A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
I have always loved this ancient Chinese Proverb, as it inspires me to take those steps- to go for things that seem difficult or impossible.....But today, as I sit here reflecting on how my mindfulness journey began these were the first words that came to mind. Because this is what my blog is all about, it's about the beauty of my mindfulness adventure and about how small changes have led and will lead to big shifts with mindfulness practice.
This blog is about the steps I have taken and have yet to take in finding my life purpose. It's about our connections to humanity. It's about our mentors, teachers, authors, friends, students, and of course family that teach us lessons every day- if we choose to truly learn. This blog is about how mindfulness,for me, has been a powerful and practical tool for my brain and the light that illuminates all the beauty in my world.
We often we don't realize the day that our true exploration begins. There is no pop up sign that says, "Hey go this way towards a happier you!" For me, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason...and looking back I smile as I see that all the seemingly random things that brought me to this place were not random at all.
A few years ago my principal had asked us to read John Gordon's inspirational book, The Energy Bus. The book inspired many of us on campus to see the effects of negativity and the power of positive interactions with colleagues, students, and all in our life. So, from then on I followed Jon Gordon's tweets.
I don't want to bore you with all the steps and twists and turn but to show the pattern of how all the positive things going on in my life led to this point today- to me is worth sharing. It's as if each little step had purpose and only now can I see the power of each decision.
So, I read about his amazing idea where you pick one word to define your intentions for your year... In John Gordon's book, One Word That Can Change Your Life he and his co authors Dan Britton and Jimmy Page outline this in more detail, but I am sorry to admit I never did read the book. But, from tweets and book reviews I got that this simple idea was something worth trying! The idea was that one word intentions vs a new year's resolution were more likely to inspire true change. It seemed that the authors of this movement had statistics and research to prove their suggestions. I was drawn to the thought that one word one idea could have the power to guide your year. Having taken yoga for years it reminded me of setting your intentions in a yoga class. I loved it and immediately shared it with friends and my students. So, last January I assigned my students to choose one word for their year and joined them...
The one word I chose was mindfulness.
Yes, I had heard of mindfulness for a while but I will admit, beyond the definition (which I found on Instagram) did not know much about mindfulness or what it involved. At that time I was attracted to the idea of presence, of calm, of peace....and although I had no idea what mindfulness really entailed I chose the word.
The funny thing for me now that I know that Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of Mindfulness Based Research is that I chose exactly the right definition. But, at that time I thought I knew what it meant....but truly those words today mean so much more than they did then. It would some time before I began to pull back the layers to see the true power of Kabat-Zinn's life changing idea.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn , "mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally."
Little did I know that this would be the single most important shift of my entire life. So I wrote down my word, "Mindfulness" and I hung it on the wall with my students' one word intentions for the year....
The next day, I talked with my best friend Mindy, a teacher who lived hundreds of miles away in northern California, about my one word activity in my class and the lesson. Mindy teaches 5th grade and I thought she would love it for her students too. As always after I gushed with excitement and shared my word for the year Mindy had something to share with me too. What Mindy said literally launched my mindfulness journey...She told me about mindfulness lessons and teachers trained in mindfulness education in her school and in her school district. She explained that several devastating teen suicides in their community had led her school district to respond by implementing mindfulness programs for their students. We talked about the stress on students today - the pressures we both saw working in top ten districts in our state. We talked about the beauty and power of training teachers to support students in understanding their emotions and their lives through a program that brings emotional and physical awareness. We talked about the hope that this type of program could bring to our schools and to our lives. Although I still did not understand fully the power of mindfulness after that I began my research.
My next door, truly the biggest and most foundational step so far, opened it was Mindfulschools.org.
I reached out and contacted the organization I was fortunate to be connected with a kind, friendly, and positive woman who helped me sign up for the program and was eager and supportive to see me bring mindfulness in education to our school district. I contacted my mentor and district administrator Joan and Michelle to let them know my new plans and they were excited to see my learning began. I signed up for the foundations in mindfulness class...and truly this is where the REAL story begins.
I will post in much more detail later on the lessons learned from this vital first step in my mindfulness training- as I truly believe that any educator or actually human could and will benefit from this class. '
This is where it all began for me. It was like taking a class on being human. I had read books for years, heard speakers, seen therapists, and not one of those experiences taught me the simplicity and the power of a mindfulness practice on our brains...and on being me. This class literally brought it all together. I am sure that if one found a book on mindfulness, and there are some amazing books out there- that you could find a different way to this same experience- but for me this class- the way it was presented- the process and the reflections changed the way I will see the world and life forever.
It was if every lesson from great mental health or spiritual authors Brene Brown, to Elie Weisel, to Buddha, to Jesus, to Confucius to Socrates finally made sense to me. It was the key - the tool box I needed to implement anything. It was the "how to" of implementing any change in my life, in my classroom, and in my home.....
Based on how our brain works neurologically- mindfulness teaches us that daily mindful practice changes something chemically- physically- in our brain that grows the control we need to find ways to truly enjoy life to a fuller extent.
Mindful living, beyond daily practice, brings awareness to our emotions, to what we see, hear, physically feel, and what we are responding to. It brings an authentic power to choose how we react to anything that comes our way...and in the times we do not choose our response mindfully, mindfulness gives us the ability to reflect on our decisions to truly learn from mistakes.