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?
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!
Annamarie Fernyak is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align LLC based in Mansfield, Ohio. She is a certified life coach, mindfulness meditation teacher, and serial entrepreneur. The development of the MBAwareness Education Program was conceived while Annamarie was volunteering to teach mindfulness in a local middle school and found that the teachers and students were struggling to grow calm for their guest teacher, students seemed unable to pay focused attention, and the teachers were growing frustrated.
Annamarie’s focus was to create a program that would transform the lives of the students. She focused on hiring a licensed teacher to create and instruct the mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculums to elementary and secondary school students and teachers. Due to the challenges associated with global health concerns, Annamarie’s mindfulness education program is further now evolving into online mindfulness education focusing on teaching tools that reduce stress and support a life where people can feel more at ease. We also teach as a part of corporate wellness programs.
In 2017, Annamarie launched Align Mindfulness which is a FREE app downloadable from your app store that sends prompts a few times a day, bringing attention to what’s happening in your world. Intentionally simple, these reflections help you build a well-rounded “mindfulness” muscle by offering variety in where you place your awareness.
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.
- 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.
Cindy Biggs is a leadership development expert working as a certified coach, mentor, and trainer. She started her encore career in 2012, as President of C. Biggs and Associates (www.SEEBIGG.com) after making a commitment to follow her dreams to be an entrepreneur and focus her top leadership strengths. She was CEO of Planned Parenthood of NC Ohio, based in Mansfield, for 20 years and VP of Organizational Development for 5 years after architecting a 5-way merger in NE Ohio with 4 other women to create a large, regional non-profit, Planned Parenthood of NE Ohio in Akron. Her volunteer work focuses on women’s empowerment and leadership development with nonprofits, including Central America Medical Outreach in Santa Rosa de Copan and the League of Women Voters. She lives in Wooster and Howard with her husband Jeff and cat Colt.
The ancient practice of meditation has made a home in our modern culture for good reason. Learning to sit still and calm the mind can be a powerful antidote to the speed, stress and strain of our modern lives.
In ancient times, meditation was seen as a potent tool for liberation and enlightenment. Today’s practitioners have discovered that meditation also offers more earthly and pragmatic benefits, helping us stay happy and balanced amid the busy-ness of our lives.
Perhaps you have read about the manifold benefits of the practice. Maybe you have friends or family who have taken it up. Or maybe you’ve even tried it yourself, but are scratching your head over how sitting still and paying attention can be such a balm in our busy world.
Though the practice is simple, its benefits can be vast. I’ve been practicing meditation for more than 20 years, and I am still discovering new and rich benefits of this potent practice. But over and over I return to three of meditation’s most profound gifts, which can help us live in happiness, wisdom and peace, even among the craziness of our world.
Meditation is a Powerful Form of Brain Training
Left to its own devices, the mind tends to act like a monkey in the jungle, swinging from thought to thought, hooting and howling, picking up ideas and then spitting them out, tangling with other wild beasts, and generally stirring up trouble. (If you don’t believe me, try this: Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and during that time watch what happens to your thoughts. I’m willing to wager that you will quickly discover that you, too, have a “monkey mind” within.)
Meditation is a potent method of training the mind to behave better. Just as we head to the gym to exercise our muscles, we slip into a meditation chair to train our brains. We teach our minds to focus, we guide ourselves away from unproductive thoughts, and we learn to act more skillfully and wisely. We can train those monkeys within us to behave in ways that support our lives rather than throw us off balance in sneaky and destructive ways.
Over time, with patience and persistence, we sharpen our ability to settle with ease into the present moment, the only place where life can be truly lived. We train the muscles in our minds to act skillfully and wisely, in ways that support our deepest loves and values, and in ways that help not just ourselves but also the entire world.
Meditation Helps Us See Clearly
Have you ever been to the beach just after a torrential storm? The waves churn, the sand darkens the water, and debris bobs all about. Sometimes it’s impossible to see your toes as you wade along the shore. When the weather clears, though, the ocean quiets, the sand settles and the water once again grows clear enough to see all the marvels that swim amid the vast blue sea.
This settling and clarifying process is just what meditation does inside of us. As our brains quiet, our stirred up thoughts settle. Life comes into cleaner and clearer focus. Delusions slip away. Wisdom bubbles up. We begin to see more clearly what our lives are all about and we are inspired to act in ways that support these fundamental values.
As the lens of our awareness clears, we grow cleaner and more balanced. We learn how to respond with wisdom and care to both the delights and challenges that life throws our way. We develop skills that allow us to live in greater balance and harmony within, even amid the turbulence of the outer world.
Meditation Helps Us Fall in Love with the World
As we grow more adept at stilling the mind and seeing clearly the truth of what is, wonderful epiphanies arise. We fall into a more direct, intimate and keenly felt experience of life as it passes through us. We wake up to the sheer wonder of being here, now, participating in all the glorious joys and sorrows of the world.
Birdsong sounds brighter. Water tastes cleaner. Chocolate tastes sweeter. A single smile warms our spirit all day. And the blue sky fills our hearts with a profound yet simple happiness. We fall wildly and wonderfully in love with all of life.
Over time, our minds and our hearts grow more expansive and more whole. We sense a deeper connection between ourselves and every other creature in the world. We grow kinder and more tender-hearted. We begin acting not just on behalf of our selves but on behalf of all of life. And we understand more deeply that love is what matters most, in the beginning and in the end.
Maybe you, too, would like to give this profound practice a try? Although a simple practice, meditation can be challenging to learn. Befriending those monkeys in the mind can take some time, and finding ways to train them toward wholeness takes patience and skill.
Fortunately, resources abound in the form of teachers, books, videos and courses for those hoping to get started. My advice is to find a teacher who speaks to you, who inspires and comforts you, and then study every book, audio, video or talk that guide offers. (You can find my favorite meditation resources on my website here.)
Practicing with a friend or meditation group that meets regularly can be helpful, too. In the Mansfield area, both Mind Body Align and the Mansfield Art Center offer on-going meditation classes.
Over time you may find, as I have, that meditation will become an ally and a good friend, saving your life every single day. Meditation will help you stay calm and centered. It will keep you in tune with your deepest loves and values. It will help you act wisely and with a tender heart. And it will return you both to your deepest self and to the widest world, in clarity, happiness and peace.
Claudia Cummins has taught yoga and meditation for more than 20 years, and she invites you to join her Wednesday morning yoga group – or any other yoga class in the area – to savor the many benefits of the practice. Visit claudiacummins.com to learn more.