We all want to succeed in school and life. What does it take to slow down the goal-driven life to be in the moment?
The other day I went for a run with our two adorable toddler-like, five-month-old puppies. It was exhilarating, at first. My ponytail bounced with every surging step. The puppies' ears flopped and their tongues hung out as they lunged forward pulling me along for the running ride. It was just what I needed.
One puppy just sat down. In fact, he didn't just sit down. He sat down overlooking an open field raising his snout to the sky taking in all his surroundings. I was annoyed. But not my puppy, he was embracing his environment.
How could he sit at a time like this, we were just getting into the groove? We were in our pace, our peak, our rhythmic flow, and my pulse was keeping cadence with my feet.
My puppy purposefully brought it all to a screeching halt. Why? He was mindful of his needs. He needed a break and he relished the moment of his current surroundings. He sat up in a regal position gazing over bending grass and white crested wavelets in a nearby pond. Then it dawned on me: my puppy was practicing mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
"Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens."
"Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a right or wrong way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future."
What came naturally to my puppy doesn't come naturally to me. I'm goal-driven and task-oriented. Can you relate? I get a runner's high from adrenaline while I run and checking running off my to do list when I finish. Finishing is fabulous and invigorating! It's not the running that I love, it's conquering the run! Now that is worth it!
My puppy had gotten in the way of my task, my conquering, my doing, my going, my focus on the finish line. But...
I learned far more by that sudden stop than I did by crossing the finish line.
As I reflected, I went from being annoyed to being renewed and grateful for the puppy lesson learned.
The interruption reminded me to enjoy the journey. Be mindful in the moments. Stop, pause...
take in the beauty of surroundings. Tune into my feelings and listen to my body. My puppy needed a short break. He listened to his body and obliged while sensing beauty all around.
How often do we get so focused on our tasks that we don't see our students' every need. I know that educators are altruistic and want to meet every need, but unless we are mindful on our teaching journey do we truly see every student's need?
Are we mindful of our own needs? Do we tune in to our body? We can!
Remember that there is joy in the journey. Probably more than the destination. One of our family trips reminded me about the importance of the journey. One summer we took a family road trip from the east coast to the west coast in a minivan. Yep, five people crammed in a minivan for days and days as my husband accelerated across state line to state line. When we began the journey, we were most excited about seeing Mount Rushmore. So much so that one day we drove 19 hours to get to our finish line, the famous monument. We were awestruck for sure. We took pictures of it from every angle possible. We made it! We reached our goal!
As amazing as that moment was, do you know what my family remembers most? You guessed it! The road trip- the journey. Whenever we reminisce about that summer trip, Mount Rushmore doesn't roll off our tongues first. The stench in the van seemed to be a highlight for my boys. (They will forever find a way to weave potty humor into a conversation.) But the journey of driving and driving, talking and talking, eating and eating, and laughing and laughing is vivid. Our family bonded during the journey. It's the journey they remember. So, I'm convinced more than ever that the joy of the journey is far more important than the destination.
It's like that for our students. It's like that for everyone.
The next time a student interrupts a lesson or blurts out an irrelevant fact, remember the joy in the journey. Remember how we treat them and how we bond relationships are branded in their brains and far more important than tasks and amazing lessons. The next time your life gets interrupted, remember to pause and enjoy the excursion.
Let's dial into our journey, embrace it, and be mindful on the way to our goal-driven, task-oriented finish line.
Three reasons mindful pauses help educators
1. Mindfulness helps educators better understand their emotions
Practicing mindfulness can help educators recognize emotional patterns and proactively regulate how we behave, responding in the way we want to rather than reacting automatically. It can also help us to savor the positive moments in our job.
2. Mindfulness helps educators communicate more effectively with colleagues and students
We communicate with clarity and dignity when we stop, pause, and gather thoughts. Think first then speak instead of speak then think. (That usually leads to me putting my foot in my mouth and causing unintended harm to a relationship.) Stopping and thinking produces proactive words opposed to reactive that can wreck a relationship.
3. Mindfulness helps educators cultivate community
Students have a basic need to belong and contribute to a community. We can foster a sense of community by modeling caring and other prosocial behaviors, instituting caring routines, and mindfully listening to our students. When we pause and listen, we will know exactly what our students need. Mindfully and masterfully implement a plan to meet their needs.
When we stop, pause and enjoy the journey, we will be more successful with students, in school and our life.
(and our goals will still get accomplished, but with more happiness and satisfaction.)
Be mindful and cling to memorable moments enjoying the journey.
Just do one thing better today than you did yesterday.
You make a difference!