August 3, 2020
by Caitlin Krause
This article is Part 2 of a two-part series about introducing an online mindfulness program for teachers, and includes practices you can use in these times of challenge and change. Read more about the origins here in Part 1.
When 22 teachers joined an 8-week online mindfulness program this spring, incredible discoveries emerged in the face of crisis. Run by The Teacher Collaborative and co-facilitated by Kat Johnston and myself, the program used my recent book Mindful by Design as its textbook for applied mindfulness, storytelling and design and was created to be an interactive online “collective campfire.” The 8-week Mindful by Design Co-Lab for Innovation was a combination of live Zoom meetings and asynchronous sharing. The greatest surprise was how much the connections made a difference in the face of COVID-19, as mindfulness and SEL were the discussion themes for how teachers were approaching personal and professional life in a time of unprecedented challenge and disruption.
Here are seven mindfulness practices teachers honed during the program, with suggestions for how you can use them to navigate the ongoing uncertainty in your current world, as we respond to many changes and demands due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis:
1 Remember to Breathe: use some mindfulness breathwork practices, and even a recording to help guide you in a meditation (you could try this short one I created to get you started). “Being outside makes me come alive! I love getting out, breathing in fresh air, appreciating the world around us, and feeling invigorated by some exercise.” – Sandy
Setting of one of my favorite “breathing spaces”
2 Get Grounded: practice a mindful walking exercise, like one in Mindful by Design called “kiss the earth,” that reconnects you with your roots: Or, spend time with a furry friend: “For me, time spent on the beach and/or with my dog, Delilah, helps me keep things in perspective and keeps me grounded.” – Tiffany
Tiffany’s poodle Delilah enjoying a stroll on the beach
3 Indulge Your Senses
Take intentional time to slow down and appreciate the details around you, using your senses to connect. Mindfulness involves the 3 A’s: awareness, advancement, and authenticity, as Mindful by Design talks about. Noticing can be about people, about nature, about sounds, colors, flavors and even emotions…
“I love the moon rise on my farm as I feed our horses and take a minute to enjoy the peace and solitude with the sounds and scents that I love so much before I start my day.” – Tarah
Tarah’s view of the moon on her farm
4 Create Space to Create:
“This is part of my workshop, one of my places to get away from the world, I have all my Calligraphy Pens and Brushes, my Pyrography setup and an engraver where I can play.” – Rick
Rick’s mindful art space
5 Take a Look at Your Daily and Weekly Routine:
Notice what’s changed, and record your reflections about it, with a spirit of curiosity and self-compassion rather than judgment.
“I enjoyed the chance to reflect on my new normal right now in this time of social distancing. With two little kids at home, a dog, and my husband and I both working from home, life feels both busy and also like it’s slowed down. … I decided to draw what my days can feel like when I focus on my to-do lists and then another of what my days can feel like when I reframe what’s important to me. I’m going to hang the second one up in my kitchen as a reminder!” – Kat
Kat’s artistic reflection about her perceived days and new routines shows how mindset and outlook can be powerful in reframing experience!
“My routine has merged with my daughter’s. It’s a bit messy . . . finding it difficult to make time for everything. I try reminding myself that it’s OK to do one thing at a time . . . well, sometimes two things . . .” – Emi
“I tried to be realistic, as head of household, I have to work and worry constantly about having a job that is challenging, engaging and sustainable, AND while working from home, it SHOULD be easier to make time for the things that are important to me. Instead of coloring work all one color, I realized that really I can draw all of my passions (what I would do by choice) into my work. … When I finished, my daughter said, “how do you like it?” I said, “it could be better”, She said, “it doesn’t have to be perfect, you know” This is indeed what I struggle the most with, in these uncertain times and always: what is enough?” – Andrea
Andrea’s panoply of passions
6 Sketch a Tree
Deeply tune your awareness on a tree outside your window, to hone in on focus and appreciate nature, You can draw it from different angles, at different times of day, or even track it across a change in seasons. This might be seen as similar to “notice”, but the tree exercise is a natural one that’s specific.
7 Create a Mindful Mantra
Think of a word or phrase that lifts your energy when you need it. Write it down and practice repeating it to yourself as an intentional reminder of your values and purpose. This is our group compilation after the 8 weeks together:
Our group-share of Mindful by Design mantras reflect our intentions
As the program came to a close before the end of a challenging 2019-2020 academic year, many of the teachers decided they would like to keep in touch and keep fires burning. They joined The Teacher Collaborative’s online community, called the “Educator Exchange” where educators can connect with colleagues across Massachusetts, share ideas and resources, and gain valuable insights from each other. It also includes sub-groups where educators can delve deeper into topics and expertise, like mindfulness, SEL and wellbeing.
These voices of teachers in community speak to what’s possible, even in the stressful current situation of rapid transitions to remote learning, and facing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. For everyone contemplating what the future will hold and feeling uncertainty and anxiety due to COVID-19, these useful, applicable practices in mindfulness remind us to appreciate the here and now, and to focus on practical strategies, resources, and opportunities to collaborate to increase our resilience and support us as we meet that emerging future with a greater sense of equanimity, active hope, and resilience.
About the Author
Caitlin Krause’s mission is to empower humanity through connection. You can join the community at caitlinkrause.com to learn more, share, and access research and resources. In her book Mindful by Design (Corwin Press, 2019) and through her work as founder of the MindWise consultancy, she helps individuals and groups leverage wellbeing, storytelling, SEL, mindfulness and design principles to connect more deeply with their communities as they navigate change and complexity. She is a keynote speaker who has served as a curriculum designer and teacher for two decades, and she works with leadership and presence in XR environments. Caitlin leads regular trainings and interactive sessions online. Connect with her on Twitter @MindWise_CK.
About The Teacher Collaborative
The Teacher Collaborative is a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, dedicated to empowering and supporting teachers to reimagine teaching and ultimately transform learning for all students.