6.3

MEDITATION FOR SELF-CARE

Meditation not only benefits students and the learning environment, but can also benefit one’s personal life outside of the school.  The lives of students, educators, and teachers are filled with a number of stresses, challenges, anxieties, and tasks that can, at times, seem overwhelming.  Meditation can help calm the mind and help focus energy in healthy ways so that as educators we can care for ourselves and in turn better care are for our community of learners and the larger world around us.

This short video talks about the benefits of meditation and how doctors at the Mayo Clinic recently designed an iPhone app that helps users fit meditation into their lives.

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Meditation does not always have to take the form of what’s featured in this video, however. And although it may be helpful, an iPhone app is not necessary.  There are several ways that meditation, conscious breathing, relaxation, and being present can be incorporated into our every day activities.

Read this excerpt from Peace Is Every Step. In it, author and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh shares a number of techniques that we can incorporate into our daily lives – from walking and sitting, to eating and answering the phone.

“We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

…This book is an invitation to come back to the present moment and find peace and joy. I offer some of my experiences and a number of techniques that may be of help. But do no wait until finishing this book to find peace. Peace and happiness are available in every moment. Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand.” (Hanh, 5-6)

Reflection Question: Try one of the techniques Thich Nhat Hanh describes in the excerpt you read from his book, Peace Is Every Step. What technique did you choose? What was this experience like for you? Did you find it difficult or easy to practice? Is this something you could see yourself incorporating into your daily life?

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26 thoughts on “6.3

  1. I tried Nourishing awareness in each moment . I love the author’s idea of getting in touch with peace. Peace is everywhere and we need to have the eyes to find it. While I m on a vacation in San Diego, I went out for a walk right after I read this essay. I was walking on the beautiful neighborhood, trying to find smile everywhere and I was amazed by how lucky I felt I am! The world is so amazon and we have no reasons to be upset. I tried not to think of anything. I had a beautiful morning in my entire life .

  2. Because walking my dog is already an enjoyable part of my day, I incorporated the walking meditation technique of mindful breathing to it and made it a walking meditation. It was awesome. I am not sure why focusing on something like breathing can make you more thoughtful about just the act of being alive, but of the life all around you as well. Being conscious of my breath somehow amplified the sounds around me as and heightened my awareness. The first few times it seemed that I was only more aware during the walk. By Thursday however, I found myself a bit more sensitive to what was going around me throughout the day. This activity really changed my mind about meditation. I had always thought of it as something one had to do at home alone in a silent room, or in a space where others were meditating as well. This experience changed that for me, and as a result has made me start to think about other ways I can incorporate meditation into my daily activities.

  3. I did the walking meditation, I left my house a little earlier and walked to work every day this week. It was extremely helpful to just walk and not really have to worry about rushing and enjoy my daily commute. Slowing the pace of my walk down allowed my mind to wander and think about things, solutions to problems, feelings etc. I was really a relaxing way to go to work and to come home from work. I found this easy to do, however I found it easier to just let my breathing go on its own and try not to control it. I can see this working in my teaching, especially if I have to change classrooms during the day or during lunch. It was nice just to get out and walk and get lost in thought.

  4. One of the Thich Hanah activities I tried was the walking meditation. I slowly walked to the mailbox where I did not talk but I focused on the importance of life. I also thought about my day and what could have happened differently. I found this activity to be easy and I think I can incorporate this into my daily schedule. I believe this will help ease my mind and alleviate unnecessary stress.

  5. I have tried Hanh’s breathing in and out techniques and will keep on doing it at least twice per day. For one it made me more conscious of my internal organs because I could sense them relaxing as I go through the in and out movements. I also realize that it is most effective with my eyes closed and in a quiet setting that also makes it meditative.
    Initially, it was a bit difficult because I was doing it with others around me that made it distracting. Once I did it in a place of solitude it worked.

  6. I have been trying to use Thich’s breathing techniques and mantra (Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile) in order to be more present. I am on vacation with my family at the Outer Banks and have found this exercise helpful. For example, yesterday morning I went on a run through the neighborhood. I was feeling exhausted and decided to end with a walk on the beach. When I got down to the ocean, I breathed and repeated the mantra a couple of times. Afterward, I felt joyful, lucky to be active and breathe, and fortunate to be in such a beautiful place. I was aware of my calmed body and happiness and felt recovered. I was able to continue running down the beach, appreciating things that I would not have previously noticed, such as shells, the movement of the ocean, the people around me, and the formation of the sand. I feel confident about using this exercise and would like to incorporate it more often, especially in times when I am feeling stressed, worn-down, and busy.

  7. I chose thinking less. Right now I am so busy with lesson planning and coaching that I can’t afford not to think. Every second of the day I am thinking about something. Even at night when I am sleeping I am thinking, dreaming, lol. I think I am going to try this, I just have to make time to implement this in my day. I know it would be beneficial for me.

  8. Some of the ideas in the book are already embedded in my lifestyle, such as choosing silence over noise in many situations. Enjoying nature is an important part of my life. But I’d like to focus more on my breathing and also on mindful eating.

    I turn to food for comfort and also don’t pay attention to what I’m eating when I’m stressed. I’ve battled this issue for my whole life. I think more mindful eating could help. I’ve been focusing more on eating raw foods (rather than packaged foods) since doing the carbon footprint exercise. I think that concentrating on each bite and thinking more about what I buy can go together to improve my health.

  9. I can’t remember the name given to this technique, but I liked what Thich Nhat Hanh said about using bells, and even phone ringers, as a time to pause, breathe, smile, and appreciate the present moment. I’m going to make a point of doing this as well as the walking meditation as often as I possibly can. I really enjoyed the part where he said we should step on the earth as if to kiss it with our feet. Lovingly, carefully, stepping instead of stomping around in a hurry.

  10. “Pam, stop and breathe.” This is something my best friend frequently reminds me to do. By nature or nurture (not sure which) I am a shallow breather. So, for this assignment, I chose conscious breathing. This was a much needed lesson and the verbal cues of “Breathe in”/ “Breathe out” or “in”/”out” really helped me focus and regulate the action. It was not difficult. Rather I found it initially made me dizzy. (Think I’ll google why.) I definitely see incorporating this into my daily life.

  11. I chose thinking less. I think it is impossible for me to do. I think so much that I have sooooo many things, ideas in my head that I forget sometimes what it was I was thinking. I am on vacation right now suppose to be relaxing, but I am thinking about everything but relaxing. It feels like if I can’t stop thinking. I think I am going to try this at least 5 minutes a day and then try to increase the time. It’s going to be a struggle, but I feel this will help me all around.

  12. Pingback: Week 6 – Yoga and Mindfulness (Summer 2013) | Peace Learner

  13. I chose to practice thinking less. This was actually rather hard, because I kept on getting distracted and didn’t concentrate on living in the moment. I’m not sure if I can incorporate meditation in my daily living simply because I’m beyond antsy and have tried to practice meditation. However, tonight may be a a great example of how I can incorporate it into my life.

  14. Daniel Knoll – I chose the “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” technique. I often forget to live in the moment and spend so much time thinking about what I’m doing next. As I sat in my apartment, I felt a little silly forcing myself to smile as I exhaled, but after the 3rd time I tried it I really did feel happy and more aware of my surroundings. I could definitely see myself trying this technique each morning.

    Also, I really want a Tangerine right now.

  15. I did the breathing exercises while driving to work this morning. I really liked it. I felt a little silly at first but it did make me feel calmer and put me in a good mood during the drive and when I got to work. It also made me want to turn the radio off (which I did a couple times) and just have some silence. I normally don’t like driving in silence but this morning it just seemed right. I think I am going to try to do this every time I drive, but especially in the morning while driving to work.

  16. I chose conscious breathing. I noticed that I tend to take many short shallow breaths. When I focused on my breathing process I was much calmer. It also allowed me to more easily clear my mind. By focusing on the process I was able to pay more attention to the breathing that my worries for the day.

    I found it very easy to do. I think that it is something I could build into a daily routine.

  17. I chose to try the conscious breathing exercise. I already default to taking deep breaths when I am feeling physically bogged down by stress, but I found that “conscious” breathing was much more effective. Taking deep breaths is good, but it also sort of just adds to the feeling that at any minute you can start to hyperventilate. Concentrating on your breathing forces you to not think about anything other than your breathing, and is therefore a much better tactic for calming down quickly. I don’t think this is an exercise that should only be used for high stress situations, I just have happened to find myself in those situations over the past few days…

  18. I have been trying the ‘bells of mindfulness’ technique. There is a church right outside my building that rings its bells in the morning, so I’ve been trying to follow the idea of pausing while they go off and enjoying the sound and taking a moment. It reminds me of Italy, and makes me happy when I am conscious of the sound. Now that I’ve read this article and thought about it, I’m sure that I will remember to incorporate this into my daily life and be more conscious of the sound!

  19. I chose the technique of conscious breathing while taking walks and being aware and enjoying what is around me. Far too often, I am in a rush and oblivious of the beauty that surrounds me. This is a good experience. I also found it easy to practice. I plan to incorporate it in my daily life more so than I have in the past.

  20. Today at lunch I practiced eating mindfully. I’ve noticed recently how hurriedly I eat much lunch, always checking the clock to make sure I’m not taking too long. I also realized I rarely taste my food, instead I just get it down quickly in an effort to move to the next thing. Today I made a sandwich and took my time layering the components, and then ate it in silence..mindfully. It was somewhat challenging because my mind wanted to jump to planning the next item on my list I needed to complete, but I did my best to savor the moment and the taste of the food. I’d really like to incorporate this into my daily life – it helped me to re-focus and relax during the midpoint of my day. Lunchtime is a good time of day for me to take a few moments to eat mindfully and appreciate being in the moment.

  21. I chose to smile. I have to say that this is one that I tend to do often anyway, but being conscious of it made me feel more relaxed. I believe that if I took every moment of my day teaching too seriously, I would have burned out a couple of years ago and the smiling and laughter really helps me decompress with my colleagues or get in a good mindset for an upcoming day.

    The part about smiling when you first wake up resonated with me because I’ve been doing that for the past several weeks without really thinking about it. My son tends to really wake up and start kicking around 5 – it is 5:07 as I am typing this because I couldn’t sleep anymore. When this first started happening, my automatic emotion was frustration because, as much as I enjoyed the kicking, I also enjoy sleeping. However, I really quickly realized I needed to appreciate these moments while they last over the next nine weeks and I find myself waking up smiling when it happens.

  22. I am working on training myself to live in the moment. I never feel like I am making a dent in the things the things the things that come my way. But by thinking about the immediate, I feel less anxious and more aware. It helps me to focus on what I believe to be most important in life: relationships.

  23. While reading this excerpt I was greedily scarfing down carrot sticks. I was frothing myself up into an anxious mess. When I got to the eating with mindfulness section I realized what I was doing and let the carrot linger in my mouth. Before, I was eating because I was afraid that if I didn’t eat now I wouldn’t have enough energy for the rest of the day. When I slowed down, I noticed that I was in a safe space and able to relax and enjoy the food that I am eating.

    I often find myself rushing from place to place and activity to activity without taking a break to just “be.” “Being” is the easiest and simplest activity one can do, but it is also the most difficult. It is really hard for me to let go of the past and future and settle in the present and it is something I continue to practice everyday.

  24. It seems the key to bringing meditation into your daily life is to be deliberate in your actions and stay aware of every moment in your life. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s description of how to eat with this intention, I found a practice that I strive towards, but don’t often accomplish. Today, I decided to eat my lunch in silence. The experience was nothing extraordinary. I focused on each bite, but found my mind multi-tasking and going through the many tasks I need to accomplish today.

    This is definitely something I want to incorporate to my daily life. I often eat my evening meals with my girlfriends and it is often something that we have prepared together. By the time we’re done cooking, we’re both exhausted and simply want to relax. It may be a good practice to use our time enjoying the fruit of our labors and simply savoring each bite – and the company.

    I could definitely be more deliberate in my daily actions. I’m also going to try breathing exercises while driving. I’m hoping that bring peace to DC traffic.

  25. I chose to smile, “dwelling in awareness.” It’s still early in the week and so I’ll definitely try other strategies (thinking less and eating mindfully could be fun). To remind myself to smile, even at points when I wasn’t laughing or responding to something funny, I wrote one of the monk’s lines on a paper and taped it up on the wall of my house: “If the people in a household cannot smile at each other, the situation is very dangerous.” (I hope my roommates didn’t think this was passive aggressive!)

    The quote has been reminding me to be friendly and to smile genuinely at the people I see most often – my roommates. We have so much fun together, most of the time, but when all our pressures weigh on us, some days go by without much laughter. This challenge was easy when I remembered, but difficult when I was distracted. Having a visual reminder was helpful, and I intend to hang up something symbolic in my room to remind myself daily to smile.

    • This is my best quote too Audrey, “If the people in a household cannot smile at each other , the situation is very dangerous.” I also shared it with my husband, who rarely smile. When I did he didn’t smile at all, merely gave me a grunt.
      Anyhow Audrey, you and I will continue smiling because it gets contagious after a while.

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