This week I worked with students in the Mosaic program with Kim Leddy and Steve Shapiro. We wanted to provide students with an introduction to mindfulness and mindful creativity while also introducing the themes of transformation, identity and change.
Before I came into the classroom, Kim and Steve had used a variation on this mindfulness lesson (originally for teachers and staff) to introduce neuroplasticity and mindfulness to students. In the lesson, they also had students write metaphors for their brains. Student responses ranged from “a runaway train” to “Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
This lesson prepared students by providing opportunities to think about what their brain is like now, and what they might want it to be like in the future with the understanding that they can make changes with focused attention. It was a great lead in to some creative, messy work.
“For just that moment of speaking, whatever you say is there, briefer even than the taste of gelato or the light on the frescoes at San Marco.”
– Angie Estes, “Want” in Poets on the Psalms
A most powerful insight that has developed for me over time is this: words, rituals, do in fact have power over humanity- power to heal and power to transform- perhaps only in the moment, perhaps over a lifetime.
I recently wrote about the power of ritual to harness our both intention and attention toward honoring the moments of our lives. Because this topic of ritual has been on my mind, I used the inspiration to create a writing prompt for my writers group made of amazing women whom I know through either the Columbus Area Writing Project or the Pages program.
“Having a creative classroom means that the teacher takes risks on a daily basis and encourages his/her students to do the same.”
—Pann Baltz, 1993 ATA Teacher of the Year as quoted in The Creative Classroom Project by Harvard’s Project Zero
On the last day of the Pages teacher workshop on Mindful Creativity, we spent some time talking about how mindfulness can be implemented in the classroom. There was some talk about the specific strategies, but what I ultimately ended up coming back to was: do it yourself. In order to teach mindfulness, it begins with experiencing the practice, benefits and struggles as a personal experience.
This is the one thing I liked most when I first started researching the teaching of mindfulness: part of teaching it, the main part, is doing it. Mindfulness is about transforming personal experience. Facilitating the process in others strengthens my own understanding of what it means to be present and to connect. In my opinion, and in the opinion of other experts whom I have read, this is really the way it is supposed to work.
“I now know that I don’t know what any particular tree will look like without first seeing it, and even then it is likely to be more than I see.”
-Ellen Langer, Mindful Creativity
A few weeks ago, I went camping with my kids and husband. Previously, I have been reluctant to engage in such endeavors because:
- I loathe and fear mosquitoes
- I am a little weird about how I sleep (fan must be on, three pillows must be available and placed in specific places, must have something to cover my face while I sleep etc.)
- It has given me a bad case of my own version of FOMO (fear of missing out) which I shall call FOBU (fear of being unnecessarily uncomfortable);
This last fear is not unwarranted. On one of the few experiences I have of camping with my husband and oldest son, we decided to camp on the beach. Idealization of this included romantic beachside campfires at night, stumbling out of the tent into the water by day. Reality of this: immediate sunburn followed by no shade available ever, massive swarms of aggressive insects in the single available restroom, sand everywhere…everywhere… all the time.
However, over the last year I have come to appreciate and crave my time in nature, and I wanted the opportunity to share this time with my family, to stretch our range of experiences, to revel in the natural silences of outdoor spaces. For all of these reasons, I got over my hang ups and decided to go camping.
In my role as Educator-in-Residence in the wonderful and amazing Pages program with the inspirational Dionne Custer-Edwards I have been teaching Mindful Creativity. We began on day one with an introduction to mindfulness, and I received some good questions from teachers about personal mindful practice, implementing mindfulness for students in the classroom, and how to talk to people about mindfulness in order to build more acceptance. Here are some questions from teachers and the responses I gave with links for further information.