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Mindfulness

Useful resources to understand and practice mindfulness

What is mindfulness & why is it important?

Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, without judgment. It involves approaching each moment with an open heart and an open mind – with kindness and curiosity. Research studies have demonstrated that mindfulness practices can expand our capacity to be resilient under uncertainty, to be compassionate, to be focused, and to listen to each other with kindness and curiosity. Consistent practice of mindfulness can literally change brain functionality and help us use our cognitive, emotional, and physical selves more effectively and foster deep learning. Research has shown that mindfulness practices can help students improve readiness to learn, reduce stress and anxiety, increase focused attention, and regulate emotional reactivity. Contemplative pedagogy is now widely recognized and accepted by research and practitioner communities as an innovative and effective teaching practice. It can help create more inclusive, identity-safe student learning communities that have the courage and resilience to listen and learn from each other and together transform the world.

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Foundational Mindfulness Practices

1. Breath Meditation: To begin meditating, find a comfortable and quiet place. Sit on a cushion or chair, with an erect yet relaxed posture. Close your eyes gently and begin by bringing your full and present attention to whatever you feel within you and around you. You may want to take a number of deep breaths to center and calm yourself before letting your breath return to normal. Allow yourself to become more and more still. Do your best to remain focused on the experience of your breath, knowing that it is natural for thoughts to arise and distract you. As soon as you are aware that you have become distracted, observe that you have become distracted and return your attention, with kindness, to the breath. There's no failure or shame in distraction; we are slowly training our minds to be focused and present. If you are new to meditation, start small.

2. Mindfulness of Emotions: This practice is about bringing attention to your emotions with kindness and curiosity. All emotions are welcome without judgment. There is no need to suppress your emotions nor is there a need to hold on to them. We will hold them lightly with kindness. Now bring to mind one or two or three people in your life that about you unconditionally, who care about your well being, who love and support you. Imagine that they are sitting in front of you, so close to you that you can look into their eyes. Imagine that they are holding you and supporting you in a circle of love. Now bring attention to any emotions that may be present for you at this time. focus on that emotion that is perhaps recurring, or the most dominant emotion. Ask yourself, what does that emotion most need at this moment? Perhaps it needs to be acknowledged with kindness and compassion. Perhaps it needs some kind words. Offering yourself some kind words just like you would a friend - It's okay. This is hard.

Telling yourself that you are not alone in feeling this way. That what you are feeling is part of being human and connects you with the rest of humanity. Telling yourself that these emotions are temporary, that they don't define who you are and that they will wash over you like a wave, and then subside if you can let them go.

3. Walking Meditation: Sometimes it is hard to sit still and meditate. Walking meditation is a very common type of moving meditation during which you focus your attention on the experience of walking. In this practice, try to bring awareness to each aspect of walking -- lifting your foot, moving the foot forward, placing the foot on the ground, and shifting your weight onto the stepping foot. As you walk slowly and naturally, tune into sensations that you might normally take for granted, such as your breath moving through your body, the sensations of moving your feet and legs, or the ways your arms or hips move as you walk.

4. Loving-Kindness Meditation: Loving-kindness meditation is generally a guided meditation which uses words or images to call forth feelings of kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. This practice is usually preceded by at least a short period of silent meditation of your choice to ground and calm yourself. Loving-kindness meditations use varying words and images, so find a version which feels right to you.

Additional Resources

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How meditation helps with depression

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