Tuesday Musings

Finishing up a Year of Mindfulness

Starting last summer at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center‘s Summer Institute on Social Emotional Learning for Educators (yes, I know it is a mouthful!), I began working with mindfulness practices – for myself, and later with my students and also the faculty on my campus. It has been a wonderful year! Today is our final faculty gathering – a lunch to celebrate all we’ve accomplished this year. The focus was on building community, wellness, and helping us tap back into the enthusiasm we had when we began teaching… what’s meaningful for us in this work…

We met every 2 weeks over the lunch hour for the academic year and tried something new each session, using activities at GGSC and other things including meditating with music, art, and movement. We took a field trip together for a buddhist meditation day to hear Tara Brach, and invited speakers from Canada and Philadelphia to speak to us about mindfulness and well-being in higher education (Thanks Jill Grose, Paula Gardner, and Robin Boudette!) One session we spent in pairs, strolling together talking in the woods – this being such an odd site apparently, that security stopped by to find out what these faculty members were doing – lol!!! We wrote intentions on garden stones to carry in our pockets for the semester, and some of us joined a weight loss challenge in order to get healthy.

In my college reading class, we practiced mindfulness in many different ways as a supplement and support to aid studying, focus, and emotional health while learning. I incorporated it both fall and spring semesters (with a little trepidation) but in the end, survey results showed 100% of students found value in the practice and voted to “keep it” as part of the class.

I’ve been able to share this with different audiences this year – students and faculty from local and regional campuses, graduate education students at their orientation meeting, and soon to my own group of instructional designers, looking at how this fits into course design, beyond delivery of content.

What did I learn/gain from this year? Personally, I gained so much… peace of mind and heart, a renewed enthusiasm for my work with faculty, a promise to take better care of myself, and confidence in using the techniques with students. I lost 11 pounds, my cholesterol went down 40 points and my triglycerides are back in the normal range. I got a FitBit and started moving every hour from my computer- even if I have to march at my desk during online meetings. I have become an advocate for slowing down the frenzy, saying “no” to overwork and meaningless tasks, challenging assumptions about what work should look and feel like, thinking about my teaching(and professional life) in a more holistic fashion – head, heart, body!

I can say that last year at this time, I was as close to burnout as I could get – unhealthy, unhappy…and this year, as we prepare to close out the year, I am profoundly grateful to my colleagues (Kerry, Fred, Noel, Mike, Annie, Jane, Barb, and Harry) and students for helping to make this experience possible – What a joy to have done it together! What will next year bring? I’m not sure yet – I want to stop and just enjoy this moment, right now…Breathe…

13 Responses to “Finishing up a Year of Mindfulness”

  1. Jennifer Kesler

    I love this slice! I have been toying with the idea of mindfulness and learning more about it. You have definitely pushed me more in that direction. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. scs15

    It was a great year, Jennifer – I wish you luck and hope you get a chance to do it! Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  3. Shelly

    Congratulations on your year! I started yoga this year and recently began adding mindfulness into my day. It does make such a difference!

    Reply
  4. Barbara Suter

    A year of mindfulness is a year more than well spent, and it sounds like you have the results to prove it. I am captivated by your idea and hope to apply it some way in my world. Connecting with other educators while practising mindfulness makes so much sense it’s a wonder no one ever thought of it sooner. Kudos to you and your team for setting such an intriguing and exciting example.

    Reply
  5. Maribeth Batcho

    Great piece about a much needed and often misunderstood topic. For almost all of my career, I have used various principles of mindfulness with the elementary students that I have worked with. From breathing to visualizing to yoga to meditation to read aloud, the possibilities and applications and benefits are endless. I have not yet completed the yearly course for educators but follow and read many of the authors in the field. I have completed the course for adults. Best course I have ever taken in my life. I hope your students take with them what they learned and apply the practice to other areas of their lives. It is truly remarkable the difference this can make for our world…

    Reply
  6. scs15

    Thanks for sharing your experience Maribeth! I knew k-12 was way ahead of us on this topic. It is so hopeful that you are giving kids this so early on. Your students are so lucky to have you! Keep up this tremendous work!

    Reply
  7. Suzanne

    Great post. I love how you showed the positive effects of mindfulness on so many aspects of your life. I believe just starting SOL has increased my mindfulness and I know it is something I want to pursue further.

    Reply
  8. Amelia

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with mindfulness practices. Some colleagues and I have been talking about taking this on next year, you are an inspiration.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Thanks Amelia and Suzanne…I encourage you to take the next step from wherever your current position may be. It was great to do it with students and colleagues as well! Who deserves it more ?! ?

    Reply
  10. Ramona

    Love the learning you shared in this post. Now I’m off to check out the resources at GGSC. Wonderful results from your year of mindfulness. You’re an inspiration.

    Reply
  11. scs15

    Good luck, Ramona – I think you’ll love the things at GGSC – so nice to feel more in control of our own happiness. I love the work in positive psychology by Martin Seligman et al at U. of Penn, too – the work on optimism and resilience is also powerful! Enjoy your journey!

    Reply

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