March is here and so are you. You officially made it through the first two months of 2021. It’s time to take a pause to reflect, turn inward, and remind yourself that this month – this moment – is a new opportunity to begin again.
I invite you to take a little moment to pause before reading on and consider the following: How you are feeling? What do you need (a stretch, a deep exhale, a glass of water)? What would it be like to meet that need?
Let this moment settle. A pause and a reflection can remind us to slow down and compassionately listen to what’s really important.
Now that we’ve checked in with ourselves, I want you to know that I am so grateful you are here. Yes, I am so happy to picture you reading this month’s post. So thank you for joining me here on this page.
March is often a time of letting go, of fresh starts and of new hopes. Our days start getting even longer, there are March breaks to count-down towards and we begin to see the budding of spring arrive. As we settle into letting go and creating space for some well-deserved rest, sometimes we begin to notice how busy our lives, our schedules and our thoughts really are.
In this March month’s newsletter, I share another new permission:
The permission to slow down and get to know your thoughts.
Our mind is a powerful ally but can also be an incredible foe. Our thoughts can sway us to believe all kinds of things that aren’t true and we can begin to believe the powerful inner-critic within. But thoughts are just thoughts, they aren’t always true and we most definitely don’t need to believe everything we think. By giving ourselves permission to get to know our thoughts we can grow our awareness of our thinking patterns: Attention is one of our most valued resources, yet we rarely value its importance. When we learn to grow our awareness, we can better understand what is happening within us and around us.
Mindfulness can be a key practice to growing our awareness and understanding our thoughts.
A Peaceful Mind versus a Piece-Full Mind
Although both mindfulness and meditation may bring inner peace and relaxation, neither are a guaranteed way of relaxing because when we pay attention, we often find that our mind is jam-packed with thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Sometimes it can be tough to turn it all off, especially at night when it seems the best time to solve all the world’s problems and plan the lessons for the upcoming weeks. Having a busy brain is exhausting and can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
Many of us believe our thoughts are the truth when in reality they’re just thoughts. Some obsessive thought pops up in our head, and we believe it and follow it. And for many of us, these thoughts lead us to ruminate about the past or worry about the future, rather than living in what is happening at the moment around us. It causes us to act mindlessly rather than mindfully.
There is far more going on in our environment, especially in our classrooms, than our brains can ever process, so we have to train our minds to decide what messages and thoughts to let through and which ones to block. We have to look at our busy minds and pull down one piece of the puzzle—one thought, feeling, or idea at a time—in order to choose what to pay attention to in any given moment.
Practicing mindfulness creates a space that allows us to respond to all these thoughts and feelings instead of reacting to them. It gives us a choice. There is a famous quote by Viktor Frankl that illustrates this well: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Mindfulness gives us that freedom. We can’t always control what arrives in our lives, but we can control how we respond to what arrives.
Pick an activity you can try in your daily life to which you can bring your full attention. You might choose to practice mindfulness while drinking your morning coffee, when taking a shower, or during a transition at school. If you wish to grow your informal mindfulness practices at school, select an activity that occurs each day at school, and practice bringing your full attention to this moment. For example, you can practice mindfulness after the bell rings and before your students arrive, when you are photocopying your handouts for the day, or when walking between your vehicle and the front door of the school.
Practice connecting with your senses while you explore this activity. Allow yourself to experience the taste of warm coffee in the morning, the sensation of water falling against your body in the shower, or the smell of the fresh air before your enter the school building. Choose an activity that will allow you to pay attention to all your senses as you do it: sight, smell, touch, listen, and taste. And then take your time to soak up the experience of sensing.
Let yourself become fully immersed in this activity, savouring it to the fullest. Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered off—as minds naturally do—slowly and gently return again and again to the experience of being in this activity. The practice is in noticing all our busy thoughts and then letting them go.
Meet this daily activity with a sense of curiosity, friendliness, and kindness throughout the whole experience.
How will you give yourself permission to slow down and know your thoughts? Can you allow March to be the month of letting go of all the unnecessary overthinking that goes on in our heads?
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