What is Mindfulness?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.
For teachers, mindfulness can be a challenge. We are often caught up in the stresses of the day. We spend lots of time reflecting on events of the past and planning for future events. We are trained to assess, critically analyze, and solve problems. Our lives have become so busy that we have little time to even consider slowing down.
Ironically, the busier you are the more you probably need to establish a mindfulness practice. This practice will help you settle your mind, keep your problems in perspective, and awaken creativity, peace, and optimism within you.
Mindfulness may start as a daily practice for a set amount of time, but you may eventually carry mindfulness over to your "regular" life. Being mindful while eating, driving, talking with others, brushing your teeth, etc. can bring a greater sense of awareness into everything you do.
Helpful Apps to Get Started
10% Happier App
Dan Harris has done a great job developing an app for people who are new to mindfulness practices and may be skeptical about giving it a try. He has compiled some wonderful resources and brought in highly-skilled teachers to deliver a wonderful introduction.
Some of the content is free. There are additional resources for a reasonable subscription fee. Check it out.
Headspace is a delightful app featuring Andy Puddicombe with helpful animations and guided exercises to help introduce you to mindfulness training.
The level 1 Foundations Course is free. So you can test drive the app without committing to a subscription. Additional courses and features require a paid subscription.
Where Do I Begin?
Starting a mindfulness practice is simple. One thing to keep in mind is that mindfulness doesn't have to be confined to a 20-minute session of sitting and focusing on the breath. It can take many forms. You can practice being mindful while walking, doing chores, or even waiting in line at the grocery store. With that said, it is great to devote some time each day to a sitting practice. I usually find it to be incredibly rejuvenating, instilling me with a sense of peace and perspective. So here are some basic steps to get you started.
- Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. If you know you will be interrupted frequently, find another time/place.
- Focus on your breathing. Notice the way it goes into your nose and out of your mouth. Notice the temperature of the air and the way your chest moves. You don't have to force or control your breath. Just notice it.
- As thoughts from earlier or later in the day enter your mind, recognize that a thought has come up and redirect your attention to your breath. This requires practice. I was surprised at how difficult this was for me at first. Stick with it though.
- Just continue this process. You may never really become fully settled, and that is fine. Remember...mindfulness leads to a nonjudgemental awareness of the present moment. If you are chastising yourself for not getting it right, you are preventing yourself from settling down. It's like TRYING to fall asleep. You're only making it harder.
- Continue this for the entire time you have allotted for your practice.
- Understand that you cannot build a bicep by working out once. Building a muscle takes several weeks of consistent resistance training. Likewise, mindfulness practice can take a while to develop into something that yields noticeable results. The key is to stick with it.
- I use music when I practice. Some prefer silence. Find out what works for you.
- If you become drowsy while practicing, try sitting up straighter, practicing at a different time of day, or simply allowing yourself some rest. You can always practice later.