Class Relax

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Reminders why I Teach Mindfulness

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It was the last week of school before a break of a few weeks. I knew that a few of my pupils would be missing from the group because of an early sense of freedom from school.

It was a beautiful day. I planned to take us out into nature to create a unique mandala. I planned a chai session beforehand. And I planned to be calm.

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I set up the room, boiled the water and discovered that my supply of cups had been depleted by unknown sources. No chai.

The lesson bell rang. The girls entered and ran into the room to compete for the cushion of their choice. I stopped them and sent them back out.

I reminded them that this was a lesson, a different atmosphere than recess. They re-entered, took off their shoes, except for a select few, and sat down quietly.

I joined them in the circle, sensing the dissonance between my idyllic vision and reality.

sitting circle (mindful kids)

                          sitting circle 

I did a homework check: Had they tried to listen with an open heart to someone else when they spoke? A few raised their hands. That was good! As I began to introduce the idea that again today, we would work on listening to others, R interrupted me. I asked her to hold her question for a second and to listen to what I said. After my intro I invited  questions. R was concerned about the mark she’d been given in her mid-term report card. Why had she received 90-something when others received 100. I explained that I graded them on 3 components: Participation, Seriousness and Listening to Instructions.

She was clearly upset. I had criticized her when I’d said we weren’t supposed to criticize. (I’d spoken of noticing without judging). She then decided to berate another student’s seriousness, someone who’d received 100.

I told them all that I wasn’t judging their consciousness but only how I saw them in lessons.

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Two girls changed their body language. They were not pleased.

I explained that this lesson was a laboratory for studying what went on inside our minds during such situations. How does it feel? What’s going on in our bodies when we feel angry.

Comment: During real-time discussions, when someone like R misinterprets what I’m saying, deciding that I’m criticizing when I’m merely reflecting, it would be ideal to take her aside and give her a chance to say what she’s thinking and hopefully help her listen to something new.

In a group situation, when she accuses me (or anyone) of thinking a certain thing or intending another thing, there are members of the group who respond.  Some defend her and change what she’s saying. Others attempt to explain to her what I said.

In short, the clarity of simply noticing becomes all entangled with discolorations, illusions and emotional thorns.

For this teacher, I can’t but help thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh’s smile and grace, or H.H. the Dalai Lama’s joyful presence and sense of interest.

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     Thich Nhat Hanh

I feel dismayed that the misunderstanding may detour the pupils’ thinking.

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To clear the air, we do a listening meditation. I remind them that for two minutes we will notice our breaths. If someone finds it impossible to stay quiet, they may write down their comment, but to remember to respect those who wish to concentrate.

During our two minutes, R wrote down something and felt the need to pass me the note. Someone whispered to her to keep it.

Comment: The idea of written communication is good. But time and place are also important. Can R have patience to hand it to me after the meditation? When to deal with these important elements, without the noise of the additional voices? Or is there a way to have the others help her understand

Back to the lesson

I bring to the discussion the reminder that the study of mindfulness is a journey we are taking together. I am no expert and can only guide them to notice what’s happening inside.

A jumped in:  ‘I never said you know everything!’

Again the distance between us increases. I know that I’m being watched carefully for facial hints or vocal changes and my reaction is what will do the talking.  Patience or lack of it, sincerely wanting the best for each of them: this is what is being taught.  This is the study of mindfulness, dealing with what is, not what I imagine.

In such talks, kindness needs to be paramount. Less ego on my part in order to cope with their desperate attempt to save face or to promote their own interpretations.

What would the Dalai Lama do?

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H.H. the Dalai Lama

The lesson continues:

Deep Body Scan

(minus 3 girls who skipped the session)

The Creation of a unique Mandala

(3 girls worked together)

and then Back to the circle.

We sum up. Each takes a turn to throw a comment into the circle: something they’ve learned, perhaps a wish for the holiday, a word or a phrase.

And the pupils were generous in their words and in their attention to themselves and one another.

Hopefully, during the vacation, there will be a chance to use mindfulness, to perhaps notice something about how their mind works, or even remember to notice breathing from time to time.

Reminder why I teach mindfulness

It’s a privilege to meet with these girls. Am I up to the challenge to help them appreciate mindfulness as a lifelong tool?

Meanwhile, I meditate and study how my own biases work, how my ego steps in, how I can allow my sense of humour to step in to alleviate deadlocks.

Good spring break. Happy Passover from the Western Negev

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Happy Creative Passover Break to all

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