Category Archives: Yoga

Meditation and Mindfulness Continue to Spread

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Meditation and Mindfulness Continue to Spread

Following up on my recent post about mindfulness and meditation in schools, here are some more stories to document their continued spreading through the educational system.

Mindfulness in Hamilton County schools: A significant step toward creating a wiser generation

Hamilton County School System literacy coach Jennifer Knowles followed the signs: a conversation about yoga, another about a mindfulness app, reconnecting with an old friend and a personal desire to more fully experience the present moment. It all led her to a new “secret passion” of teaching mindfulness at a couple of local public schools.

Smiling minds at Sebastopol Primary

Sebastopol Primary School pupils all have Smiling Minds this year. Every day, between lunch and maths classes, all the pupils and teachers spend six minutes doing mindfulness exercises via the popular Smiling Minds app. Stretched out on the classroom floor, the pupils do deep breathing and relaxation exercises which principal Michelle Wilson said promoted clearer thinking and calmer playground conflict resolution.

Health Watch: Mindfulness in the classroom

Mindfulness and meditation techniques are being used in schools across the country. A recent study by the University of California-Davis and the non-profit organization, Mindful Schools, shows mindfulness triples students’ ability to focus and participate in class activities. It’s not a big deal to see fourth graders meditating and kindergarteners practicing mindful breathing at a mindful elementary school. Every class here has students doing the same thing. Heidi Palmiero-Potter, a 4th Grade Teacher at Harris Hill Elementary School in Buffalo, New York admits students, “They’re less impulsive with each other, they think about their words before they speak so it definitely spills to into the daily routines.”

Mindfulness@Umich is a program that is available to all University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff. The sessions are 30 minutes long, flexible, and free. 
The sessions are led by a group of students and staff who have received training to lead the 30 minute sessions. They also have personal practices.The meditations are guided (which means there will be speaking throughout the meditation) and they last for 25 minutes. We typically sit in chairs. We often end the practice with a short metta or gratitude meditation. At the very end of the session, we’ll spend a few minutes talking about issues that may have arisen in your meditation, recent research, or ways to practice outside of the session.

Here’s how you can inspire your children to meditate

These days, children engage in a variety of things. Besides studies, kids are also into a number of other extracurricular activities and this leaves them with little or no time to relax and play. In order to help children to cope with the mounting pressures of being in a competitive world, parents must inspire them to meditate. Meditation has healing qualities both mentally and physically. If the habit of regular meditation is inculcated in children, then they evolve better and this helps them in the long run too.

Practicing mindfulness in the classroom at Northeastern University

On Monday, students buzzed into C. Sara L. Minard’s “Impact Investing and Social Finance” class and chatted animatedly about the Super Bowl the night before, or opened their laptops to dash off an email, or scrolled through their smartphones. It was a scene perhaps familiar to anyone who’s spent time in a university classroom. But then something different happened. Minard, executive professor in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, quietly raised her hand to signal the attention of her class and said in a conversational tone, “Let’s anchor ourselves. Feel your feet rooted into the earth, feel your wing bones on the back of your chair, and we’ll start when you hear the gong.” Her class, noisy and active a moment earlier, fell quiet, as students closed their eyes and breathed deeply. A gong sounded quietly from Minard’s phone, thus beginning the five minutes of mindfulness that Minard leads at the start of each of her classes.

 

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Mindfulness, Meditation, and Tech

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I am apt to agree with those who believe that a lot of the technology that we have access to these days directly feed the human inclination for mindlessness. That being said, I do enjoy a bit of mindlessness most days by playing card games on my phone. Like most things, mindlessness is not harmful in moderation.

In a similar vein, it would be an overstatement to say that technology is inherently bad for living a mindful, meditative life. Increasingly, I am seeing the development of apps intended to be a support to practicing mindfulness and meditation. This blog post shares a handful that I have seen recently, beginning with the new operating system for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 2 review: Water-resistance feature, mindfulness app, built-in GPS working great – the original reminds you to get up and move around; the update reminds you to take time to breathe.

This appears to be the approach that many of the apps are taking – that of the alarm clock that reminds you to be mindful, to breathe, to spend some time quietly. Many of us have found ways to do this without an app – setting the alarms on our phones and watches to go off periodically, wearing a red rubber band on our wrists, or putting visual cues where we are like to encounter them (for many years I have had a piece of paper tacked to my office wall, simply saying, “Breathe” – simple, but effective). So, if you can find an app that makes it easier to establish a routine and you don’t have to pay for it (certainly not true in the case of the Apple Watch), why not give them a try?

See also: Can an app help us find mindfulness in today’s busy high-tech world?

The Best Health & Fitness Apps for the New Apple Watch Update

The buddhify app can help you to meditate on a busy schedule – not a free app, but one that I have found personally useful for integrating meditation throughout my busy daily schedule. That is another clear objective of many of the apps – helping you shoehorn your practice into your life. I like to call that seeding: if you continually sprinkle mindfulness and meditation throughout your day, it eventually takes root and becomes an integral part of your day.

Beyond Movement: The New Wave of Wearables Track Mindfulness

3-Minute Mindfulness App

Mindfulness App

Pocket Yoga App

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Dharma Digest, Vol. 1, No. 1

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A collection of recent posts on the Dharma Beginner page at www.facebook.com/dharmabegin

Laissez-Faire v. Micromanagement

“Life is a thing that mutates without warning, not always in enviable ways. All part of the improbable adventure of being alive, of being a brainy biped with giant dreams on a crazy blue planet.” – Diane Ackerman

Achieving a balance between laissez-faire and micromanagement is tricky. We accept that change is a fact of life, inevitable, and remind ourselves that the more detailed the plan we construct, the more likely it is to go awry. A life that follows strictly along a meticulously laid out plan is illusory.

Some degree of planning and preparation is necessary, though, isn’t it? Eating healthy requires real planning, I find. Being a vegetarian adds to the challenge. So where do we draw the line between obsessive attempts to control life and flitting about on the wind without any direction?

Perhaps it is at the point, still hard to discern, when “planning” one’s life becomes “attempting to control” it. (I say attempting, because I don’t believe we ever reach a point at which we are truly in control of life.) The practice I try to embrace is “flexible” planning—don’t make your plans rigid, but leave room for the unexpected (which, if past is prologue, really should be expected) and be ready to adjust. Expect things not to turn out as planned. Or, minimize your expectations, and thereby minimize disappointment. Not always easy for me to accomplish, but I’m working on it.

The Common Thread

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” – George Bernard Shaw

I have long held an ecumenical view of religion, and never believed that my religion was any better than anyone else’s. My belief was that god, the higher power, whatever you call it, manifested itself differently to different people, in ways that were meaningful and understandable to them. But underlying all of the surface differences, they were constructed on the same basic foundation.

True, in their attempts to live out their religions, some people go astray and lose sight of the sameness of everyone, the inextricable connectedness of all beings. That does not, however, diminish the fundamental similarities of the various religions as they were originally conceived. One may try to establish that their way is the right way, their view is the correct view, but the things they do to distinguish themselves, to make themselves appear unique, in my opinion lead them away from the universal shared values of love and compassion.

Flexibility of Mind, Body and Spirit

“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” – Everett McKinley Dirksen

A yoga teacher was making a point about achieving balance by keeping flexibility and ease in poses, and avoiding rigidity. While the students were in tree pose (standing on one leg, other leg bent at the knee with the sole of the foot against the upper thigh of the standing leg, arms raised straight above the head), the teacher wandered the room, lightly poking the students on the shoulder. The students that were rigid, with locked knees and clenched jaws and gritted teeth, would teeter and drop out of the pose. The students that maintained ease in their pose, who were not overly rigid, teetered…but then regained their balance.

Have you ever been in a tall building and felt it sway? If buldings were not designed with flexibility that allows them to move in the wind, they would risk collapse. It’s not much different with us. If we go through life inflexible, unable to deal with anything less than our imagined ideal, we are destined for pain, suffering, and eventually collapse. The ability to adapt to the vicissitudes of life, to “roll with the punches,” to “bend in the breeze,” is essential to the presence of mind needed to progress toward enlightenment.

Human-ness and Saintliness

I read a quotation from the Dalai Lama’s brother about the Dalai Lama’s fascination with technology and invention as a child. His brother said the Dalai Lama’s favorite invention was super glue, second only to the invention of the stuff that removes super glue.
Reading that, I was reminded of the thing I love most about His Holiness: his human-ness. He is, without a doubt, an incredibly special person. And he is just a person, like you and me. He often refers to himself as just a simple monk, which he really and truly is. And yet, he also is so much more.

Two of my great spiritual inspirations have been Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day. Obviously, they were two amazing people. But what first attracted me to them was how they were both very human, with all the frailties that come with being human. I read each of their autobiographies (The Seven Storey Mountain and The Long Loneliness, respectively; I highly recommend them) as a young man and was amazed by how flawed Thomas and Dorothy were, how matter-of-factly ordinary, how much like everybody else. Their extraordinary accomplishments and the example they set for me were all the more remarkable in light of their human-ness. I couldn’t believe that these amazing, saintly people were little different from me. That never fails to encourage me

All gestures great and small

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Who could fail to be impressed by the $10 billion donation made by Bill and Melinda Gates to fund the development of vaccines for AIDS, TB, pneumonia, and other illnesses? Even for someone as wealthy as the Gates, that is an inspiring act of charity and compassion.

You know what inspires me even more?

  • The person who bends over to pick up the umbrella dropped by a frail, elderly woman in the supermarket, handing it to her with a smile that fairly well beamed, “I’d be happy to pick it up again 100 more times.”
  • The person who overhears an offhand remark about some item a coworker needs, leaves the office to obtain the item, and places it on the coworker’s desk without a word and, seemingly, without a second thought as to whether anyone would know what she did or whether she would ever be thanked for it.
  • The person who sits at an empty table in the lunch room, rather than at the last open seat at another table, so that the next person to arrive would not have to sit alone.
  • The person who risks the wrathful horns of the line cars behind her in order to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
  • The man in the business suit who stops to help the stranded driver change a flat tire.

I don’t have any links to offer that lead to CNN coverage of those everyday acts of love. Look around and see them for yourself, taking place right before your eyes, “live on the scene,” so to speak.

This morning in yoga class, I unrolled my mat next to the pole in the middle of the studio. I’ve never seen the 8 am Sunday class so packed, and was grateful for it. The more people following this practice I so love, the happier I am.

Fifteen minutes into the class, though, after repeatedly hitting the pole with my hand, then contorting to avoid hitting said pole at the beginning and end of each sun salutation, my focus was shredding and I momentarily considered rolling up my mat and leaving. Mirijana is one of my favorite yoga teachers (at Club Fit or anywhere else), in no small part because of her gentle attentions and kindnesses as she wanders the studio. (Maybe it’s just me, but I tingle when, deep in a pose, I hear my yoga teacher softly say, “Beautiful.”)

Mirijana quickly noticed my distress and suddenly a fellow practitioner in front of me was offering to switch places. Gratitude welled up at her gesture, and continues to warm my heart and lump my throat at this very moment. I’m unsure of her name (Sue, maybe?), am certain that she does not know mine, and therefore am all the more touched. It was evident after class, as I thanked her repeatedly, that her offer of her uncluttered patch of hardwood in exchange for my metal pole was made without hesitation. I have no doubt that she would have done the same for anyone, perhaps completely unaware of just how loving and compassionate she was being.

Five minutes after changing places, I was in triangle pose, my focus returning, big smile spreading across my face. I can’t imagine I smiled any bigger when I heard about the Gates’ big donation.