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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! 

 

 

 

 

Perfectionism, Rewired.

Perfectionism, Rewired.

In my quest to write a perfect blog, while procrastinating with a slight fear of failing before I even get started, I will review with you a couple of ways to look at perfectionism. And perhaps through exploring those with you, I can help you and me identify some things we can both do to address that BIGG or little piece in each of us that may tend to be a perfectionist.  

The first definition of PERFECTIONIST I looked up is a person who refuses any standard short of perfection. Other definitions linked it to a personality trait or type that strives for flawlessness and setting up high standards, accompanied by being overly critical of themselves and others. There is a connection between perfectionism and a fear of failure, and a need to be accepted.    

I believe one can have high standards without some of the other things that go along with being a perfectionist. Once you have the emotional intelligence to recognize that you have some of the traits or qualities of being a perfectionist, you can work on addressing them for your own good, and the good of people around you, if you choose.  

Many of you know that as a trainer and coach, I am a huge advocate of Gallup’s strengths-based leadership research.  I love the idea that we need to focus on what’s right with people, rather than what is going wrong. This helps me manage perfection.  In looking over Gallup’s 34 top leadership strengths’ “basements,” I found one that has “perfectionism,” and that is the strength called MAXIMIZER. Things like “never good enough” and “always reworking” and “picky” are part of the basement that can happen when you overuse it.  It’s a strength I have that can make me a good coach. One that focuses on mastery, success, excellence, and working with the best. One that couples with my value that everyone can do their best, and everyone’s best can be different and EVERY kind and brand of excellence can be valued and rewarded. I believe people are perfect, not imperfect, just as they are.    

As a coach, how I manage to keep from falling in the basement of “perfectionism” is that I believe in people and think they know how to solve their issues and move forward in their lives. Sometimes it just takes someone believing in them to help them do it. It’s not my job to tell them what they need to do, nor fix them. I honor and applaud their excellence.  

Brene Brown, a well-known research professor, social worker, and five-time #1 New York Times best selling author, would suggest that PERFECTIONISM is a function of shame. Her definition is that perfectionism is a self-destructive belief system that fuels this primary thought – that if I look perfect or do everything perfectly, I avoid or minimize the painful feeling of blame, judgment, and shame.  

It’s destructive because PERFECTION is an unattainable goal.  

It’s getting sucked into proving I could do something versus PAUSING and stepping back and asking if I should do this, or if I want to do this. 

 

I LOVE PAUSING.  

Since my mother’s passing, I have worked a lot on emotional courage – to lean into and feel and identify the emotions I am experiencing, not judge them, but to sit with them and understand them, and explore if other choices could better serve me at some point. What’s the emotion that is behind this feeling of perfection? Am I feeling blame, judgment, or shame? What can I choose to do with it? How can I have a conversation with those I work with or someone who has dropped the ball without blaming, but just to talk about what happened so we can fix it and move on?

 

MOVE ON. LET IT GO.

How can we wade into our discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about our own stories, those real stories, those that we are not making up?  Some of the other things that we can do that Brene and I and others may recommend addressing those areas of perfection that don’t serve us include:  

*Say NO, not with an excuse, not with an explanation, just say NO. Set boundaries.

*Talk to ourselves like we would with someone we love. You are human. I am human. We all make mistakes. 

As a leader, I would recommend that you HAVE to make mistakes and be vulnerable in front of other people, especially those you supervise so that they know that they can make mistakes too.  

 

REACH OUT

  • Connect with someone who can respond with empathy and talk to them. Brene Brown suggests that shame cannot survive being spoken. Speak.  
  • Ask for help. Ask for your supervisor to help you prioritize. Quit picking up more work to do because no one else is. Hold people accountable. Give clear and honest feedback to them promptly.   
  • Catch people doing things right- celebrate victories and little or big WINS. Focus on gratitude. THANK people more.  
  • Ask for FEEDBACK from others…and don’t get defensive when you get it. Listen to it. Act on it.  

And my favorite:

  • Be a BADASS and don’t care what people think. Start “settling” a little bit more. Clarifying expectations is important, but you may need to lower expectations and standards …just because you can…and your expectations are not always reasonable or worth it.  

According to Brene Brown, Perfection is the furthest thing from badassery.    

Ask A Yogi: Body Differences + Pose Modifications

Ask A Yogi: Body Differences + Pose Modifications

Q:  I enjoy doing yoga but I get insecure about my body differences.

When I need help with modifications, I am embarrassed to ask. What can I do to let the instructor know that I need some assistance without disrupting the class?

 

Amy:  I’m so glad to receive this question, and I really appreciate the phrase “body differences.” 

There’s a lot to care for here, so I’m going to break up the answer into two parts. (look for Part Two to post soon!)

 

 

Part One: The Culture of Body Differences: Insecurity & Positivity

 

Because we live together in a society, we grow up learning what is and isn’t acceptable, as well as what is and isn’t desirable or worthy of attention, comfort, or praise from a variety of industries that make up our popular culture.  From entertainment and leisure to fashion and trends, to scores of news outlets, we see, hear, and internalize sets of beliefs that shape our world view and self-image.  In addition to these broader influences, our belief systems are also shaped by our specific family culture, which can include ethnic and religious traditions, shared knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the outlook, attitudes, values, morals, goals, and customs shared by our own immediate and extended families.  Because our cultural formation is both broad and specific, we grow into adulthood with a variety of filters unique to our own experience; and to add more complexity, these different lenses might even be in conflict with each other.  

 

You are not alone.  Our unique world view and self-image shape how we function in relation to ourselves and other people during public events and private moments.  We tend to compare ourselves to an internal “ideal,” to other groups of people, and individuls to see where we fall on the spectrum of “socially acceptable.”   

 

It’s helpful to remember that not only are we not alone in the experience of being different, but every single one of us has some kind of body difference, whether subtle or obvious, as well as invisible differences, such as auto-immune diseases, mental injury, complex learning styles, and so much more.  So when we head into a body-based class like yoga, we’re all bringing with us thousands of years of ancestral DNA, our own cultural formation, and all of our “differences” both seen and unseen.  

 

It is natural to experience insecurity around our differences.  And it’s also natural to experience positive emotions around our differences.   The next time you feel unsure about an instruction, posture, or practice in a yoga class, remember it’s not just you; most likely, other students are unsure about it, too.  We’ll get into the details more in Part Two, but briefly, if the style of the class is not too terribly fast, and you can make eye contact with the teacher, trying asking for general suggestions.  For instance, if you’d rather not ask specific questions about a particular topic, consider asking for more general modifications.  Try something like, “Can you offer any other options if this isn’t working for us?”  Remember this, if nothing else: Yoga, and yoga postures, are here in service to you; you are not in class to be of service to the postures.  

 

If you’d like to take this discussion further, if you’ve ever thought, “yoga is not for me,” or if you’d like to explore the possibilities around shifting from insecurity to positivity, here are some great resources:  

  • Amber Karnes & Body Positive Yoga: Amber is the founder of BodyPositiveYoga.com and the creator of Body Positive Clubhouse, an online community for folks who want to make peace with their bodies and build unshakable confidence.  
  • Yoga for AmputeesMarsha T. Danzig 
  • Amputee Yoga Association
  • Accessible Yoga:  AccessibleYoga.org:  A nonprofit organization that believes all people, regardless of ability or background, deserve equal access to the ancient teachings of yoga.  By building a strong network and advocating for a diverse Yoga culture that is inclusive and welcoming, Accessible Yoga is sharing Yoga with all.

 

Part Two – The Yoga Classroom:  Student-Teacher Relationship & Class Agreements (coming soon!) 

Resident MBA Yogi, Amy Secrist, is available to answer questions, give insight and guidance, and help you feel great about your yoga practice. You can email your questions to Amy@mindbodyalign.com or message us on Facebook or Instagram  #AskAYogi  @MindBodyAlign 

You can also join Amy for practice at the Butterfly House on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:30 am. Learn more here. 

 

 

 

How Mindfulness Can Help You Explore Your Perfectionism.

How Mindfulness Can Help You Explore Your Perfectionism.

Hello MBA Community, 

This year at Mind Body Align we are embarking on an exploration into mindfulness and wholehearted living. We began the year by offering some tools for you to use in order to assess where you are at this moment. (see Annamarie’s wheel of wellbeing)  Our intention is that each month we shed light on each area of whole living through our blog posts, podcasts, playlists, and even the resources that we curate for you in our retail shop.  We kicked off the March topic with Coffee Talk guest host, Cindy Biggs. As an accomplished leadership and executive coach, we knew that she would be the ideal person to talk with us about this month’s topic, perfectionism.  Be sure to keep an eye out for Cindy’s blog post called Perfectionism Rewired. It will be in your inbox next week. 

So why are we talking about perfectionism if our year is focused on whole living? Why not just dive into one of the areas on the wheel of wellbeing? Sometimes we need to start with the obstacles. If we begin with them we can open up a dialog to find strategies and solutions. Perfectionism seems to keep coming up when we talk about issues facing our Mind Body Align community. The response to the LunchWISE Wednesday event last month, when we tackled the topic of Imposter Syndrome, truly struck a chord. I have never received so many emails after an event. The idea of being perfect can be a huge stumbling block when it comes to living a life that is fully engaged. For many, trying to be perfect is a way to avoid the fear of failure and, just to be clear, we are talking about perfectionism as opposed to setting standards or striving for excellence. 

Back in October 2018 our guest blogger, Kym Lamb wrote, “I’ve found that Bravery Over Perfection comes when you are willing to inspect your strengths and weaknesses. It’s the willingness to question what you believe and why consistently…Bravery emerges when we embrace failure as taking that one daring step past fear and it’s when we recognize that excellence comes not in being flawless, but fearless.”  

I love this! “Taking that ONE DARING STEP past the fear. 

 

So how do we use and apply the practice of mindfulness when it comes to silencing our inner critic? 

Begin with awareness.

Notice and pay attention to the words and tones that you use with yourself. The voice in our head can work to keep us safe but there are times when we need to simply recognize it and release it especially when it is telling us things that are negative or untrue. Would you speak to a friend the way that you speak to yourself?

 

Notice what is happening.

When we recognize that the voice in our head (our inner critic) is at work or we realize that we have set a standard that is beyond realistic, Mind Body Align founder, Annamarie Fernyak, says you should ask yourself the question, what’s happening now?  What do I see, hear, taste, touch, and smell? What thoughts, physical sensations, and emotions are present?  What do I “sense” or intuit is happening in the world around me?  

 

Move into the present moment.

Once we have done a check-in with our heart, mind, and physical sensations we can begin to release judgments and embrace curiosity. Our thoughts pass by us like clouds in the sky. We observe them rolling past without becoming attached or engaging them.

 

Develop a practice. 

Meditation is a great tool for learning to live mindfully. Like most things worth pursuing, it takes practice and training. Mediation can be done in the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth but it does require regularity. It’s a workout for your brain and the benefits of setting aside the time are so worth it. You would never expect to go running once and then sign up for a marathon expecting to complete it. Mindfulness meditation works in the same way. You’ve got to train the brain.

 

Find Support.

Surround yourself with people and things that support your commitment to living fully. It is essential to your success. Be aware of who you are spending time with, what you are reading, watching or listening to, and curate those things with intention. 

As we move through the month of March and adjust our clocks internally and externally for Spring, our team at Mind Body Align invites you to join us with curiosity, self-compassion, and mindfulness as we explore perfectionism.  We look forward to connecting with you at one of our classes, events or conversations on social media. 

 

Sending you joy!

Jen

P.S. Be sure to keep an eye on your inbox for fresh new content to keep you inspired.

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.

Every Child is Potentially the Light of the World.

Every Child is Potentially the Light of the World.

“Every child is potentially the light of the world—and at the same time it’s darkness; wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary most importance.” Bahai writings

The keywords in the above quote are; potential light, darkness, and education. Throughout history, education has been a fundamental factor in the advancement of civilization. At times this education has brought mankind light and at others darkness. Education has given man the ability to place manned rovers on Mars and acquire new medical knowledge. Advancements in communication have made the world flat. At the same time, mankind has created a world laden with moral dangers: selfishness born of materialism, children alienated from their parents, and a society in decline.  These conditions are not confined to race, class, nation, or income status. 

At an early age, children are asked,” What are you going to be when you grow up?” We send them off to school to find the answer. In school, they study various branches of knowledge in order to choose a profession based on demand and earning potential. In the end, the future is one of studying to work, working to earn, and earning to spend.  It’s a materialistic treadmill. The result is a society aimed at earning more and more money. Despite all the success and material gains, most people are still not happy and we are raising a generation of people who are living for themselves. This reminds me of the lyrics from the Broadway play Bye Bye Birdie, “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today! Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way, what’s the matter with kids today?”

Ask a child today what do you want to be when you grow up and they still don’t know, and now, many don’t care. What caused these young people to disconnect? When did the light of education dim in so many eyes? The methods for educating children are well established as evidenced in our technological and scientific advancements. But these advancements have come at a cost. Somewhere along our journey, we lost our children. As mankind enters a new age of maturity, we must develop a new purpose for educating our children. The tree of educational knowledge must add branches that evolve the inner and outer child as well as develop useful skills that benefit mankind.

I don’t think anything is wrong with today’s kids. Their true essence is there, often hidden inside. Through good counsel and education that essence can be brought to light. A quote by Alexander den Heijer may shed some light, “When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Instead of focusing on “fixing” the child, let’s focus on adapting the environment to ensure the child’s success. As the child gains inner and outer success and perfection, his light begins to shine.

Our primary and most urgent responsibility is the education of our children.  And, their teachings don’t only come from books. In early childhood a firm foundation must be laid; a foundation focused on refining character, learning virtues, and developing good behavior. Knowledge achieved through traditional book learning is praiseworthy when coupled with ethical conduct and virtuous character. These traits must be taught and practiced every day at school.  Fortunately, mindfulness, wellness, meditation, yoga, and art classes are appearing in school systems all over the world. 

The evolution of mankind is in full display in every child’s face you see. As each child’s inner light shines, it will surely brighten the world. As Neil Diamond sang,” Turn on your heart light. Let it shine wherever you go. Let it make a happy glow for all the world to see.”  It is truly our responsibility, as those that have come before them, to cultivate and support these additional branches of education. If we do not equip them with the social and emotional skills they need to conquer a rapidly changing environment, then their failures will be ours. Let us plant the seeds that will one day grow into a canopy of success in the hands of today’s youth.