Using Smiling Mind in an school is not just about having mindful students

Meet Anna.

She uses Smiling Mind to be a more mindful teacher and colleague.

This is her story. 

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I am a perfectionist, and it can be a curse. The idea of meditating and practicing mindfulness used to slightly intimidate me. Like others when they are beginning to explore mindfulness, I once held the misconception that I wasn’t doing it right if thoughts interrupted. We live in a society where we experience instant gratification and have learnt to expect it. As a result, we are less patient. This makes mindfulness so important, and something we need to be aware of is that it will take time and perseverance to really feel the benefits.

My own mindfulness journey began after moving from the green hills of Tasmania to the busy streets of London. I caught the ‘rushing syndrome’, and that, combined with a teaching career at a school which held an incredible demand for achieving ‘perfection’, caused my overstimulated brain to lose its connection with my purpose. The more I practiced mindfulness, the more I found that my actions and thoughts better reflected my values.

Many of us are blessed to have someone in our lives who is an influential and calming presence. For me, it was my dad. Being on the other side of the world though, meant I had to build those regulation skills within myself. I quickly realised that we are the only ones who have control over our wellbeing; if we want to be that grounded person for others, and ourselves, it can only be done through our own practice. I was fortunate to have identified the need to incorporate mindfulness practice in my lifestyle, and learnt some brilliant tools and philosophies from Zen Master Thich Nhat Tan in France. Upon returning to Australia though, my more mindful state seemed to fade into the background, as I began to feel the rising pressures of working at a new school. A colleague introduced me to Smiling Mind, and I immediately loved the ease with which I could fit it into my day in the classroom.

Using Smiling Mind in an education setting is not just about teaching mindfulness to the children. In order to teach wellbeing, you must first have the skills I alluded to above; discipline, self regulation and acceptance. I have found Smiling Mind to be a brilliant tool that educates teachers how to be more aware and grounded through making it a habit to share the practice with their students. As a result, it assists in developing self awareness in recognising the physical symptoms of an overloaded brain. Teaching can be a fast-paced and sometimes overwhelming career. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 53 per cent of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education.

Some level of anxiety is normal; however at many schools, we are seeing it to the point where students are finding it hard to switch off. Some devices and social media are designed to be addictive, and brains are being stimulated more than ever before. It is imperative to instill the skills, in both teachers and students, of awareness and compassion for themselves and others. The success of Smiling Mind as a wellbeing tool in my own workplace is also largely due to all three stakeholders being part of the process: teachers, students and parents.

My view of mindfulness has opened up beyond focused breathing exercises. I have noticed a shift in my interactions with people; a genuine hello to the tram driver, combined with a smile and eye contact, listening completely to a conversation on the phone (without trying to multitask!), and resisting the urge to reach for my phone while waiting for someone. Mindfulness helps immensely to peel back the layers that can mask our purpose. It allows us to quieten our often over-stimulated brains, and when we focus on being present, we feel authentic, lighter and more balanced. It is an absolute pleasure to share all of this with my students through an innovative tool like Smiling Mind.

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