Mindfulness has become one of my touchstones. Something I rely on and practice almost every day. I came to it about 8 years ago, when it was still on the periphery and not yet the mainstream classroom practice it is today. My district had an intriguing PD offering with our local Mindfulness guru. The description sounded like something I desperately needed in my life-ways to find balance, how to live in the moment, calming techniques, and the added bonus of tips to help my students do the same. Sign me up, coach.
Since then Mindfulness has been a daily practice I share with my students every year. We have specific lessons we do together to begin. First, we practice focusing on our breathing in a variety of ways; we learn about our amygdala and prefrontal cortex and how we can work our brain muscles so we don’t “flip our lids”; we pay attention to how different emotions can bring on physical reactions; we learn how to do a body scan to notice with kindness and curiosity how we are feeling; we practice active listening outside ourselves and inside ourselves; we become very focused on, and notice, the moment we are currently in.
Once the formal lessons are done, we usually practice with different mindful meditations I choose from the Insight Timer app. (Pro Tip: Insight Timer is amazing! It’s free, has the largest community of meditation and inspiration leaders, and has a vast library of meditations to choose from. You should definitely check it out!). I’ve found that my students prefer the music tracks the most, with some nature and ambient sounds mixed in here and there. Some of our favorites are Fata Morgana, Healing Across Dimensions and Gentle Steps. Today we tried a new one called Quietude. It was an instant top ten.
Since I’ve been practicing Mindfulness almost as long as my students have been alive (gasp!), I can usually let my worries about past and future float away and focus solely on the moment. But not today. Quietude lifted me up and took me back in time to a very particular day and a very particular moment.
We were on one of our first long road trips with our then 4 and 6 year-old children. We started out in the small hours of the morning so they would sleep for the first leg of the journey. But, as all parents know, there comes the point where you need to put arrival times and plans on the back burner and just go with the flow. And the flow was not about to allow us to drive any further for the immediate future. We found a small field behind some office buildings in Whatever Town, North Carolina and pulled over. We grabbed the kids’ blankets and our pre-packed dinner and sat down to a makeshift picnic in the field. They stopped for bites of food here and there, but mostly they ran. And laughed. And ran some more. The pure bliss and joy BEAMING from their faces. The warm summer breeze blowing their hair. It’s a memory I’ll never forget and always cherish.
I think I remember these moments so vividly because it was one of those times where we were living exclusively in the moment. We set aside timelines and expectations and just……breathed. Smiled. Laughed. Loved. Mindfulness in action. Mindful memories truly are the very best memories.