For about the past five years, I have been on a mission to promote mindfulness as a tool to address teacher stress. It has been an inconsistent effort, but one to which I am firmly committed.
I am committed to this for many reasons, but what truly drives me is the knowledge that much of the suffering people experience can be prevented. Mindfulness provides a clear, scientifically-validated way to alleviate suffering.
For many teachers and students, this suffering is a by-product of the increased demands and pressures they face. Teaching and learning are exciting processes, but testing, discipline, mandates, paperwork, and lack of support weigh heavy on educators and their students. As a result, great people leave the profession and many wonderful potential educators choose a different career path. Those that do stay can lose their enthusiasm. To steal from Thoreau, there are many, many educators leading lives of quiet desperation.
I believe in advocacy. I believe teachers should take an active role in shaping their profession and do everything possible to improve their working conditions. The problem is that when we only look for solutions externally we miss out on a huge opportunity to transform our inner lives. When we view the problems we face to be exclusively external, the inner work we need to do often goes ignored.
I am sure that my promotion of mindfulness comes across as a form of zealous proselytizing. I also know that I am not the best person to be encouraging others to be mindful. I have an ongoing addiction to my phone. My personal practice is inconsistent. I worry and overanalyze way too much. I can be incredibly self-absorbed. This whole paragraph is proof of that, but I keep going because I know that the implementation of mindfulness in public schools will help teachers and their students uproot many of the causes of their own suffering while simultaneously developing greater compassion. I can think of no greater cause in education to promote.
Sometimes I just want to retreat from the work until I've worked on my own $#!+ long enough to not feel like a hypocritical fraud, but then I visit a school. I share information with teachers and students, and I see many of them recognize what I did several years ago, that practicing mindfulness offers hope. It offers all of us a way to transform our inner lives so we can spend more of the precious moments we have on this planet experiencing peace and contentment.
So I press on.
I recently visited the Coastal Evaluation Center (SCDJJ) in Ridgeville, SC. Jelena Popovic and I introduced mindfulness to four classes of students and then led a session with staff.
The first thing I want to share is that the staff at this school is incredible. These folks are heroes. These people enter a stressful and difficult environment every day to try and make a positive impact on students who are going through a very difficult period of their lives. I sincerely admire them and hope I made that clear to them.
I had never been to this facility, or anything like it, before today. For me, I felt an extreme heaviness, emotional and psychological heaviness. The pain and suffering these young people are experiencing is palpable. Several times during the day I had to push back a growing sadness to stay focused on what I was doing. Seeing so many young people behind barbed wires in prison uniforms, you begin to wonder what led them here, where our society/culture failed them, and what role I played in the creation of that society/culture.
That sadness then leads to anger. And yes...I'm going to get political here for a bit, so feel free to skip....Knowing that we live in a country where the 400 wealthiest Americans control more wealth than the bottom 50% combined is maddening. We have 16,000,000 children living in poverty in a country that can find a way to pay trillions for wars that do not need to be fought. When the water crisis in Flint came to light, we saw how the failure of government to fulfill its responsibilities led to the poisoning of children in that community. Similarly, our failure to address economic inequality, provide equitable funding for ALL schools, and ensure that all children have access to affordable health care, including mental health services, leads to a different type of poisoning, an insidious destruction of human lives. Instead of addressing the root causes, we blame the victims. We get outraged over a second string QB kneeling for an anthem, but ignore true injustice and display apathy towards systemic racism. I'm not against young people being held accountable for their actions, but who is being held accountable for failing these young people? How did they fall through so many cracks to wind up here? OK...rant done.
While my visit aroused sadness and anger (I know...not very mindful), it also inspired me and gave me hope. Many of the students were receptive to our message. Most were willing to engage in practice. We could see lights turning on. I'm not naive enough to think that we transformed anyone's life in one day, but perhaps we started the process for some. They now have a tool to search within, to manage stress, and begin to see how their thoughts, in large part, create their reality. They now have a set of instructions to begin being more compassionate with themselves. But the best thing they have is a staff open-minded enough to learn more about mindfulness and apply that learning with their students.
So today was a beginning. It was an incredible experience that inspires me to work harder because my lack of action makes me as accountable as anyone for the suffering of these young people. When you come face to face with that suffering, you can no longer escape that sense of accountability. All of us have a sacred duty to make the world a better place for the next generation, not just our progeny.
As we prepared to leave, Jelena and I were each given a painting created by students. That painting will go up in my home. It will serve as a reminder of everything I learned today, and I learned much more than I taught. It will serve as my daily inspiration to work harder to create a world where Departments of Juvenile Justice are no longer needed.
One of my favorite films is Gandhi. I remember seeing this film as a child and becoming fascinated with the man. I was inspired by his bravery and his ability to maintain love for those with whom he found himself in conflict. As he fought against injustice, he did so non-violently and was able to see that the ignorance and fear that caused others to be hateful and intolerant was the same ignorance and fear stirring inside himself.
There is a small scene that replays itself in my mind a lot. In the scene, Gandhi is teaching two lessons at once. One lesson is being taught verbally. The other through his actions. The verbal lesson is making the case that the non-violent resistance he is promoting is NOT passive. He is explaining that it is possible to fight against oppression without dehumanizing the oppressor.
Gandhi's non-verbal actions are teaching a more subtle message. He is showing his colleagues that if they are to fight against oppression, they must be humble enough to root out the same tendencies within themselves. As he says, "I wish to embarrass all those who treat us as slaves," he takes the tray from the servant and becomes the servant himself. This act of humility is his attempt to hold up a mirror to them without attacking them personally.
He then presents his most powerful message. "I want to change their minds, not kill them for weaknesses we all possess." This is a powerful lesson, one that I too often forget.
When I get wrapped up in confilct, large or small, I often fail to look at my own weaknesses. My emotions, my ego, my ignorance, my fear, and my desire to be right often prevent me from taking a more objective look at the conflict. The flip side of this is that I can also be too passive. In an attempt to prevent conflict or ease tension, I capitulate, apologize and scramble to make peace, or I just remain silent.
Neither approach is optimal.
In the first case, my words and actions lead to pain and an escalation of the conflict. I am becoming an aggressor, taking an eye for an eye approach that Gandhi says would leave us both blind.
In the second approach, I become so passive that I tacitly comply with something I view as wrong. Martin Luther King, who was strongly influenced by Gandhi, said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." By enabling others to be unjust, we become a part of the injustice. Our silence and our passivity become detrimental not only to ourselves, but to those who need to be challenged.
So the ghost of Gandhi asks us to take a stand, but in doing so recognize that we must simultaneously acknowledge that the fear and ignorance that is at the root of OTHERS' unjust actions, is the same fear and ignorance within ourselves. If we fail to make this recognition, we risk becoming disconnected from our greatest asset when dealing with conflict...love.
When we become disconnected from love, we can justify many wrong actions. Christ taught us to love our enemies. Gandhi teaches us to not see others as enemies in the first place. This is a challenge, but it becomes easier as we practice meditation and unravel the illusion of separateness we have constructed by the various identities we have constructed. These identities such as nationality, religion, gender, etc. are all essentially artificial, but we operate as though they are very substantial. Meditation reveals their lack of substance and allows us to see the deep connection we have to everyone and everything. The clearer that connection becomes, the easier it is to maintain love while standing up to injustice non-violently.
Perhaps the most powerful scene in the film is when Gandhi is in the middle of a hunger strike and a Hindu man comes to Gandhi to confess the murder of a Muslim child. The man is convinced he is going to hell. Gandhi tells the man he knows a way out of hell. He asks the man to adopt a Muslim orphan and raise him as a Muslim.
This powerful scene demonstrates the only way to overcome our conflicts....LOVE. We must take the time each day to journey within ourselves to stay connected to the source of love. If we do so, we have a chance to live as Gandhi did, challenging the fear and ignorance in others and ourselves while maintaining a heart of love.
Hello again. I want to apologize for not doing much writing or updating this website over the past several months. There have been some major changes in my life that have drawn my attention elsewhere. Prior to those changes, I was able to conduct a few interviews with a few leaders in the area of mindfulness and education.
One of those interviews was conducted with Dr. Amy Saltzman. Dr. Saltzman is a physician, mindfulness coach and author of
I hope you enjoy listening to this interview and would love to hear your feedback, so post a comment below.
Phil Jackson is a winner. As a player, he won two NBA championships. As a coach he won eleven. He has coached Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal. He is now the General Manager of the New York Knicks.
Jackson has been nicknamed "The Zen Master" for infusing Eastern philosophy into his coaching. The Zen Master has been busy implementing this philosophy with an organization that has struggled to achieve consistency or a culture of success.
ESPN recently reported that the Knicks have hired a mindfulness instructor to provide training to the team. In the ESPN article, Jackson stated, "We're about action; we're about this intense activity that we've got to get after. And this mindfulness is about sitting still and being quiet and controlling your breath and allowing you to be in the moment and yet it's so vital for a team to have this skill or players to have this skill. To be able to divorce themselves from what just happened that's inherent to them -- a referee's bad call, or an issue that goes on individually or against your opponent. You've got to be able to come back to your center and center yourself again."
A little over a year ago I wrote about a similar story with an NFL team. That team, the Seattle Seahawks, went on to win their first Superbowl. We will soon see if the Knicks can improve upon a 37-45 record from a year ago.
As I read the quote from Jackson, it occurred to me that his remarks could just as easily apply to teachers. Teaching is about action. It is intense activity, and we must develop the ability to come back to our centers when the stresses of our profession begin weighing us down.
The data is overwhelming. Mindfulness is effective. It works in sports. It works in the military. It works in medicine. It works in business. It works in schools. Want to build a winning culture in your school? Let's steal a page from Phil Jackson. Start by introducing this tool to your administration and teachers. Then we can bring it to our students and watch our "teams" develop the skills needed to win.
Last week I was fortunate to be in attendance at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Banquet. Simply being around passionate educators is incredibly inspiring. Over the past few years, I have become acquainted with many of our State and District Teachers of the Year. It has been my honor to work closely with these leaders as they pour their lives into improving education in South Carolina.
In my discussions with these outstanding teachers, one thing has become abundantly clear. Evaluating the quality of a teacher based upon the results of a standardized test is damaging the teaching profession and, ultimately, the students of our state.
When schools and teachers are judged, in large part, by standardized tests the system becomes geared toward maximizing results on these tests. While tests can provide some useful data in assessing student growth and developing plans to improve achievement, they are narrow, objective, and VERY LIMITED in what they can measure. Thus, the education of our children becomes narrow, objective and limited. In this test-crazy environment, many teachers lose their passion. What should be an art is reduced to a technical process that sucks the soul out of many teachers. They are forced to paint by numbers rather than create masterpieces. Sadly, the passion for learning, so natural to all children, is also crushed in this environment because preparing for bubble-in tests is antithetical to igniting students’ passion for learning.
We have become so caught up in improving test scores that we have forgotten to consider whether the "test and punish" culture we have built is really the ideal approach to educating our youth. This culture has had devastating impacts on our teachers. Forty-six percent of our teachers leave the profession within the first five years. We should also consider the great number of young people who refuse to even enter the field because they cannot envision themselves spending their lives in a profession stripped of its autonomy and degraded by a growing lack of respect and dignity, evidenced by the common practice of excluding teachers from providing input on the very policies that impact them and their students most. The quality teachers who remain are forced to follow these policies, and they often conflict with a their own consciences.
Well-intentioned people outside of education commonly think they have the answer. Whether it is to integrate a business or military style approach, those who have NOT spent time leading a classroom simply cannot be trusted to create policy without SIGNIFICANT input from veteran teacher leaders.
Having never spent a day in the military, I would NEVER consider authoring or even supporting legislation impacting our soldiers without a high level of consultation with soldiers who have been in combat and military leaders who could provide informed input on the merits of the legislation.
As our teacher leaders are constantly bypassed in the creation of educational policy, we are sending them the message that their thoughts and ideas simply do not matter. We are telling them that their education, experience, and wisdom are trumped by the ignorance, inexperience, and folly of ideologues who arrogantly think they know better.
America’s teachers deserve better. They are heroes who should be treated with deep respect. Reducing them to test-preparers is misguided and immoral. Judging them by the results of a test would be like judging your doctor based upon the results of your cholesterol test. If your doctor prescribes the right medicine, treatment, diet, and lifestyle changes, what more can your doctor do? She can’t swallow the statins for you!
Besides, there’s much more to good health than your cholesterol levels. Likewise, there is so much more to an education than what can be measured on these tests. Creativity, compassion, mental health, honesty, integrity, happiness, and physical health are all essential to a quality life. As a father of three children, I would rather my kids have high levels of these qualities than those measured on a test.
I am calling upon educators everywhere to insist upon building a NEW culture, one that emphasizes student growth while investing in and cherishing their humanity, one that generates a universal respect and admiration for our teachers, one that eschews “test and punish” in favor “love and develop.”
We know what must be done. We just have to be willing to dream big enough to make it happen.
I just finished a great documentary on PBS called Mr. Rogers and Me. I highly recommend it to everyone, particularly fans of Mr. Rogers.
I grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and fondly remember his fish tank, trolley, puppets, and field trips to so many interesting places. I have worn cardigans and sneakers for years as a token of my respect to the man. I always knew how kind and gentle he was, but the depth of his life was lost on me until recently.
This documentary confirmed that my evolving perception of the man as not just a kind, old tv personality, but also a wise and profound sage, was correct.
Mr. Rogers once said, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.” This quote has been on my mind since hearing it. I have been considering the depth of my relationships and the complexity of my day to day life. These reflections have brought back memories of the time I spent in Floyd, VA about a year ago.
During the few days I spent in Floyd, I became enchanted with this small, magical town with one stoplight in the Virginia hills. I became fascinated and inspired by the teachers and students of Blue Mountain School. When I have spoken to people about Floyd, I have detailed a number of interesting and inspirational experiences (WARNING: If you ask me, I will go on for about an hour), but it has been difficult articulating those experiences succinctly. I think, however, Mr. Rogers has helped me find the right words, "DEEP and SIMPLE."
My life, and the lives of most people I know are shallow and complex. We never seem to have enough time. Goal-oriented, focused on the future, driven by data and always in a rush, we rarely have the time for a deep conversation. We rarely feel what our humanity yearns for....freedom to explore, time to wonder, and the space to find inner peace and dream. Alarm clocks, drives, traffic, e-mails, texts, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, appointments, agendas, chores, meetings, practices, tv, web surfing, and disconnection have us spread so thin that depth is rarely possible and complexity is the norm.
I am sure the people I met in Floyd have their share of complexity, but my experiences there led me to believe that they value depth and simplicity and are willing to act upon those values. Whether it is the way they have designed Blue Mountain School or the palpable sense of community, it is clear that depth and simplicity are more than mere notions of dreamers. They are integrated into the day to day lifestyle.
I think most of us crave this. We want REAL relationships. We want TIME to develop these relationships and explore our outer and inner worlds to find meaning and fulfillment. We also want TIME to fiddle with a guitar or a paintbrush. We want to feel that we are a part of a caring community. We want to decelerate, turn off the television, and sit around a fire telling stories and jokes with the people of our community. Someone brings a guitar, and we all sing together as we gaze up at the stars in sheer awe of how small we are compared to the universe. A hike through the forest, a day at the farmer's market, a quick snack at a locally owned coffee shop while three musicians play improvisational jazz music....not for money, but for the love of music.... we throw money in their cases because we appreciate their genuine expression....a festival....a park at the end of a trail worn by the feet of children who have the time to play something other than video games...an unplanned visit by a neighbor who just wanted stop by and see how we were doing....a child urging us to pay attention so she can show us how great her cartwheel is....reading an inspirational book on our porch while the last few rays of sun set in a prismatic sky....and the time to simply breathe and notice the changing seasons outside and within us. As we pass through this life, through the peaks and valleys, we never feel alone. We have found a way out of the chronic stress that our complex lives have placed upon us. This is what I dream about. This is the vision I have for my children and their children. This is, I believe, the neighborhood Mr. Rogers wanted us to have.
Instead of realizing this dream, we count down the days to our next vacation when we can get a glimpse of this kind of life, but we know it is temporary. Then we pass along this "life"style to our children, and they don't even know to question it. We move through our lives cashing in hours, days, weeks, months and years as if they were inexhaustible. Whether through resignation or denial, we rarely take the steps necessary to rid ourselves of the complexity to make time for the deep living Mr. Rogers claimed was "essential."
Our schools, filled with wonderful adults and children, appear to be entangled in this complexity. Pressured by accountability and our achievement culture, afraid to be left behind in the race to the top, human beings in boxes all over our country are scrambling to keep up. Stressed out, anxious, and sometimes depressed, these people feel powerless to change that culture. In a race to deliver standards and prepare students for tests, we have decided to sacrifice the depth and simplicity Mr. Rogers so wisely counseled us to seek. We have been left with a culture where many of us feel isolated, with plenty of PHYSICAL neighbors, but very few REAL neighbors.
Is this the kind of culture we want to sustain and build upon? Is this what will truly bring us happiness and fulfillment?
I'm calling upon everyone to reimagine our lives, to reconsider the words of a deep and simple man. Mr. Rogers had more to teach us than most of us have given him credit for.
“Experts worry that bad habits for dealing with stress learned early will carry over into adulthood.”
This is the first sentence of an article that recently appeared in USA Today. One-thousand teens were recently surveyed by the American Psychological Association, and the study reveals a clear epidemic of stress for our young people. Twenty-seven percent of the teens surveyed experienced “extreme” stress during the past school year. Another 55% experienced “moderate” stress during the past school year. So 82 percent of our teens have experienced moderate or extreme stress during the past school year.
These statistics are alarming, and ought to be of great concern to teachers working with teens.
The problem is that teachers are experiencing similar levels of stress. The 2012 MetLife Study showed that 27 percent of teachers experience “great” stress almost every day. Another 24 percent experience great stress several days each week, and 30 percent experience great stress at least once or twice per week. So a combined 81 percent of teachers experience great stress AT LEAST once or twice per week. Administrators report similar levels of stress.
So it appears as though we have schools FILLED with stressed out people, and those people are given no tools to reduce the pressure they feel. There also seems to be very few policymakers who are willing or able to address this growing problem.
Why? Why are we not making it a priority to address this issue? Are we too focused on improving test scores? I would argue that test scores would likely improve if we had fewer students and teachers dealing with high levels of stress.
Even if addressing stress did NOTHING to improve scores, wouldn’t it still be the right thing to do? Is it ethical to chase after higher test scores if that requires sacrificing the mental health of our students and teachers? As we add metal detectors, security cameras, and resource officers, should we not also consider adding mental health services and stress reduction programs?
What good is academic progress if we are building a generation of stressed out, unhappy human beings? While academic progress, at times, requires some frustration and challenges, educating our youth does not have to be a miserable process.
So many great teachers are doing their absolute best in this toxic environment. Many are able to maintain a positive attitude and build a positive classroom environment, but there are also teachers crumbling under the pressure and distressed by the inner conflict they feel when forced to follow policies that they know are not in the best interest of their students. The teachers who are crumbling are not weak or whiny. They have simply reached a limit, and many wind up leaving the profession or finding other environments that don’t force them to live in conflict with their conscience. Those who remain, continuing to lead compassionate classrooms, may soon be unable to hang on. It hurts me to consider those teachers who are able to maintain a positive face during the day, but go home feeling broken, depressed and unhappy.
We are crushing teachers’ spirits in this poisonous environment and students are clearly absorbing the toxins as well.
We have to end this cycle of stress, and I believe mindfulness can be a part of that objective. Allowing students and teachers to practice mindfulness daily would, without question, reduce the high levels of stress they are experiencing. Then we can insist that our policymakers practice mindfulness so that they could, perhaps, see the folly in placing data above our humanity.
Preface: This has been the most challenging blog post I have written in a while. I am sharing some things about my past that I have not shared with many people. I am not sharing these things as catharsis. It is more out of a hope that anyone who can relate to my experiences will be helped by my story.
I remember, as a child, hearing about meditation and being very curious about altering my state of consciousness. I sat alone in my room staring at a wall for a few minutes hoping something mystical would happen. I soon got bored and went back to playing Atari....probably Pitfall or Adventure.
I quickly dismissed meditation as something along the lines of magic crystals or tarot cards. It didn't seem worth the time. That view persisted for many, many years. Meditation simply had no appeal for me. Why would I want to sit and do nothing when there was so much to do?
The birth of my first child generated a love beyond my ability to comprehend. That profound experience opened my mind back up to many possibilities. It also, paradoxically, created a great amount of stress because I began taking a deep look within myself trying to figure out who I was and what I believed in. I felt like I needed to know these things if I was going to be worthy of the role of father. My life was no longer my own. I had to ensure that I was going to be the kind of father this wonderful being deserved.
Along with the stress of being a teacher and a new father, I was going through this existential crisis. What did I believe in? What was my purpose? What values was I going to pass along to my child? I could no longer turn away from these questions to play video games. They had to be explored because the answers were going to impact the being I loved most in this world.
I won't go into my personal spiritual journey, but I admit that it is hard to separate my spiritual journey from the psychological journey I began at that time. That psychological journey was incredibly difficult. I experienced periods of great anxiety that led to periods of depression. I experienced valleys of overwhelming fear and uncertainty as I tried to find a footing or place to anchor myself. That journey included a lot of reading and listening. I devoured books and podcasts on philosophy, religion, self-improvement, etc. I was searching for solutions....solutions that would satisfy my sense of reason while also providing me comfort from my fears....fear of death, fear of not knowing, etc. Many times the solutions that made me feel at ease conflicted with my sense of reason. Likewise, the concepts that seemed most reasonable often made me more anxious.
This exploration led me to meditation time and time again, and as the scientific community began affirming the MANY benefits of the practice, I began dabbling.
I recall one of my first attempts to meditate. It was during a time of great stress. I found that being alone with my stressful thoughts, with nothing to distract me, would magnify these thoughts and generate negative emotions. Despite that, I decided to press on. I thought about the times when I would restart a workout routine and how PAINFUL the first few weeks were as my muscles, heart and lungs became reacquainted with regular exercise. I didn't feel like it would be fair to evaluate meditation as a tool to manage stress unless I committed to practicing consistently over a long period of time.
As I practiced, I slowly began to understand how my mind worked. My mind would generate negative thoughts. I would typically critique myself about something that happened in the past or worry about something happening in the future. I would follow this thought, ruminate, and create my own stress. This would set off physiological responses that would leave me frazzled and wiped out. For the first time, I could see the stress-generating system from beginning to end. With this new vision, I learned strategies to short-circuit the system. The first of these strategies was to stop trying to suppress thought. This was counter-intuitive because I thought if I could just stop the thought, I could stop the stress, but I realized that the mind is AWESOME....I MEAN REALLY GOOD at GENERATING THOUGHTS, and the more creative one is the more terrifying these thoughts can be. Somehow, when I tried to suppress thoughts, my mind became even better at generating thoughts. So that was the first step. I had to stop trying to suppress thought. The next step was just as important as the first. I had to recognize thoughts as a thoughts and separate them from reality. I came to understand that while I could not suppress my thoughts, I could control my response to thoughts. I did not have to believe them. I had developed a habit of lending too much credibility to all of my thoughts and then following the thought down a rabbit hole into cyclical negativity, worry, and fear. I not only followed the thought, but I built upon it. I constructed scary, painful realities out of these thoughts until my mind accepted them as reality. My mind would then set off the alarm system and over time, multiple alarms left me exhausted, sad, and focused on the negative.
Try to remember a time when you were a child and you convinced yourself that there was a monster under your bed or a boogeyman in your closet. Your mind generated this fantasy, and if you believed in it enough, you could scare the crap out of yourself. Then you would cry for your mom. The problem is that the lies we tell ourselves now are not so obviously fiction and screaming "MOM!" is less effective than it was when I was six. The lies we tell ourselves seem plausible. "I am not a good person." "I am going to mess this up." "People think I'm incompetent." "I will never achieve my goals." The mind generates the thought. You buy it. You perseverate on the thought, and it branches off into other recurrent negative themes or stories that you have been constructing about the subject. Sometimes these are stories you have told yourself since childhood.. The thought gains momentum and solidity like a snowball rolling down a hill. You react to it as though it is real and you find yourself anxious or depressed.
Meditation has helped me deconstruct this process, and that has helped me deconstruct my stress. I am not pretending to be a zen master. I am still learning a lot about my mind, and there are times when my new tools fail me, but at least I have some effective tools to use. Sometimes I don't recognize this system at work until it has reached the massive snowball stage, but MANY, MANY times I have been able to cut the process off at its beginning stages. As a result, many thoughts that would have previously entangled me in a web of negativity have been gently swept away, allowing me to maintain a sense of peace and joy.
I am very passionate about sharing meditation because I see so much stress in the world. I see teachers, students, administrators, parents and many others who are being crushed under the weight of their stress. I see shootings that seem to be occurring almost daily in schools, malls and theaters. I see a broken government filled with politicians unable to see past their party or ideological identities to move our country forward. I see religious, racial, and cultural intolerance. I see violence and hatred based upon fear and ignorance.
This is not a world worthy of my children or yours. They deserve better. They deserve a world that is consumed with compassion more than competition. They deserve schools that value their hearts over their data. They deserve adults who value peace and equanimity over money and power.
I know that meditation could help in all of these areas, and it could be implemented NOW because it is free and requires no talents or prerequisites. Its benefits are universal and neither require or restrict any set of religious beliefs. Exercise and proper nutrition are proven to make our bodies healthier. Meditation is proven to provide us with greater mental health. Why wouldn't we use it?
My three children provide constant motivation for this work, work that I recognize must start with myself. For me, meditation has gone beyond a simple tool to relieve stress. It is helping me develop compassion, peace and a deep sense of connection to others. For me, the dive inside myself has been the most important journey I've ever taken. This website, my presentations, and my efforts in this area are all designed to facilitate that journey for others. If we can all summon the courage, we will find that the treasures we have been seeking externally can all be found within us.
NOTE: It would mean a lot to me to hear your reactions to this piece. Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at email@example.com.
This is a going to be a short piece. I wanted to take the time to recommend a very helpful new app called "Stop, Breathe & Think." The app, created by Tools for Peace, is user-friendly and is perfect for anyone interested in starting a meditation practice. You can learn more about it at http://stopbreathethink.org/ or directly download for your iPhone here and your iPad here.