deal with a difficult conflict, we are more likely to have woven the fabric of relationships required to do it well (page 139).[1]

As teachers we can offer this opportunity to our students to come out from the shadows, to be really seen and heard with some simple exercises in our classes.  By dividing your class in to groups you can help them get to know each other better and become more familiar with the way they may live, their hobbies, their family vacations, favorite books, sports, or movies.  They might share stories about their religious and spiritual beliefs.  Depending on the age of the groups the topics should be appropriate for them.

After they have shared in the small groups you can invite them to share with the entire class by sharing some of the topics that came up.  They might even want to have a member share their story with the entire class. This exercise helps the participants learn to be connected with each other in a personal and emotional way.  The students become not just someone they see in class but a real person with feelings and likes and dislikes.

We live a world that is so disconnected any time we are given the opportunity to share in this way as children or adults it opens our hearts and minds to others and we often find that we are more alike than different!  We all have a favorite food and a food we hate! I sometimes start the first day in class by getting everyone to share the food they love to hate the most! Then we can divide the class up for group exercises in okra, broccoli, and cabbage haters.  This gives them just another way to be connected!

Even though as a Buddhist I am not supposed to pick and choose I’m still NOT going to choose okra! I don’t mind being in the okra haters group! You’re welcome to join me! See you there…

In gassho, Shokai

[1] Palmer, Parker J.; Zajonc, Arthur; Scribner, Megan; Mark Nepo (2010-06-17). The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal (Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education) (p. 139). Jossey-Bass. Kindle Edition

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The “C” in the MASCC stands for compassion.  Every student wants a teacher who has compassion for them.  Many of our students live in homes that are filled with lack, limitation, anger, and fear.  So when they step into your classroom they want to feel safe, cared for, loved, listened to, and understood.subtle-sound-book-cover-picture

Maurine Stuart’s description of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara in her book The Subtle Sound (1996) is a great description of every good teacher that I know.

The Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, who appears in the Heart Sutra, is the bodhisattva of compassion and wisdom, and is often depicted as having one thousand hands and one thousand eyes; one thousand eyes to see the thousands of needs, and one thousand hands to help. Some depictions have eleven faces as well, to symbolize seeing in all directions simultaneously (p. 87).[1]

Every once in a while you’ll hear a student say, “Does she have eyes in the back of her head?” As a teacher I know that it is important for the students to think that you have “eyes” in the back of your head.  What the students really want to know is that the teacher has compassion for them and will give them the support, the kind words, the extension on their homework, and more when they need it. They want to know that we care about them and their success not only in the classroom but in life.  We know that the situation in some of their homes makes it difficult to study and learn.

In one of my developmental English classes I discovered that one of my best students was homeless.  How did I discover that?  She was always the first one in class and so one morning I complimented her on it. She shared with me that she had to take an early bus in order to get to class on time because she was coming from the homeless shelter for teens all the way across town.  When I heard that I gave her space to share her story and for the balance of the term I gave her what support I could.

Unless we have compassion for our students many are likely to drop out of high school or college.  Unless we perfect that compassion we may be adding to the pain and suffering that they live with on a daily basis.  And don’t think just because they live in a fancy house in a fancy neighborhood that life is a bowl of cherries!  Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes and incomes.

Be like the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara with your thousand eyes and hands ready to help!

Let me know how it goes!

Shokai

[1] Stuart, M. and Chayat, R.S. (1996). Subtle Sound the Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

 

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Teaching students about simplicity is very difficult in a world where there is no example of it in their lives.  We live in a society that is complex, busy, noisy, and filled with to-do lists and projects and school, studying, and working toward promotions and more.  And this is all happening today!

But to live a life of peace, joy, and contentment we will need to slow down, increase our ability to focus on one thing at a time, and find time to meditate and be mindful about each word, thought, and step we take.  When we accomplish this we will be living in a world that is full and complete and filled with peace, love, and compassion.  Fears and frustrations will diminish and laughter will appear in their place.

dad, grandad, boy playingWhen was the last time you heard yourself or your children or students or co-workers actually laugh with a loud squeal, saw them roll on the floor, and hold their tummy because it hurt so much from laughing?  When was the last time you laughed so hard tears rolled down your face like the picture you see here?

Below is an exercise for you to share with them to help them think about simplicity and how it appears in their lives. You may not be able to use it with very young students so you may have to revise it a little bit to show them how to work on one thing at a time and finish it before they go on to the next thing. You might illustrate that idea with two pictures, one that is a very simple picture of something i.e. a glass of milk, and the other that is a very busy and complex picture such as a table full of dishes and food with a glass of milk among the items on the table.

Script for Exercise:

Pretend that you have a magic wand and that magic wand allows you to recreate your life and yourself– to invent a new you.  I am going to give you a few minutes to meditate on a word and think about what it means to you and how it appears in your life, or doesn’t appear in your life.  The word is simplicity.  (short pause)

When I ring the bell I am going to give you several minutes to create something with the art supplies that you have gathered that will illustrate what you discovered about yourself during the meditation.  Be as creative as possible in expressing what you discovered and even what the new you, both internally and externally, can look like. Feel free to draw, write, color, express yourself in your own unique way.

Keep track of the time. Give the students 3-5 minutes, longer if they have experience meditating, before ringing the bell. After ringing the bell remind them what they are to be doing for the next 10-15 minutes.  Keep track of the time because you will want to save time for debriefing the activity.

You might even try this exercise yourself.  Reflecting on simplicity might lighten up your day and brighten up your life!  Try it I think you’ll like it…

In gassho,

Shokai

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mindful-games-book-cover

“In The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron, one of the foremost American teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, writes…Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already (page 67-8).[1]

When I write about the MASCC in teaching one of the letters stands for mindfulness/meditation.  It is ironic that although we sit frequently in order to be different, to change who we think we are, or to find our “higher” self, or achieve enlightenment it is a false assumption.  We are already each of those things without spending one minute on the “cushion” as they say in Zen Buddhism.

It is about “befriending who you  are, loving ourselves with all the patience we can muster, with all the love we can imagine, and with no criticism.  We sit simply to sit.  We quiet our minds simply to help shut down the chatter of the “monkeys” as we talked about before.  When we do that the rest comes naturally.  The divine being that we are simply shows up.  Our words become kinder and gentler, our compassion grows for all people and things, and we begin to live a life of peace, love, and compassion.

We don’t have to “throw ourselves” away because the parts of us that are hindering us in life will quietly leave and go bother someone else!  We will suddenly be living in a kinder gentler world.

So when you offer your students a few moments in each class to simply do that 60 second 3 Breath Exercise I wrote about before you are helping them discover their true self, to expand their self-esteem, to believe in themselves, and to know that with time, effort, and love, they can succeed at any goal that they genuinely want to attain.

If you are working with children and using the 3 Breath Exercise you might want to take another tip from Susan Greenland from her Mindful Games book.  She gives us two great tips.

  1. Lying down is often children’s favorite meditation posture, but Mindful Breathing can also be practiced sitting or standing.

  2. “If it’s difficult for kids to stay still when they practice Mindful Breathing while sitting or standing, they often find it helpful to sway from side to side slowly and with control (page 70). [2]

You may not be a teacher or a kid but if you too feel sitting practice is difficult try her other two techniques and let me know how it goes!  Wear your MASCC every day and watch what happens!

In gassho,

Shokai

 

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

[2] Ibid.

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