Presence and Peace

Mindfulness in Schools: The Time is Now

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I clicked a link on Twitter or Facebook the other day (can’t remember which) and was taken to a Huffington Post article about mindfulness programs in schools, even for kids as young as five.

Right on!  Generations of students have fussed and fidgeted through school, either bored or over-stimulated.  Frankly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to be a teenage student today–WAY too much stress, which is the point of developing mindfulness programs.

While the article focused on teen studies in Belgium and the UK, a mental health survey in the U.S. reportedly found that 10 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds suffer with anxiety disorder.

We have to do something!

Our constantly on, 24/7 culture isn’t all that great for adults, but imagine the pressure on young minds to keep up.  Many of you don’t have to imagine–you live it with your kids.

You can do the research . . . I’m only offering ideas and kicking thoughts around . . . but why would educators and school districts not be open to offering yoga classes, breathing workshops or mindfulness training?

A non-profit organization in California called Mindful Schools teaches adults how to integrate mindfulness into school curriculum.  The group just released results of a 780-child survey in Oakland in which the control group was given only four hours of mindfulness training over a six-week period.

With that little amount of training, the results seem staggering to me.  Behavioral improvements like paying attention went from three percent to 10 percent and showing care for others from three percent to nine percent.

Imagine if the time frame were longer or if parents/caregivers became involved.

Then there’s the big picture

What if, over time and after incorporating mindfulness training into schools, incidences of  bullying and violence went down?  What if sitting in silent, guided meditation caused drug usage to drop and attendance rates to rise?

Maybe I’m pie-in-the-sky here, but WHAT IF?

I understand there are dictums in place and that we can’t have a bunch of rogue teachers professing the attributes of practicing mindfulness.

Or can we?

What do you think?  I’m interested in the conversation around this issue.  Let’s hear from some teachers and parents.  Is this a crazy new-age idea or an idea whose time has come?

A principle in the UK said that “mindfulness is a discipline that can help us tap into our students’ potential.”

I say what are we waiting for?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo courtesy of kakisky.

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The Ultimate Get Rich Quick Scheme

file000263365523 1024x764 The Ultimate Get Rich Quick Scheme

I’ve done it!

After years of old-fashioned hard work to make a buck while keeping my eyes peeled for an easy way to score thousands of dollars quickly, I’ve finally landed on a guaranteed-to-work plan to get rich.

Want to hear about it?

First, some background

I grew up with a work-hard-for-your-money ethic.  I believed the bull poop that anything worth having required hard work.  Even if your rear end was falling off, you put in your time, gave it your all and grabbed the paycheck every couple of weeks.

My parents were far from poor but family summer trips were definitely not extravagant.  Our vacations were usually camping trips to Colorado or California or Texas in a little pop-up borrowed from Grandpa.  We made some good memories.

Helping me pay for a college education was a stretch, but my folks were willing.  I screwed up though, and after nearly flunking my first semester (ah, budding alcoholism, but that’s another story!) they invited me to get a job and pay my own way.  I finished college with loan debt, a degree I couldn’t believe I had and dreams of making tons of money as an award-winning journalist.

Flash forward 30 years.  Lots of life circumstances behind me but finally, finally, the financial circumstances were looking good.

Not to brag, but I was probably making an annual salary that was nearly double what my father ever made in a year.   As Bill Wilson wrote in the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, “I have arrived.”

Then one day in the recent past, the job was gone.  No fault of my own; the company just decided to lay me off.

Plus, the great state of Texas declined to pay unemployment into my coffers (which you would think from the words written two paragraphs before, are considerable–they’re not).

Now, the details

The knowledge about this get-rich-quick scheme first came to me a few days after the letter from the unemployment office arrived.  Bits and pieces of information then began to trickle in from additional sources.

Are you sitting down?  This is big!  What I’m about to share with you will change your life in addition to making you incredibly rich.

You ready?

First, here’s the information that my friend Megan provided while I was whining about the unemployment.

Megan said, “Who cares about the unemployment?  God is your employer.”

On that same day, the Daily Word spoke loudly to me, “God is my prosperity.”

The next day, I read Alan Cohen’s daily meditation in A Deep Breath of Life.  He referenced Proverbs 8:18, which reads, “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity.”

Is this not the ultimate get rich quick scheme?

OMG!  If you’re not sighing deep relief right now, you should be!  You can stop obsessing about your financial future!

For the most part, I have.  Within about 36 hours, I really heard the truth in the above statements.

The energy of money ebbs and flows like every other form of energy in our lives.  Opportunities sometimes knock on my door and sometimes they skip my house and go to yours.

But the omniscient GUS (God, Universe, Spirit–my personal nickname) is unchanging.  Again, the Daily Word reads, “Knowing God as infinite source is the key to abundance consciousness.”

There you have it, the perfect plan for prosperity and riches.  If you’re having some doubts, that’s okay, but do yourself a favor and don’t discount the scheme entirely.

Maybe you could start with practicing Wayne Dyer’s words, “You’ll see it when you believe it.”

B in peace!

Photo courtesy of clarita

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Tiptoe Through the Tulips

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“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” ~ Eric Butterworth

The calendar reads Spring, and while many parts of the U.S. are still blanketed in blustery cold and snow, many of us are experiencing rising temps and warm rays.  Be consoled, my northern friends!  At least your knees and backs aren’t aching from spring planting;  I’m finally starting to recover from last weekend.

Our climates may be different, but we can share a different kind of spring right here, right now–the spring planting of new thoughts and attitudes.

You don’t have to channel Tiny Tim

If you’re a child of the ’60s or early ’70s, you may recall a long-haired, ukulele-playing guy who sang “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in a high, falsetto voice.

Let that image go!

Instead, let the images of spring–the tulips, cherry blossoms, redbuds and the myriad of other flowering plant life–stoke your desire for this to be your  Spring Extraordinaire.  Determine that this is the year you will clean your mind of old mulched and rooted thoughts.

Turn your mental ground, till the soil and make ready for a new crop of fertile ideas.

The winter of your discontent has given way (or will soon!) to the Spring of your dreams.

Preparing for new growth

I’ve written quite a lot lately about losing my job and starting a freelance copywriting business.  (By the way, thanks for indulging me.  Writing here has been great therapy.)

Last weekend, I hit the nursery on Saturday looking for bedding plants.  I walked the aisles, stuck my fingers in the dirt checking moisture and started planning which plants could go where in our little townhouse garden area.

I talked with other patrons about their plans, joked with the guy in line behind me who was also buying a dozen bags of mulch (and then helped me load mine in my car–spring does great things to people), and drove home with the windows down and the radio up.  I felt alive!

Sure, lots of stuff has gone down lately; some of it has been rough.  But there was something about having living things in my hands that made me feel bright with possibilities.

Sunday was planting day.  My sweetie and I assembled our tools and dug in.

Working the soil, whether in your garden, or in your mind, is hard work, especially if you have years of old growth to cut through.  I discovered though, that chunking through all the clay to stir in fresh new loose soil said a lot about my desire to do the work.

If you want a refreshed garden or a renewed mind, you have to be willing to go to the earth.

You have to be willing to cut away old stuff to root the new.

Once the work is done, you can’t just walk away.  You have to be willing to feed and water your new growth.  (It’s only been four days but I think I heard the lilies and columbine and phlox whispering their thanks.)

In the end, new growth is about your willingness to be a bloomer.  Through the challenges of the last two months, I’ve made the decision that I am a bloomer.

Doesn’t matter if you’re early or late to blooming, so long as you bloom.  Are you ready to tiptoe through your mind’s tulips?

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Are You Daring Greatly?

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Early into the OWN Network’s Super Soul Sunday yesterday, Brené Brown mentioned her detractors and how it hurt to read bad reviews.

I thought, “Are you kidding me??”  How is it possible that Brené Brown, who not only knows her stuff (she is a research professor and has a PhD in social work, for goodness sake), but is so authentic, how is it possible that she has detractors?

Brené and Oprah were discussing Daring Greatly, Brené’s new book about taking risks and leaning into the power of vulnerability.

I was mesmerized by this woman who so thoroughly walks her talk.  While Brené is quick to point out her imperfection when it comes to the practice of vulnerability (She talks openly about allowing her therapist and her husband to right-size her.), she has a down-to-earth ability to look you in the eye and call a spade a spade.

Would you like a similar approach to life?

You can have one!  According to Brené, it’s called wholehearted living, a means of meeting the world around us with grace and self-worth.  She created 10 “guideposts” that direct us along the path to wholehearted living.  They are:

  1. 1.  Cultivating authenticity:  letting go of what people think
  2. 2.  Cultivating self-compassion:  letting go of perfectionism
  3. 3.  Cultivating a resilient spirit:  letting go of numbing and powerlessness
  4. 4.  Cultivating gratitude and joy:  letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
  5. 5.  Cultivating intuition and trusting faith:  letting go of the need for certainty
  6. 6.  Cultivating creativity:  letting go of comparison
  7. 7.  Cultivating play and rest:  letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
  8. 8.  Cultivating calm and stillness:  letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
  9. 9.  Cultivating meaningful work:  letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
  10. 10.  Cultivating laughter, song and dance:  Letting go of being cool and “always in control.”
  11. * All 10 are described in-depth in Brené’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

Take the wholehearted living test

This isn’t a graded test, nor is it a pass-fail exam.  Think of it as a personal assessment of how wholehearted your life is right now.  Remember:  there are no right or wrong answers and possessing three or eight of the guideposts makes you no better nor worse than the rest of us.

As you contemplate the 10 guideposts, you’ll probably feel a gradient.  Maybe there is one or two you’re certain you’ve cultivated well; but with others, maybe you can claim 25% or 50%.  Remember there are no rules, merely awareness!

Even Brené confesses that when she first started working with her theory of wholehearted living–that it is the opposite of people who live in deep shame–only two of the 10 guideposts registered with her.  You’ll be in good company if your self-assessment is lower than you’d like at first!

Your mission–should you choose to accept it!–is to learn a bit about yourself and to determine whether you wish to go deeper into wholehearted living.

Being called to wholehearted living requires many things, perhaps none more meaningful than courage and vulnerability.  Daring Greatly, this book that compiles insights through research and life revelation, provides a bright light for the journey.

Please read it, share your thoughts, and above all, dare greatly.

Photo courtesy of franthony

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The Wisdom to Know the Difference

serenity prayer The Wisdom to Know the Difference

The title of this post is lifted from the beloved Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr and for me, is the precursor to surrender.

The lines preceding this one are clear-cut in their instruction . . . accept the things I cannot changechange the things I can . . . but the wisdom line, well, it’s a little bit murky for me.

A Serenity Prayer story

The last two months have been challenging following the loss of my job.  I know many of you can relate, especially those of you who are passionate about your work.  When you have a dream career and your job suddenly becomes non-existent, a piece of you sort of dies.

The job is a great part of you are as a person.  It’s a natural fit in your life .  And then one day, in a matter of 30 minutes, who you are, maybe even what you are, vanishes.

Or at least it feels that way for a while.

Over the course of the next days and weeks, you work through it, maybe even uncover a sense of unexpected relief.  After all, seldom do we like every part of our work.  With me, I had long ago grown weary of traveling for work–I’d been a sky-flyer for the better part of 30 years–so I was okay with letting go of that part of my work.

You start making the changes you can.  Maybe you decide to move in a brand new work direction or finally decide to live your life’s dream.  Those steps are relatively easy.

You’ve even accepted most of what you can’t change and work toward making lemonade out of lemons.

And still, there’s one thing, maybe more, that lies in the muck between what you can’t change and what you can.  You struggle with it, inwardly knowing you should let it go, but you also believe the old adage that you must do everything you can to eliminate any future regrets.

So you search for something–anything–to make the unacceptable acceptable.  You spend countless hours researching, talking to qualified professionals, pursuing all options.

You lose sleep and serenity.

Control slips from your grip yet you clutch and grab for the fraying strings of what you hope will be the one answer that eludes you.

When you least expect it, the wisdom comes.

I was sitting in a business meeting at my 12-step group over the weekend.  As is our custom, we opened the meeting with The Serenity Prayer.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

The letters hit my mind in flashing caps.  I knew I was done.  It was time to unlock the vise grip I held on what I instinctively knew I couldn’t have.

Suddenly the only thing that mattered was letting go.

Thanks to the wisdom to know the difference, I finally could.

Photo courtesy of belief.net’s Bliss Blog.

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