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Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness

An excerpt from Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness by Melanie Greenberg Ph.D

While most people seem to think that mindfulness is a good thing, many people are confused about what exactly mindfulness is. Does it involve emptying the brain of thoughts, inducing relaxation, or going into a trance? Do you have to go live in an ashram and retreat from the material world to practice it effectively?  Is it a kind of religion or cult, and is it potentially dangerous?  In fact, none of the above have been shown to be true. Below is a description of some key concepts that can help illuminate what it means to have a mindful attitude to life.

1.

Focus on the Present Moment—When your thoughts get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, you bring them back to what you are experiencing right now. You try to remain open to how things unfold in the present, rather than having preconceived ideas about how things will or should turn out.

2.

Being Fully PresentYou are spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What do you feel in your body? What are you seeing, hearing, doing - right now?

3.

Openness to Experience—Rather than dreading and shutting out your own feelings and experiences because you think you can't handle them, you welcome with curiosity any thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, knowing they are merely sensations in the moment and the next moment can be different. You create mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings. Become aware of your experience as a flow of sensations, thoughts, and feelings and watch how these change and transform naturally over time.

4.

Non-Judgment—You don't categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or bad, try to change them, or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect you from danger or open you to love. You watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind. You extend this non-judging attitude to other people and things.

5.

Acceptance of Things as They Are—You don't try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what it should be, feel like a victim, or bemoan the unfairness of life. Instead, you try to see reality clearly and let it be as it is, knowing that you can tolerate whatever it is that comes up. You extend this acceptance to others, knowing they are the best judges of what is right for them.

6.

Connection—You feel connected to all living things and nature in being part of a larger whole. You reflect on and feel grateful for the cycle of life and the food, beauty, and protection that nature gives us. You know that all living beings want to feel happy and secure and avoid suffering and you feel connected by similarity of needs and experience.

7.

Non-Attachment—You do not try to hold onto things, people, or experiences, knowing that life is in constant flow. Attachment comes from fear and is the basis of suffering. You learn to surf the wave of life, going with the flow and being confident in your own ability to adapt. When one door closes, another opens.

8.

Peace and Equanimity—You maintain an even-keel, not getting too swept up in life's highs and lows. You know that life is a cycle and you can't see the whole picture at any one moment. When things don't go your way, you stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. You walk with a peaceful heart and adopt a non-harming, non-violent attitude.

9.

Compassion—You deal gently, kindly, and patiently with yourself and others. Rather than judging, or condemning, you open your heart to really listen and try to understand your own and other people's experiences. You allow yourself to feel other people's suffering. You love people not for what they can give you or because you need something from them, but because you connect and empathize with their experiences.

With these concepts in mind, you can begin to introduce mindfulness into your own life, whether it is by deliberately directing attention to your breath and senses at different times during the day, taking a mindful nature walk, or beginning a simple meditation practice. You might want to center your attention on each in- and out-breath, noticing the length, quality, and sensations of the breath moving in and out of your body, without trying to force or change it in any way. You may also begin to become aware of the times in the day that you operate "mindlessly," and on automatic pilot, your head so busy with plans and worries, that you don't even notice what you feel inside or what is around you. 


Developing an observing mind that watches your own daily experience, notices your automatic patterns, and gently redirects attention to the present moment is the beginning of growing a "mindfulness muscle" to help you navigate the winds of change and stresses in your life. " As Eckhart Tolle so eloquently said: "Always say "yes" to the present moment. Surrender to what is. Say "yes" to life—and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you."

Full Article:


Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness


 BY Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.


Greenberg, Melanie. "Nine Essential Qualities of Mindfulness." Psychology Today. 22 Feb. 2012. Sussex Publishers. 27 Aug. 2019 <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201202/nine-essential-qualities-mindfulness>.

Director of Strategic Communications

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[nekiesha]

This article speaks to me because it lays out the practical, daily life benefits of mindfulness, while also dispelling common misconceptions—many of which I had. It drives home the point that mindfulness is not about

tuning out, but tuning in. 

Growing up Stressed or Growing up Mindful?

 | Dr. Christopher Willard | TEDxYouth@GDRHS

"Mindfulness is not about getting rid of stress - it's about optimizing stress"

Dr. Christopher Willard

Dr. Christopher Willard (PsyD) is a psychologist and educational consultant based in Boston specializing in mindfulness.  He has been practicing meditation for 20 years, and has led hundreds of workshops around the world, with invitations to more than two dozen countries. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and is the president of the Mindfulness in Education Network. He has presented at TEDx conferences and his thoughts have appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, mindful.org, and elsewhere. He is the author of Child’s Mind (2010) Growing Up Mindful (2016) Raising Resilience (2017) and eight other books for parents, professionals and children, along with six sets of cards and therapeutic games, available in more than ten languages. He teaches at Harvard Medical School.
Willard, Christopher. "Dr. Christopher Willard." Dr. Christopher Willard. 2019. 16 Aug. 2019 <http://drchristopherwillard.com/>.

Marketing and Design Coordinator

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I chose this video because he not only discusses the stressors facing today's youth, but also what stress is, the science behind how it affects the body, and how we can optimize our stress to work for us, not against us.

Taking the Edge Off with Yoga

An excerpt from Taking the Edge Off with Yoga

They don't always have an outlet to cope with it, but one junior high school in the Reynoldsburg School District, is offering yoga for the first time as an elective class.

  • Much of the anxiety junior high students experience comes from family, academics and the ability to make and keep friends
  • An elective yoga class offered at a junior high school in Columbus is providing a calming support for students
  • Currently, Waggoner Road is the only school in the district offering yoga to junior high students

It aims to help take the edge off and relieve stress for students like 13-year-old Makalya Howard.

Each day she looks forward to coming to her yoga class Waggoner Road Junior High School.

She said she feels like the class has given her a new start.

"I feel like my attitude became more positive since I started yoga," said Howard.

But her mornings didn't always start out this way. In fact, they were tough.

"I would probably have a panic attack in the morning and I would be really bummed out all day and just really upset for reasons I probably didn't know,” said Howard.

“I would probably have a panic attack in the morning and I would be really bummed out all day and just really upset for reasons I probably didn't know.”

- Makalya Howard -

When she'd get home from school, it didn’t get any better."I'd usually just go in my room and just like cry. That's all I used to do," Howard said.

That’s because Makayla suffers from anxiety. 

Social Worker, Amber Knight says, she along with guidance counselors see at least 80 percent of Makayla’s peers struggling with the same thing, in addition to depression and suicidal thoughts.

They add, that much of what students deal with comes from issues with family, school, and the ability to keep or make friends. 

For Makayla, her biggest challenges were with academics and Dyslexia. She says, it was so bad that she was failing a bunch of classes at the beginning of the year.

Makayla is just one of many students with these types of challenges.

But she's not alone.

13-year-old Johnathan Tackett has had his own share of struggles.

He says, he didn't just have moody Mondays, but moody weeks. That’s because he says he was getting bad grades.

“I had a really good friend for a really long time recently just kind of leave me,” said Tackett. “So, that really left me really stressed and really upset and then like in yoga it's just easy to release it all."

Many students like Johnathan and Makayla appreciate this class, especially at the beginning of the day, with the help of teacher Jessica Lewis.

“She just brings so much happiness and joy into that class and it makes me feel like set free or free," said Howard.

“She just brings so much happiness and joy into that class and it makes me feel like set free or free.”

- Makalya Howard -

Right now, Waggoner Road is the only school in the district offering yoga to junior high students.

School counselor, Tammy Wallace and teachers, see the difference it’s making.

“Teachers have said, you know I've seen some improvement, in grades just due to their self-confidence and when they're taking a test...maybe their test anxiety isn't there as much, which is a huge benefit,” said Wallace. 

And now it’s got more students hoping to take the class next year instead of PE, which is a bonus for those who struggle socially, according to the school’s social worker, Amber Knight.

“It gives kids too, that don't necessarily love PE and that might give them some social anxiety, a different option to be active and to be just at a calmer state," said Knight.

With the school year just about over, Makayla's Howard’s smile is brighter now that she's gone from failing classes to making all A's and B's by taking it one day at a time.

While she isn’t sure what things might be like today if it wasn't for her mom and others supporting her and recognizing her challenges, she’s grateful for the changes that have taken place.

In the meantime, the school hopes to add more yoga classes next year, so more students will have the chance to take yoga throughout the day.

Full Article:

Taking the Edge Off with Yoga

 BY TONISHA JOHNSON

Johnson, Tonisha. "School Yoga Class Helps Students Take the Edge Off." Spectrumnews1.com. 10 May 2019. 13 Aug. 2019 <https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/columbus/news/2019/05/06/school-yoga-class-helps-students-take-the-edge-off>.

Emily Noggle

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[emily]

I resonate with this news segment because in today's society, young students are facing issues that we may never know about. Our children spend a majority of their day at school to get an education that will guide them through life. Why not learn about themselves and how to find peaceful solutions to life's most difficult problems?

Can mindfulness help stressed teachers stay in the classroom?

An excerpt from Can mindfulness help stressed teachers stay in the classroom?

Teacher stress and student performance

The attention now being paid to teacher stress sprang from the growing focus on student stress and its influence on learning. The Center for Resilience, for instance, offers teachers a two-part training — first, building their own practice of mindfulness and self-care; then, a second round to help bring mindfulness to their classrooms, with breathing techniques, glitter jars (which students shake and silently watch settle), and other practices such as a body scan (a closed-eyes, focusing of attention on different regions of one’s body).

“Teachers are trying to manage classrooms just by saying, ‘Calm down and pay attention,’ but we need to give kids the tools to be able to do those things,” said Weiner, and teachers need to practice these skills before they can pass them on to students. “The analogy is that you can’t teach somebody to play piano if you don’t know how to play piano.”

Studies suggest that lower teacher stress improves student learning. In 2018, for example, University of Missouri researchers compared students’ behavior problems and their math and reading scores with the self-reported stress levels and coping abilities of their teachers. Students with low-stress teachers had the highest test scores and the best behavior. What’s more, in classes led by highly stressed teachers, both student behaviors and their math test scores got worse as teachers’ ability to cope with stress dropped (there were no significant changes in reading scores).

Of course, these results show correlation, not causation. Does teacher stress contribute to student academic and behavior struggles, or is it the other way around?

“I suspect the relationship is reciprocal. They build off each other,” said the study’s lead author, Keith Herman, who wrote the book Stress Management for Teachers (2015) with study co-author and fellow education professor Wendy Reinke.

Patricia Jennings, a University of Virginia professor of education, agrees, calling it the “burnout cascade.”

Emotionally exhausted teachers, she observed, were more likely to overreact to minor student stumbles, and these reactions spiked student stress in turn, leading to more discipline issues, and so on, spiraling downward.

“You can’t learn when you’re stressed,” said Jennings. With adrenalin and cortisol coursing through your veins, you can’t think deeply about a problem, or immerse yourself in a book, which is partly why schools have been adding “social-emotional learning” lessons to help students cultivate empathy, resolve conflicts, and manage their emotions. But, it’s hard to calm kids down with stressed-out teachers.

“I believe that teacher and student stress underlie a lot of our problems with learning,” said Jennings. “If we want to improve our test scores, then let’s all calm down.”

To that end, Jennings has spent more than a decade working with colleagues on a 30-hour mindfulness-based professional development program for teachers called CARE (Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education). As part of the training, stretched across several weeks, teachers explore the cognitive and physical links to their emotions to better regulate them, and they role-play stressful classroom situations to practice mindful responses.

"Emotionally exhausted teachers…were more likely to overreact to minor student stumbles, and these reactions spiked student stress in turn"

- Patricia Jennings -
​Professor, University of Virginia

Stressful schools aren’t healthy for anyone. There’s nothing wrong with a little pressure, a little nervousness over an exam, or a teacher who wants students to succeed. We all feel pressure, but something else is going on.

The causes and convergence of teacher and student stress has been a growing concern over the past decade. Research has consistently shown that stress levels in newer educators especially is leading many of them to exit the profession within five years.

Teachers need adequate resources and support in their jobs in order to battle burnout and alleviate stress in the classroom.

“ If we do not support teachers, we risk the collateral damage of students.”

CARE proved effective in a 2017 clinical trial, in which 224 elementary school teachers interested in the training were randomly assigned to a participant group or to a control group that was waitlisted until the research was complete. Using a combination of teacher questionnaires and classroom observations, Jennings and her team found that CARE increased teachers’ control of their emotions and reduced their stress, while also improving their sleep and making them feel less hurried overall.

But schools don’t often put time or resources into fighting teacher stress until it grows into a serious problem and teachers are eyeing the exits, said Jennings.

Full Article:

Can mindfulness help stressed teachers stay in the classroom?

 BY Chris Berdik

Berdik, Chris. "Can mindfulness help stressed teachers stay in the classroom?" PBS. 28 Mar. 2019. Public Broadcasting Service. 02 Aug. 2019 <https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/can-mindfulness-help-stressed-teachers-stay-in-the-classroom>.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

I chose this article because it demonstrates the accessibility of the practice for anyone, anytime, with first-hand testimonies of youth and adults describing the benefits. And, anytime I witness youth sitting in practice (video at bottom), it's powerful to me.

Mindful Challenges

Welcome to the Mindful Challenges category of our site. This section is reserved to invite you to join in Mindful Challenges that will help begin or grow your own mindfulness practice.

The practice itself is so important. We are all able to read and learn content, but it is through the practice that you gain true knowledge and experience the effects; you become able to offer a more grounded sense of awareness and greater presence in all that you do.

There is so much to be said about this! Here, we will practice together and present fun, doable challenges that help engage us further into this experience.

Mindful Challenge

Consider if you wish to begin a mindfulness practice and what you hope to gain from it. What challenges do you feel may be presented in getting started? Why do you feel it will be beneficial? Write this down for yourself and your reference. Leave comments for our team or your colleagues who also work in schools.

Getting Started with Mindfulness

An excerpt from Getting Started with Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis.

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.

The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.

What is meditation?

Meditation is exploring. It’s not a fixed destination. Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought, utterly undistracted. It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that) and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing a trumpet).

Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.

How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?

Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.

VIDEO: “YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the research-backed stress-reduction program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), explains how mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally, and then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

- Jon Kabat-Zinn -

Full Article:

Getting Started with Mindfulness

 BY MINDFUL.ORG

Walsh, Kelle. "Getting Started with Mindfulness." Mindful. 2019. 31 July 2019 <https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/>.

President

Rachel Wixey & Associates

[Rachel]

I chose this because it demonstrates simple, easy ways to get started with a practice, it shares the basics of what mindfulness is, and provides research on what's going on in the brain, for those of us interested in the science of it. 

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