How am I going to transition to the next lesson? What’s that smell? What am I going to have the kids who finish early do until the bell rings? Do you think any of them actually like this book? I hope our staff meeting doesn’t go long; I’ve got to get home to my puppy before she pees the crate. Man, she’s a cute puppy. I wonder if people would pay just to rent her for an hour. Seriously, what’s that smell? Did someone fart? Is it me? Oh [expletive], did I forget to put on deodorant!? No . . . I’m good. What’s the best question to ask when they’re done reading – y’know one of those “Mind: BLOWN” questions? Where should I stand as they read. Should I be moving around the room? But not too much . . . because then they’ll get distracted. Am I doing too many exit tickets? I need to get an air freshener.
Welcome to one-minute in my mind as I teach. It’s a frantic, chaotic cluster. It’s a human brain, I assure you. And, I bet your human brain isn’t much different.
Our minds are a flurry of thoughts in any given second. Whether it’s prepping our next spoken sentence or planning our week’s errands, we often live everywhere but the present moment. Not only do we have a knack for thinking ahead, but as teachers, planning ahead is our job.
But, what if our habit of frantic fretting makes us less effective, less happy, and less resilient to burn-out?
What we need, perhaps more than a shot of espresso to the veins, is a habit of mindfulness. We need to give ourselves permission to just be present in the moment, to be conscious of the life we are living, and to not worry about the thirty-thousand things that must be done this day.
If you’ve been following the world of psychology lately, you’ll recognize this idea as the booming concept of mindfulness. Mounds of research show that mindfulness practice and interventions help reduce stress, increase focus, improve self-regulation, and even improve relationship satisfaction (click here or here for some more articles about the subject).
So, how do we make mindfulness happen without adding another strategy on our plate? Two easy steps.
Step 1: Your Mindfulness Life Hack: Conscious breathing
Before I introduce mindfulness to students, I ask them to share what comes to mind when they hear the word. Typical responses include:
– Sitting cross-legged in front of burning incense;
– Bald dudes in robes worshipping a bald dude named Buddha;
– Airy music and waterfalls;
– Chanting “OM”;
– Getting high (Note: this answer comes up from my students regardless of the question).
One of the biggest misconceptions of mindfulness is that it has to be anchored into a ritualized religion, practiced in communes with patchouli wafting in the air. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.
The simplest way to practice mindfulness and become present is to simply notice your breathing. That’s it. Breathe in, paying attention to your body and your surroundings. Breathe out, still paying attention to your body and surroundings. Done.
Thich Nhat Hahn, a mindfulness maestro, concurs in No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering when he writes,
“The way we start producing the medicine of mindfulness is by stopping and taking a conscious breath, giving our complete attention to our in-breath and our out-breath . . . The great news is that oneness of body and mind can be realized just by one in-breath.”
You can make it more symbolic, more spiritual, more specific if you’d like, but you don’t have to.