FlexSchool Mindfulness Part III

Mindfuness3-FlexSchoolEducation-Fanwood-NJ

More mindfulness today!  John Grund visited us for the last day of mindfulness training.  We had lots of activities today where we learned to attune to each other.  We had fun clapping/counting exercises, picked colorful cards, and navigated (with our eyes closed!) through a plush animal obstacle course.  We continued talking about helpful acronyms like RAIN:  Recognize what is going on; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with kindness; Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

John talked about happiness and how gratefulness leads to happiness.  He mentioned research that suggests that people’s happiness returns to set points: lottery winners’ happiness peaks and returns to the set point, and paraplegics’ happiness dramatically dips and then returns to the set point. John referred students, teachers, and administrators to Professor Daniel Gilbert who has conducted research and written books about such phenomena.  The difference between empathy and compassion was the focus of one of John’s discussions, and he reminded us that people can get tired from empathizing but not from compassion.  We learned more about self-compassion and that we need to be kind to ourselves and not just others.

We paired up for one activity:  the stuffed animal minefield that we had to go through with our eyes covered while our partner’s guided us only with words.  We had to create visual images and goals of ourselves:  we drew pictures showing our ideal selves as well as our real selves and took note of our strengths and gaps.  In the spirit of the new year, we each set a goal.  John lead us in a final loving kindness meditation, which seemed like the perfect way to finish our mindfulness month.  

After we said our goodbyes to John, we celebrated the holiday season with a fun feast!  We were joined by teachers, siblings, parents, all members of the FlexFamily.  Happy holidays everyone, and we’ll see you in 2016!

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we build our curriculum around providing all around high-quality educational experiences for our students. Visit https://flexschool.net.

FlexSchool Fridays Continues Mindfulness Training

Mindfulness Training FlexSchool Education.

Today we continued our mindfulness training series with more hands-on activities. John showed us several different breathing techniques and challenged us with a fun communication activity. We learned about the heart breath, the 3-minute breath, and the hourglass breath. We are getting used to John’s gong which he rings every now and then and reminds us to pause and be mindful. Situated in the “mountain pose” from yoga (or what some call the athletic stance), we monitor our breath and gently nudge our thoughts back if they veer off-track. We learned more about more of the neuroscience behind meditation and mindfulness. The parasympathetic and sympathetic systems both play a role as do different parts of the brain like the amygdala and frontal lobes.

Administrators and students were also assigned a task where each of us received individual pictures that we were asked to put in order of events. Sounds easy, but when you’re not allowed to see your peers’ pictures, things get interesting! The students communicated well and successfully completed the task. We paused afterwards to allow for some self-reflection: How did we feel during this half hour long problem solving activity? How did we perceive our fellow classmates and teachers felt during it? Words like inspired, excited, overwhelmed, content, patient, proud, capable, and even anxious were all available as choices. Identifying these feelings helped us take inventory of our individual states of mind, and also was an opportunity for our students to hear positive feedback from their peers. What looked like chaos at first turned into a productive calm and pictures from the training show the students hard at work.
Our final activity was an exercise in mindful eating. A “foreign object” was distributed to each of us as we pretended to be aliens encountering an earthling object for the first time. We had to use all of our senses to describe the object: It was red and yellow, felt squishy, smelled fruity and sweet, and even made a bit of a noise. When we got to taste it, we were in for a treat: gummy fruit penguins! This simple exercise made us realize how slowing down allows our physical systems to get in sync while eating to make it a more fulfilling experience.

For next week, we were tasked with checking out another website (http://smilingmind.com.au/), trying to eat at least one meal mindfully, and applying mindfulness to an activity, like brushing our teeth (how does the toothpaste look, smell, sound, feel, taste?) We are excited to see what challenges (and rewards) John brings us next week!

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we build our curriculum around providing all around high-quality educational experiences for our students. Visit https://flexschool.net.

Mindfulness Training Begins at FlexSchool

For the next few weeks, we at FlexSchool are focusing on Mindfulness Training during our FlexFriday sessions.  Like many of you, we were unfamiliar with this term, and our trainer, John Grund, offered a simple yet profound definition.  Mindfulness is being aware of every moment of your life as if your life depended on it, in short. We need to be aware of our breathing and of our thoughts as well as our feelings.  We have chosen to engage in this practice so that our students (and staff!) can learn to manage anxiety and stress and also enhance their day-to-day living experiences.  (Do you get road rage?  Annoyed with your kids or parents?  This helps!)  Read on for a summary of the definition from one of the institutions dedicated to mindfulness, UC Berkeley.

Throughout our session, we went out of our comfort zone through “challenge by choice”.  We participated in introductory ice-breakers revealing the origins of our names and then we had a fun hula hoop activity which required no verbal communication at first.  We learned to breathe mindfully and discussed the science behind the importance of breathing properly.  John gave us a model of the “hand-brain” and we watched a short video regarding the chemicals involved in mindfulness.  We also learned to S.T.O.P. (not necessarily at stop signs, but that works):  Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed.  We were introduced to a great app, headspace, which can assist in our mindfulness exercises.  We are excited to see what John challenges us to do in the next two weeks.

From UC Berkeley’s site

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since that time, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programs to adapt the MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and beyond.

Click here to see images from this event and more on our FlexSchool gallery.

At FlexSchool, we build our curriculum around providing all around high-quality educational experiences for our students. Visit https://flexschool.net.