A few weeks ago, I enrolled in an online mindfulness course provided by Mindful Schools called Mindfulness Fundamentals. I’ve been super-impressed with the quality of the instruction and resources, and the great job they do fostering a sense of community among the learners enrolled. You can read about my experiences in the first few weeks here:
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Introduction
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Week 1
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Week 2
I'm still on winter break from teaching, but that just means I'm in full-time dad mode for my 9-month-old son! This week, the focus in our Mindfulness Fundamentals course was ‘Mindfulness of Emotions’. I've noticed since becoming a father that I'm a lot more sensitive to my emotions in general, but especially about my son. As coursework, I enjoyed exploring my positive emotions during the time I spent singing him to sleep.
My wife has the magic touch for getting him to pass out, but my job is to walk around carrying him and singing to him to get him to chill out before that. I've been practicing mindful walking, a technique we learned in Week 2 of the course, while pacing back and forth singing, so I decided to focus on my emotions while doing it last week. I know that these moments schlepping him around as a baby will be memories that I'll cherish when he's grown, so I think it's important that I fully immerse myself in the experience with mindfulness.
Amidst all the cuddles and hugs, I had an unexpected encounter with grief during my practice.
I’m always adding new songs to our bedtime ‘playlist’ to keep things interesting and prolong our cuddles. I sing songs that I used to play when I’d jam with my buddies in university, and it's been fun to revisit some oldies with my kid.
The other day, I started to sing 'In My Life' by the Beatles. I got to the line "Some are dead and some are living…" and immediately felt twisting in my guts and heat rising through my chest. I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes and face felt hot. I was remembering my friend Richard.
Richard and I were friends since 9th grade, roommates in university, and jammed in a band together. We saw each other just about every day for over a decade. When we were roomies, we often played songs by David Bowie and the Beatles on our acoustic guitars till late in the night, sitting around in our pajamas eating day-old doughnuts. It sounds silly, but these are some of my best memories of my life in Canada.
Richard passed away last April from liver cancer. From when they discovered the cancer to the time he passed was only about a month, and, since I'm overseas in Korea, I didn't find out until around a week before he died. I couldn’t speak to him or say goodbye since he was on powerful painkillers at the end.
I grieved a bit, but I was finishing my MEd at the time, doing double duty as a teacher and curriculum coordinator at work, and my son was born less than a month later, so I had a lot on the go. Singing that song to my son last week made me think of Richard, and mindfulness helped me to really experience the feelings that came.
Like the mindfulness curriculum advised, I tried to just feel the feelings rather than thinking about them or being taken over by them. I noticed that while I was experiencing the sadness of losing my friend, I was also feeling a lot of positive feelings from holding and singing to my son. It's hard to put into words, but I I felt a feeling of relief and acceptance. It was sad, but nice.
I thought that I'd dealt with my feelings about Richard's death, but this was a new experience and I think that it showed me how practicing mindfulness can enrich and enliven my emotional life. I owe it to the people that I love and the people that I've lost to really feel my feelings about them.
As teachers, we’re lucky to be witnesses to our students as they begin to grow the friendships that will sustain and support them through their lives. We owe it to our students to provide them with the opportunity to celebrate their lives and their friendships when they can, especially in Korea where kids are so busy and have so many responsibilities. The friendships and memories that they make in our classrooms are worth taking the time to nurture.
See you next week with more Mindful Schools reflections!
I recently enrolled in a six-week online mindfulness course called Mindfulness Fundamentals that is provided by a non-profit called Mindful Schools. They hope to share mindfulness tools and information with educators. Check out my other posts about my experiences in this course here, and here.
This week's focus has been on mindfulness of the body. I tend to be pretty disconnected from my body a lot of the time, so this was a good chance to get back in my own skin and pay attention to how my middle-aged body responds to day-to-day life.
I remain really impressed with the quality of the resources provided in this course. The text is insightful and there's a great balance of theoretical and scientific articles, videos of the instructors sharing their personal stories, and hands-on activities. The guided meditation audio files are top notch. I've never liked using recorded audio to meditate in the past, as I always found it distracting and sometimes, kind of cheesy. The Mindful Schools meditations are really well done and down-to-Earth. I actually dozed off during the first body scan, it was so relaxing!
I had a great chance to put some mindful walking into practice last Thursday. I met up with some colleagues from school during our winter break to take a hike through some of the mountains that surround Seoul. We were super lucky to have had a big snowfall the night before our hike, so the mountain was beautiful and the air fresh and cool. Slippy steps and hidden rocks were a great excuse to practice some informal mindful walking, and I was glad for the peace of mind to enjoy the great weather and company.
I'll be back next weekend with more mindful feedback from the course!
Check out the Introduction
Check out Week 2 reflections
The focus of the first week of the Mindfulness Fundamentals course offered by Mindful Schools was about "Mindfulness of Breath". Breathing is the focus of many different approaches to meditation and it plays a big part in secular mindfulness as well. This week, we learned some useful tools about how to focus on our breathing during formal sitting practice. Even though I've got a good amount of experience meditating in the past, the lessons gave me some great pointers and made me aware of some things that I'd never noticed before. We also learned about using 'anchor words' to observe and make note of times when focus left the breath during meditation.
I continue to be really impressed with the curriculum on offer. All of the audio and video resources are professionally polished and the presenters do a great job of making students of the course feel welcomed and empowered to try, fail, learn, share, and try again. The staff of Mindful Schools all seem very friendly and are passionate about the work they are doing.
I've also been really happy to be a part of the online community that Mindful Schools creates through the use of discussion forums. Over 200 people are studying in my cohort, but 'home groups' of about 20(?) people are formed to foster closer communication. Members of my 'home group' are posting actively, and there's a positive and trusting vibe in the chat rooms.
I was really struck by one of my home group member's comments the other day:
I feel a bit selfish and panicked for it to be over so that I can get on with all the other things I "should be doing". I know that this practice is important, but at times I feel like I shouldn't even be taking 10 minutes to myself a day, which is insane.
I really connected with what my classmate was saying in the comment above. It's funny how I'll find myself burning away time like crazy on Twitter or Medium reading articles, sometimes for almost an hour at a time, but I often feel while sitting during meditation that I need to open my eyes right away and get back to work.
I never realized how much I keep myself busy and occupied all day. I hope that by the end of this course I'll be able to set aside those 10 minutes each day to chill out and be mindful.
Back with more next week!
Hello! I've just registered and begun an 6-week mindfulness course offered by Mindful Schools, a non-profit organization that offers mindfulness training to educators. They have a number of courses on offer, but I decided to start at square one with their 6-week introduction.
I have been interested in meditation since I was about 15 years old. I maintained a daily practice until well into my late twenties. Since beginning my career and starting a family I have had a difficult time practicing meditation on a regular basis, though it has always remained a part of my life, especially during stressful times.
A few months ago, I signed up for a free mindfulness course offered by the Honolulu Dhamma Society as I was finishing my MEd studies in order to refresh my practice of meditation and to learn more about secular mindfulness as it is practiced today. The course was good and well worth the price of admission!
I decided to sign up for another 6-week course through Mindful Schools as they offer a series of courses specifically designed for educators wishing to apply mindfulness techniques in their professional practice and in their classrooms. Our school is implementing a school-wide restorative discipline model this year, and I think that mindfulness practices will be a great way to help students, teachers, and administrators better follow the restorative discipline guidelines in our day-to-day work.
I've only just begun the course online, but I'm already blown away by the level of professionalism and care that has been put into the curriculum on offer. The courses are offered on the moodle platform and are very easy to navigate. The creation of a learning community is encouraged, and the instructors are all very welcoming and passionate about mindfulness and education.
I'll be keeping an online journal on this blog about my experiences in the Mindful Schools: Mindfulness Fundamentals course over the next six weeks if you are interested to learn more!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 15 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Director at a private elementary school. in South Korea. Matthew has lived in Seoul since 2004, and is a proud husband and father.