Every couple months, I get really serious about wanting to be serious about mindfulness! This manifests itself in a variety of different ways. Last year, I decided I’d get up ten minutes earlier every day and do ten minutes of yoga/meditation before starting the rest of my day. This worked, sort of, for a while. However, the fact that I’m not naturally a morning person, and I don’t have a go-to yoga practice to tap into, made the combination difficult to maintain as my mind invariably wandered to some variation of:
*Breathe in* “You don’t even like yoga that much, and this isn’t stretching the right muscle.” *Breathe out* “Those kind of thoughts are not helping you be mindful. Relax!”
After ten minutes, I was awake, but also kind of irritated and mindful of few things beyond my lack of flexibility.
This summer I decided to try a different type of mindfulness practice based on a continually referenced book from a podcast I regularly listen to. The book is The Daily Stoic: 365 Meditations on wisdom, perseverance, and the art of living, and it’s setup simply with a quote from a famous stoic (and most famous stoics are real old Ancient Greeks mostly) on the top of the page, and then a modern reflection on said quote listed below it. There’s a different quote and reflection for everyday, and you’re just supposed to read and think about it. A practice I started doing with my morning cup of coffee.
Stoicism is marked by the idea that virtues (like wisdom) provide happiness, and judgment should be based on behavior, rather than words. Also we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses, so we should be steadfast, strong, and in control of ourselves. This will help us combat the unpredictability of life.
This mindfulness practice has been much easier to maintain, and I’ve kept up with 95% of the days, though it turns out I’m a mediocre stoic. On the one hand, I like discipline and order and routine, and all of that helps me keep a lot of things in control. I guess on many days, I might feel like a stoic natural. On the other hand, I’m really bad with change and surprises, and when life throws me the proverbial curveball, I can leave stoicism by the wayside pretty quickly.
I guess self awareness is a certain form of mindfulness, and if I had already mastered the philosophy, I wouldn’t need a daily meditative practice! As such, I’ve done my best to keep this going as I’ve gone back to work the last few weeks, and for the most part, carving out five minutes while I drink my coffee is much easier for me to be reflective about than the 10 minutes of yoga instead of hitting the snooze button.
Perhaps the first step to being mindful is to be honest and self aware about where that mindfulness is going to best fit into your life in order to be most effective.
An additional resource that has helped my mindfulness practice has been the Calm app. Calm hosts an abundance of resources including guided meditations, week long mindfulness plans, music, and soundscapes. It also includes a nifty feature called “bedtime stories” which are essentially nighttime meditations, but are SUPER effective at calming the mind and inducing sleepiness. I get to sleep pretty easily at home most nights, but I used these numerous times when traveling overseas and trying to acclimate to the time change. I’d just pop in my earbuds, and let a bedtime story put me to sleep!
The “downside” with the Calm app is that to unlock all the content you have to pay a yearly subscription fee. I was using the free version, so after a while had essentially gone through all the available material. But this year, Calm announced a new initiative to make mindfulness resources more available to teachers and students, and you should definitely be looking into it!
The Calm Schools Initiative gives all the resources and tools in the app to teachers FOR FREE! That’s all of the personal mindfulness content I just mentioned…the music, meditations, etc…to support their own mental wellness, PLUS resources designed specifically to be used in the classroom, a tool called Calm Kids. There’s a quick form for teachers and/or administrators to fill out, and they’ll verify your information and send you a code within a week. Their goal is to be in 100,000 classrooms this year, impacting over a million teachers and students.
They’re already in mine! And I’m already doing a Monday morning meditation series on my commute to work as part of the “Mindfulness Monday” goal I have for my students this year.
I’d recommend the Calm app for anyone looking for some resources to help unwind and tap into mental wellness, but if you’re a teacher, you should ABSOLUTELY jump on this opportunity to access their full library of resources…even if it just helps keep your own headspace right through the school year.
Regardless of whether you’re currently practicing mindfulness or not, I hope you’re making time for your own well being. Whether it’s yoga, meditation, a book, or an app, we can and should all be creating space to for our own well being. So close your eyes…deep breath…relax into downward d….Nah! I’m just kidding! You do you! But make sure to take care of yourself along the way!