Developing the Heart
During the transition into my new leadership responsibilities at my school, I was taking a 6-week mindfulness course for educators with Mindful Schools called “Mindfulness Fundamentals”. The course was great (I’m long finished now) but between tasks for my school and my amazing baby boy I stopped blogging regularly.
I did say that I would review the course and reflect on it week to week, so I’ll finish the last three reviews in rapid succession. Though the course has been finished for a few months now, it might be good practice for me to review how the lessons that I learned in each of the remaining three weeks have served me since starting my new job as the program manager at my school.
If you want to read the reviews of the first three weeks, check out these links:
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Introduction
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Week 1
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Week 2
Mindfulness Fundamentals @ Mindful Schools – Week 3
The fourth week of the Mindfulness Fundamentals course focused on the ‘Development of the Heart’. The focus was on gratitude, forgiveness, and self-compassion. One thing that I’ve been coming back to a lot in the past few months and that has come up in many conversations with colleagues is our tendency to easily notice negative events and to forget about or not notice positive events day-to-day.
I suppose that it makes evolutionary sense for our brains to focus on, and even to seek out, negative experiences. When we were hunter-gatherers in the long past, we needed to be constantly vigilant and conscious of potential negative happenings, like being eaten by wild animals, bitten by a snake, or some other horrible thing. Even during times of peace and repose, one would need to keep an eye open for emergencies. However, I can also imagine that, when our ancestors had full bellies and a safe place to sleep with their family safe and warm nearby, they were grateful for their luck and time of plenty.
Today, at least for a small percentage of us in the first world, we can afford to relax our vigilance and try to overcome our genetic predisposition for worry and fault-finding. Since taking the Mindful Fundamentals course, this idea has really stayed with me and helped me to feel grateful for my health and my family. I’ve tried to be mindful of blessings and joys each day, and to focus on the many small good things that happen rather than the few negatives or annoyances that occur occasionally. It has really helped me to stay positive and upbeat during a busy transition into my new role. Looking forward to a nice walk outside along the river with my wife and son and rest and laughter together in the evenings has helped me to get through some long and challenging days. Being mindful of the great things that the teachers at my school are doing in their classrooms and their passion for our students, and developing positive relationships with new colleagues in the office has made even the stressful days mostly joyful.
The lessons during Week 4 of the Mindfulness Fundamentals course have probably been some of the most useful to me in the last couple of months. Being patient with myself and others, being grateful for small victories, and being able to forgive myself when I’ve mucked it all up have been super-important tools that I’ve made use of almost daily. Again, I recommend this course wholeheartedly to anyone interested in mindfulness. There are free courses available (and way more expensive ones, too) but this course was worth the small price I paid to join.
In fact, I’ve just registered for the Mindful Educators Essentials course to begin next week! I can’t wait to learn more from the great people at Mindful Schools!
Matthew Boomhower is a mid-career educator with 18 years of classroom teaching and educational leadership experience. He is Head of Innovation & Learning at an international school in Malaysia and is a proud husband and father.