By: Amy Hartmann Garner, M.Ed, RYT-200
Like so many educators and vendors who are working to improve education in America, we here at PR with Panache! work at a fast pace—but we also know that speed alone won’t help us accomplish our goals. This post is the first in an ongoing series about how mindfulness can help all of us in education be happier, more productive, and ultimately more useful to the students we serve.
Rushing. Running. Always on the go. These are just a few phrases I would use to describe many of my fellow educators. (I know I am guilty, too.) My former lifeguard self wants to blow the whistle on many of my colleagues. With so much work to do to help kids learn, they can become numb to the feelings and emotions associated with living a quality life, and instead go through the motions as quickly as they can.
Technology seems to only add to our need for instant gratification. From 2000 to 2014, the average adult attention span decreased from about 12 seconds to eight seconds. In other words, we can all use a lesson in how to listen. If we can slow down, we will enjoy life more and have more time than we did before. How is this possible?
Enter mindfulness. This seems to be the new buzzword, but what does it really mean? It means slowing down and using your senses to fully experience your surroundings. It means putting away the technology and absorbing what is around you. It means being patient and taking a deep breath. If, for example, we have to wait in line, our immediate go-to is to grab the phone. I grew up in a time when there were no cell phones. When we were in line, we had to wait or talk to our neighbor. Today, people in coffee shops who are only drinking coffee are anomalies. There are the occasional book readers, but for the most part, everyone is plugged in and tuned out to the world around them.
When was the last time you took a step and actually felt the ground beneath your foot? I challenge you to be more mindful when you walk. As you place one foot in front of the other, try focusing on the force of the earth pushing back against you. There is an energy exchange and bond in every single step.
What about the last time you felt the coolness of your breath enter the body? The breath is the most powerful tool we have. It links together the mind, the consciousness, and the body. Slowing down to take a deep breath can literally change your state of mind—and it takes less than five minutes.
Often times, we forget about our breath. In the everyday chaos we call life, it becomes more of an involuntary process than one we can control. This unawareness can ignite breathing irregularities such as shallowness, jerkiness, unconscious breath-holding, and more. I often tell my students to think of their breath like a remote control. If they’re in control of their breath, they’re in control of themselves. Taking five to 10 deep breaths can help anyone self-regulate and get back on track.
For optimum breath flow and to create a calming and grounding feeling, try this exercise that you can do in your office right now:
- Sit on the edge of a chair or on the floor, with your legs crossed and a blanket under your tailbone.
- Extend your spine. Pretend there is a string at the top of your head, pulling you towards the sky. Sit up as tall as possible. Keep your chin tucked and your nose parallel to the ground.
- Take deep breaths.
- Inhale: Fill your lungs with oxygen. Expand your belly, then your rib cage, then your chest.
- Exhale: Allow your chest to drop first, feel your rib cage condense, and draw your belly in towards your spine.
Being mindful means doing one thing at a time and focusing on just the one task in front of you. Many of us are under the assumption that we are able to multitask when there are actually fewer than 1% of us who are able to multitask successfully.
I challenge you to work on one thing at a time. I challenge you to park farther away than you typically do and enjoy the walk to wherever you are going. What are you thinking? What do you see? Feel? Hear? Smell?
I challenge you to put everything else away and listen to your family, friends, co-workers, and kids. Or start a conversation with a stranger. You’ll find something you have in common and appreciate the little things.
Smile often. Start small. Try meditating for one minute and then work your way up. With time, you’ll see results.
Amy Hartmann Garner, M.Ed, RYT-200, is a behavior support teacher and a registered yoga teacher at Eanes ISD in Austin, TX. Follow her on Twitter: @amyhgarner.
Thanks for sharing!