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Our Responsibility to Teach Essential Skills in the Classroom

Our Responsibility to Teach Essential Skills in the Classroom

It takes a community to raise our children! While volunteering to teach mindfulness in our local middle school, I noticed it was a struggle to get the children to focus, and there seemed to be discipline challenges. I sensed desperation in both teachers and students, which was shocking and disheartening.

At that time, being in the classroom was not foreign to me, but more often, I was found in the community trying to build stronger bonds around businesses and visitors within our downtown. After this day in the classroom, I realized it’s not enough for me to spur beautification and revitalization. It is not enough for our city leaders to attract innovative companies. A strong and vital community needs a strong educational system. We must provide the tools to create positive learning environments and to allow teachers to teach effectively. This leads to raising future generations of emotionally intelligent, wholehearted people.  We must intentionally grow adults who were taught the skills needed to build positive relationships, to focus and be aware, be resilient, and have discernment of values in order to know where to invest energy and time.  And so, the MBAwareness program was born.  We started with baby steps. 

For younger children, a mindfulness lesson may start like this:

Imagine you are a bear hibernating for the winter. When bears hibernate, they take long slow deep breaths in and out through their noses. Take a long breath in through your nose, and let it all the way out. Take another long breath in through your nose. Let it all the way out. Keep breathing like this and feel how relaxed and warm and safe you are in your cozy bear cave. (*get a FREE audio recording of this breathing exercise here!)

Imagine how calm children would be if this were how teachers routinely lead the first minute of class in your school. In a world that’s increasingly fast-paced, where kids are bombarded with media and screens, where they have less and less downtime to just be, these practices can teach kids essential skills. Like, how to calm themselves. How to focus and pay attention. How to manage their behavior and emotions. And how to practice compassion and kindness. They can also help kids cope with and release anxiety and stress. 

Mindful Schools looked at 400 elementary school students in four areas of classroom behavior: paying attention, participation, self-control, and respect for others. The kids did a simple mindfulness program three times a week for five weeks. After completion, they found significant gains in all four of those areas.  Let’s think about this for a minute. Improvements in self-control and respect for others are a total gift for teachers everywhere. They are also critical skills kids need to learn just to get along in life.  Paying attention in class and participation directly leads to academic gains. 

That’s what we are doing at Mind Body Align. We are starting with baby steps, but they are powerful baby steps. 

 

 

Interested in learning more about integrating mindfulness into your classroom?

Mindful education for teachers

We’ve got the perfect opportunity for you to learn the basics of mindful education and how to implement into your social and emotional learning objectives. This workshop is offered both in-person and online.

Click here to check- it out now! 

 

 

 

 

Journey to New Perspectives: An Exploration of the Heart

Journey to New Perspectives: An Exploration of the Heart

Have you ever considered your “quality of life” from a whole-self perspective or considered the elements which create a happy and purposeful life? Possibly you have been gauging your personal success or failure against markers established by family, friends, or social networks. How do we know if our goals and resolutions are coming from our hearts, leading us to fulfillment, growth, and purpose, or if they are coming from habits or beliefs that no longer serve us?  What I intend to create with this conversation is the opportunity to explore our hearts for the truth. Let’s take time to take a journey to a new perspective. 

What would you see if you could remove from your awareness the habits, beliefs and unrequited dreams that keep you stuck? I mean really, who would you be and what would you know about yourself? Perhaps there is a way to actively move forward in creating your best life by subtly shifting your focus.

Let’s begin:  take an honest look at where you are now.

 

I have attached a Wheel of Wellbeing.  Where are you right now? Mark on this wheel from 0 to 10, 0 being no satisfaction and 10 being great satisfaction, in each category.  Please note, that there is no judgment that 0 is bad and 10 is good, it is simply an acknowledgment of what is happening in your life at this moment.  It’s important to note that each season of our life requires sacrifice. My hope is that you will approach this exercise with self-compassion. And, please read Mary’s recent blog for an amazing perspective and understanding of the seasons and sacrifices of life.

 

Next: create attainable goals using things that bring us joy.

 

Start with colored pens, (4 sheets) paper or chalkboard and colored chalks (I use lots of colors to make it visually fun). Sit quietly in contemplation or listen to your favorite “feel good” music. Write everything you love about yourself. “I love my nose, toes, ability to relate to people, health, strong voice, etc.” Remember to focus on things you love about yourself; listing things related to your mind, body, and spirit.

On another sheet of paper or a different section of the chalkboard, note everything that you love about your life. “I love my spouse, children, time that I have to read, time and money that I have to travel, that people trust me, etc.” The key to being authentic in this list is that you feel love as you recall these people and life experiences.

On the third sheet of paper or area of the chalkboard, select one person you love – again, allow yourself to feel love as you recall this person – and list everything you love about them. 

Now, you have three different lists: love of self, love of life, love of an individual. Put the elements of this list into categories that coincide with the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationships, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.  Feel free to add or change the title of a category as it suits you. 

 

Just one thing more.

 

Finally, based on what already brings you love and satisfaction in each category, ask yourself this question. What is one thing I can do that will bring even more love to this area of my life? Just one thing.

Now, here is a crucial part. This “one thing,” the one action you can create to bring even more love, must come from the heart or gut-brain and not the brain in our head. Our thinking mind will look first to what it doesn’t want and where you “aren’t good enough,” and second, to provide an answer for “improvement.” Are you with me? For this exercise to be authentic, you will want to allow the answer to unfold; to arrive in your mind while being immersed in the sense of loving and being loved. You will know the best action when the contemplation of it brings you joy.

 

So, let’s review.

 

What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about the 8 categories in the wheel of wellbeing: personal relationship, love relationship, personal growth, leisure and play, environment, life purpose, physical health, and financial health.

So much of who we are at this moment is a collection of habits and beliefs gathered throughout the years and decades of our life. Real growth doesn’t have to be difficult, and living your best life can be achieved by shifting your focus, and actively moving forward toward fulfillment.

Are you willing to take a journey to discover yourself anew? I look forward to hearing about your experience.

The Unexamined Life

The Unexamined Life

Many people talk about life as being in balance or, more commonly,  “out of balance”, and yet, I’m curious, how many of those same people have defined what balance is, or means, to them?  Have you? Are you happy, fulfilled, “living your best life?” Would you consider yourself successful, or “living a life of purpose?”  These are very popular questions in an age where more people than ever before have food, shelter, time, and money; enough of each to consider the finer points and purpose of life. And, whether acknowledged or not, the answers to these questions are likely fueling your goals and resolutions for 2020.   So, before you dive into creating your goals, resolutions, and intentions for the new year, I hope you will consider the following things I’ve learned about happiness, fulfillment, success, life purpose, and balance (aka “these states of being”).

  • These states of being are all subjective.  They are based on personal desires, interests, expectations, habits, beliefs, and each individual’s unique way of experiencing the world.  You may think this is obvious, and yet it is easy to forget this very important point when reading and learning from experts who are charismatic, articulate, and learned.  Always “check it at the door” as I say to my clients and students. Check everything the experts tell you (and I tell you) with your own heart and gut. You’ll know when a particular piece of advice is right for you by how you feel when you begin to incorporate it into your life.  If it doesn’t increase your joy or contribute to your sense of purpose, it probably isn’t right for you.

 

  • “Everyone walks their own Camino.”  This is a phrase spoken over and over again while hiking the Camino de Santiago; a 400 plus mile hike that my husband and I walked from France through Spain to Santiago de Compostela.  Another way of putting this is, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” a well-known quote by Teddy Roosevelt. Your best life can’t and won’t look like anyone else’s best life. In fact, your best life today is different than your best life yesterday and tomorrow. 

 

  • These states of being are dependent on whatever is happening in your world at any given moment. Your ability to manage the things life throws at you will change based on factors you CAN CONTROL (nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindset, self-talk, how you treat others, and your choices) and things you CAN’T CONTROL (past, future, weather, change, other people’s minds, other people’s happiness, and traffic).  One of the keys to finding joy and fulfillment is to invest your energy and time on things you can influence; make the effort to control the things you CAN CONTROL and let go of the things you can’t.  

 

  • I’m a big fan of the Peter Drucker quote, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” If you have never defined what a fulfilled, happy, successful, and balanced life is to you, how do you know how to navigate and when to recalibrate?  Use tools like vision boarding and Wheel of Life to create personal understanding and support you in living your best life. 

 

  • Gratitude!  Really, appreciate it, all of it – even the yucky stuff!  This is the essence of life. 

Socrates or Plato (both are credited) said, “The unexamined life is not worth living?”  I disagree. I do believe, however, that the examined life 1) makes it possible to understand your unique self, 2) provides you with information you need to set fulfilling and purposeful goals, 3) allows for compassion when life gets tough, 4) offers structure in order to recalibrate and learn, and 5) encourages gratitude and a joyful approach to everything life offers you.    One morning when I encountered an acquaintance on the street, I said, “Isn’t this a beautiful day to be alive?” His answer still resonates with me, “every day I wake up is a beautiful day to be alive.”  Welcome to one more beautiful day friends!!!   Sending you love and a great big new years hug!   Annamarie

Creating Your Sanctuary

Creating Your Sanctuary

When I was a child, I had two sanctuaries.  One was under a huge tree in the woods visible from my house.  The leaves of this tree were thick and the ground beneath was soft with leaves and moss.  The branches hung low to the ground so that I felt invisible to the world outside (although my house was safely close by and could be seen and heard).  My second sanctuary was my bedroom. I had a room at the front of the house with two windows overlooking the yard, neighborhood, and the woods beyond. I pushed my bed under those two windows and sat there reading for hours, immersed in the authors’ story while watching the world outside my windows.

As I look back in time and remember these spaces, I recall the sense of safety and contentment I felt.  I’m also noticing the elements that characterize these spaces. What can I learn about creating my modern sanctuary from these childhood spaces?

How comfortable are you being alone with yourself?

My safe space has an element of alone, invisibility, quiet, and yet it must have eyes on the world.  For me, watching the movement of the world allows my brain to soften and my mind to wander. I work while watching cars going by from the windows of The Butterfly House.  My meditations are eyes open, where I can calm mind and body by regulating my rhythm with the chorus of the world around me.

What arrangements and elements create, for you, a sense of safety?

I prefer to sit with my back against a wall.  As a child, I would tuck my body into the corner of my bedroom.  When I was under the tree, my back was resting against the security of the trunk.  And I realize I need something on which to place my feet. I either place a footstool or a table directly in front of my meditation chair.  If I’m sitting on a cushion on the floor, I often place another cushion in front of me. Sometimes I place the cushion or a blanket on my lap. Notice how your body feels when you arrange your space.  If you close your eyes and listen to your body in harmony with the space around you, what do you notice?

What colors and textures bring softness to your body and mind?  

You might start by asking yourself, What vistas allow your mind to relax and wander?  Do you love to overlook fields and valleys, rivers and trees, sparkling lights of office towers, or the ebb and flow of ocean waves?  Consider these things when selecting colors and textures. If your favorite place is a beach on the Caribbean, then choose colors that remind you of sand, sun, and Caribbean waters.   You may put a hammock or a hanging chair in your sanctuary along with a happy light or a full spectrum light box. If you like rivers and trees, you might collect river stones and place them in a bowl and burn candles to represent bonfires. Your colors may be shades of brown and green with touches of grey.

What words and phrases encourage you to explore your beliefs and values?

Surround yourself with words that open your mind to new ideas and possibilities.  If you love to read, place books in your sanctuary that encourage thoughtfulness. I am surrounded by books that I can read a paragraph or chapter that will set my mind down new roads of thought.  Poets such as Rumi and Mary Oliver. Authors such as Tara Brach, Roland Merullo, and Robert Wright. Be intentional about the words and thoughts that may penetrate or influence your thinking and allow the wisdom of others to invite you to explore new ways of being.

What sounds resonate with you and make your body hum?  

I love to meditate with the free app called Insight Timer.  This app has a feature making it possible to choose a chime and set it to repeat at designated intervals.  I can create a 20-minute meditation with three repeating chimes, each chime, for me, a reminder that I’m meditating.  If my mind has been captured by a story, the chime encourages me to return to my breath, and if I’m deeply in the meditation, the chime invites me to sink deeper.  Wind chimes have the same effect (if they are the correct tone). When the wind kicks up and activates the gong in the trees at The Butterfly House, I immediately sense my body moving toward the sound.  It’s an immediate call to quiet; my body softens and my mind calms. For you, it may be the sounds of the waves and the seagulls or the wind in the trees and bird song. My suggestion is that you choose sounds, or choose music that doesn’t have words or lyrics, and notice how your body and mind responds.  Continue to move toward sounds and music that connect you to the energy of the world around you.

What smells bring you comfort and joy?

This can be a tricky one.  Do you know that fragrances, all fragrances, including pure essential oils, are hormone disruptors?  70% of synthetic fragrances contain a chemical called phthalates which disrupt the body’s normal hormone function and have been linked to things like birth defects, breast cancer, and obesity.  Any label that says “fragrance” is likely to contain phthalates. If you’re reading this and think, “hogwash,” consider this. Most people will agree that lavender helps you relax. Why do you think lavender has that effect on the body? My research indicates that lavender interacts with the neurotransmitter in our brain called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which regulates anxiety.  It has also been proven to be an endocrine disruptor having a mild effect on the body’s levels of estrogen and testosterone. My advice to you is to choose wisely, do your homework, avoid scented candles, and less is more. Be intentional about the fragrances with which you surround yourself.

There is no “one size fits all” when creating your sanctuary.  Consider gently activating all your senses, stimulating your thoughts, and nourishing healthy emotions. So, Let’s recap:

  1. Know yourself.  Create your space in a location where you will use it (a corner of your family room, an empty bedroom away from the rest of the world, or a treehouse in the backyard).
  2. What elements help you feel safe (a locked door, your back against the wall, a weighted blanket)?
  3. What colors and textures calm your body and mind?
  4. What words and phrases motivate you to grow and evolve?
  5. What sounds activate your parasympathetic nervous system (binaural beats, Marconi Union, Enya)?
  6. What smells calm you and bring you joy?

If you’re interested in creating your sacred space and would like additional guidance and coaching, we are offering, in our sacred space (The Butterfly House), the workshop, “Creating Your Sacred Space” on March 18th.  Click here for more information.

Sending you love and a deep breath!!!

Mindfully,

Annamarie

Journey to a new perspective: living your best life

Journey to a new perspective: living your best life

The Mind Body Align topic for the month is Starting Over, Beginning Anew. The topic isn’t about wiping the slate of your life clean but allowing you to discover your life from a new perspective. What would you see if you could remove from your awareness the habits, beliefs and unrequited dreams that keep you stuck? I mean really, who would you be and what would you know about yourself? Perhaps there is a way to actively move forward in creating your best life by subtly shifting your focus.

Here is one way to begin: First – with colored pens and paper or chalkboard and colored chalks (I use lots of colors to make it visually fun), sit quietly in contemplation or listen to your favorite “feel good” music. Write everything you love about yourself. “I love my nose, toes, ability to relate to people, health, strong voice, etc.” Remember to focus on things you love about yourself”; listing things related to your mind, body, and spirit.

Second – on another sheet of paper or a different section of the chalkboard, note everything that you love about your life. “I love my spouse, children, time that I have to read, time and money that I have to travel, that people trust me, etc.” The key to being authentic in this list is that you feel love as you recall these people and life experiences.

Third – on the third sheet of paper or area of the chalkboard, select one person you love – again, you must feel the love as you recall this person – and list everything you love about them. Now, you have three different lists: love of self, love of life, love of an individual. Finally, ask yourself this question. What is one thing I can do that will bring even more love to this area of my life? Just one thing.

Now, here is a crucial part. This “one thing,” the one action you can create to bring even more love, must come from the heart or gut brain and not the brain in our head. Our thinking mind will look first, to what it doesn’t want and where you “aren’t good enough,” and second, to providing an answer for “improvement.” Are you following me? For this exercise to be authentic, you will want to allow the answer to unfold; to arrive in your mind while being immersed in the sense of loving and being loved. You will know the best action when the contemplation of it brings you joy.

So, let’s review:

What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about yourself?

What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about your life?

What is one thing you can do to enhance what you already love about your special person?

So much of who we are at this moment is a collection of habits and beliefs gathered throughout the years and decades of our life. I have found, through my own experience, that wiping the slate clean is extraordinarily hard. It’s too much work to make a change that rarely sticks. Real growth doesn’t have to be difficult, and living your best life can be achieved by shifting your focus, and actively moving forward toward love.

Are you willing to take a journey to discover yourself anew? I look forward to hearing about your experience.