Written by: Angela Martin
When I thought about where to start with a blog on mindfulness I had so many thoughts and ideas racing through my mind. There are so many amazing aspects and so many super awesome things I want to share with anyone that is interested in learning more about it. The journey starts with a single step and we will get there; we have so much time to learn and grow together.
Beginnings. I think this is where we start. We are getting ready to begin and we are beginning with some very big changes and some very intense emotions about the beginning of this school year. We have thoughts and feelings about how we did not get to end the school year the way that we wanted, we have anxiety and worry about how this school year will start, and worries about how we can keep everyone safe as we reopen our schools and welcome our students back for the 2020/2021 school year.
I am experiencing excitement about returning to school. I miss the students and my colleagues tremendously. I have agnonized about kids being without schools for so many months. I have been experiencing feelings of being scared. I worry about the health and safety implications that come along with putting all the kids back into school buildings.
How does mindfulness fit into beginnings? Beginnings can be super exciting and super scary so they have big impacts on our brains and bodies. Mindfulness helps to bring an awareness to the experience and a means to slow down, to notice, to pause, and then respond to the moments that we will experience with kindness and understanding. One of the greatest things that I have discovered about mindfulness practice is that the essence is beginning and beginning again. We have the choice to begin again every morning and every moment.
That is amazing and powerful.
When I think about mindfulness I think about formal and informal practice. As I continue to grow in my formal and informal practice I have more awareness in the moments. I can say that I have more moments that I am able to pause and not just react and that alone has had a HUGE impact on my personal and professional life. Now, there are certainly times I do not meet moments with a pause and skillful response and instead I react to the stimulus I have encountered. Those moments are beginning less and I think that is super important and really awesome! I can look back and say oh wow when that happened you really reacted and then this was the result. I wonder if something like that happens again if you pause and take a breath if you will be able to respond to that moment with kindness and be more intentional with how you respond if you will get a better result.
How will you choose to begin this year? How will you choose to meet the moments that arise during the day?
The invitation is for you to begin. I invite you to notice and meet moments with kindness and curiosity. I invite you to be gentle with yourself and those around you and know we are all somewhere on the continuum of beginnings. I invite you to take a step forward with mindfulness if it speaks to you. Begin each day with a few moments to connect with yourself; set intentions and check in with those intentions and just notice with kindness where you are and where you want to be. Take little moments during your day to pause and check in with yourself and just notice your thoughts and feelings. When you feel your mind racing and your blood pressure rising notice it, acknowledge it, and take a pause.
A calm and regulated adult is the most powerful intervention. Mindfulness is a practice that I have seen and heard work for many, including myself, to become more aware of how we meet life’s moments including the super difficult moments.
Written by: Meg Amundsen
What mindfulness means to me:
As a therapist, I was first exposed to mindfulness in the early 2000’s as I started to learn about a particular form of therapy called DBT(Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). Mindfulness is an important part of this type of therapy. As I learned more about what it meant to be mindful, I realized how incredibly helpful mindfulness skills could be for the adolescents that I work with or for any adolescent or individual for that matter. I also realized how incredibly important and helpful mindfulness could be for me personally as a human, a therapist, a friend, spouse, and parent.
As I learned about mindfulness, I realized that I already had some of the practices in place but did not really have a word for it. Having a word for it was helpful because sometimes when I was being mindful, I felt like I was just being lazy. My internal self talk was telling me that I really should be getting things done or be more productive. The more I learned about mindfulness, I realized that I was getting things done by taking time to just be and practicing stillness. In our busy world it is very easy to get caught up in the busyness and to function on autopilot instead of really being present in our lives, in our moments. It is in those moments of mindfulness when we allow our brains to make connections between all of the things that are going on in our lives. Have you ever noticed that you come up with some of your best ideas in the shower or driving in the car? Those are some of the rare times that we allow ourselves to just be.
When we notice things using our five senses we are building up our mindfulness muscle the same way that we want to develop our physical muscles. When we take the time to notice the way the sunrise looks in the morning, or the warmth of the sun on our skin, the sound of the birds outside, the taste of our food or the softness of a blanket that we snuggle with we are doing one of the most important things that we can do. Learning about mindfulness gave me permission to just be and some science for why just being was beneficial for me and others that I interact with.
When I was first introduced to mindfulness and started to do some activities with the adolescents that I worked with at the time, I realized the importance of practicing the activities myself with the adolescents and how beneficial that was. We could joke with each other about how some stuff feels cheesy or awkward at first. It made the experience more authentic for both the adolescents and myself. They were more willing to try the activities as I role modeled and even acknowledged some of my own awkwardness with the activities. I think that as people are beginning to practice mindfulness activities they tend to think there is an absolute set way to be mindful, and it is something that they have to get better at or do the right way. I love that there really is not a right way to be mindful. I think that mindfulness is a personal journey for each individual. I think there are such diverse ways that a person can be mindful that you can tailor it to your personality. What works for one person might not really do it for another person.
I would encourage anyone that is interested in mindfulness to get connected with others as you start your mindfulness journey. It has been really fun for me to find a group of individuals that were passionate about mindfulness right here in our school district. In 2017, a group of individuals that were passionate about mindfulness developed the district mindfulness district team. The goal of the mindfulness district team was to spread the word about the benefits of mindfulness to staff and eventually to students and families within our school district. We did a book study together and took some courses through mindful schools. Having a network of people that are also passionate about mindfulness has only increased my passion for mindfulness.