Introduction to Mindfulness
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is the “awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
Mindfulness can be thought of a “state,” a “trait” or a “practice.” You can have a moment of mindfulness, which is the state of your mind. But you can also have a sustained experience that is more like a habit or strong tendency to be mindful (trait). Or you can engage in a more intentional practice of mindfulness by using different forms, postures and activities, such as seated mindfulness meditation, mindful walking, and mindful eating.
Why practice mindfulness?
In this community, many of us are exploring mindfulness because we’re excited to share mindfulness with our students – but we wouldn’t ask our students to do something we haven’t tried ourselves.
Mindfulness can support and sustain you as an educator, by helping you manage the stress of today’s world and giving you new abilities to benefit others. In fact, a guiding principle in the Mindful Schools community is the idea that our own self-care, self-awareness and personal mindfulness practice serves as the essential model for our students – even before your formally teach mindfulness to them.
Mindfulness has been shown to have a positive impact on stress, attention, and even relationships. The American Psychological Association shares research on a range of benefits of mindfulness, including: stress reduction, boosts to working memory, focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, relation satisfaction, and other benefits.
Watch and listen to how these students explain what mindfulness means to them.
The experience of mindfulness is something that is available to you in every moment of the day. But it can be very helpful to set aside a specific time to practice mindful meditation, mindful walking, or a body scan. When mindfulness becomes a “practice,” you’ll notice that mindful moments begin to occur more frequently throughout your day –– like taking a moment to pause and breathe before rushing into the kitchen to make your first cup of coffee!
You can listen to these guided mindfulness practices to get an introduction of how to practice mindfulness through breathing, body scan, and walking.
Mindfulness of the Breath
Awareness of the breath is one of the foundational exercises for learning mindfulness meditation. It’s a popular starting point because the breath is something you can always access. It serves as a valuable anchor for other mindfulness practices.
The body scan is a simple, structured way of bringing consciousness to different parts of the body. The body scan can be very useful as a grounding mechanism when facing strong emotions, or if you’re having trouble stabilizing awareness on the breath or body.
Mindfulness of Walking
Walking mindfully cultivates awareness of your body while it is in motion. Mindful walking can help to increase your energy level if you are tired or restless, and it can also add variety if you are doing longer periods of seated practice. It’s also useful because directing attention to walking, and even standing, is something you can do throughout the day.
Establishing a Regular Practice
Mindful Summer is a simple way to support you to have a regular daily practice. For even the most experienced mindfulness practitioners, having a daily practice can be challenging, so it helps to be able to do it together with others. Here are a few helpful tips to get started.
Set an intention. A regular practice is supported by setting an intention and then remembering to come back to it frequently over time. In this way, you can gently remind yourself of why you are practicing.
Designate a place to practice. Your practice should happen in a place that is quiet and peaceful. Take time to set yourself up, creating a beautiful, calm environment that you will want to be in. Finding the right chair or cushion, the right light and sound levels and temperature is important. You can use a timer app and guided meditation, or just use a clock or bell to time yourself.
Set aside time. How much time you set aside for your practice is up to you. The most important thing is to start with setting an intention to practice, and as much as possible, sticking with it. If for some reason you forget, or are not able to practice that day, no problem, just start again and remember to do this without judging yourself. We recommend starting with 15 minutes a day. But even 1 minute is better than none, and if that’s all you have in the day, that’s ok!
Pair your practice with something or someone! One way to establish a daily practice is to pair your practice with something you won’t forget to do. You can choose to practice right before you eat breakfast, right after lunch, on the train to work, or right before you go to sleep. Or practice with a friend or colleague at the same time every day – just like a team, finding the encouragement and support from peers can help you stay motivated.
Find mindful moments. It’s also important to remember that your mindfulness practice is not limited to the times when you can sit quietly. A moment of mindfulness is any time during your day that you notice your state of mind, or when you remember to pause before responding, or when you check in with yourself and sense your breath moving through the body. A regular practice allows for more of these mindful moments to arise in the context of your daily life.
Start this week by picking a time, putting it in your calendar, and doing one of the three guided practices above. A mindful practice looks different for everyone, so be generous with yourself and give yourself permission to explore and experiment.
We are excited to be able to share more ways of practicing together with you throughout the summer!
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out our Mindfulness Fundamentals course.
Founded in 2007, Mindful Schools trains educators to integrate mindfulness into their work with children. Educators trained by Mindful Schools have impacted over 750,000 students worldwide.