The classical training of mindfulness revolves around the four foundations or applications of mindfulness, depending on translation. These four foundations involve paying attention to inner experience, then outer, then both together without blending the two. It is so important to ground your bases in some form of well-established, or basic and classical truth.
Mindfulness of Body – bringing awareness, attention, or focus to breathing and bodily sensation
Mindfulness of Feeling – noticing the affect tone, such as pleasure or displeasure, that comes with every sense object, whether a sensation or a thought
Mindfulness of Mind – noticing when there is attachment (greed, judgement, wanting) present in the mind and when there is not attachment present
Mindfulness of Mental Objects/Phenomena – being mindful and attentive to any thought that arises and allowing it to pass away unobstructed, and eventually directing this observance through a much more in depth exploration of the true origins of that thought
“When I work with children,” says Kaiser-Greenland, “I teach them mindfulness is paying attention with kindness – first towards yourself, then to other people, then to everyone and everything.”
Kaiser-Greenland believes another way of defining mindfulness is that it’s a way of looking at the world; it’s attention, balance, and compassion. Always remember to check in on your mind. Is it cloudy? Dull? Alert? Judging? Are my actions or words consistent with who I would like to be or who I would like to become?
“What happens when we do this?” she asks, before drawing on activist Cornel West. “We are in the world in a different way. A way of looking leads to a way of being. We call that love on legs.”
View an excerpt from Susan’s speech here, or purchase the full streaming video here. To view the entire BHMY conference, it is exclusively available here.
Most of our internal narrative is fictitious, repetitive and negative. The internal narrative of children can be all of that – heightened. They don’t have the skills of experience to recognize the thought/emotion connection. How can educators help students become more aware – and in control – of their internal world?
Physical movement, including basic yoga postures, is a fun, practical way to help students strengthen not only their physical muscles, but their mental muscles. The goal is to cultivate a multitude of traits:
Here’s how it works. Take a break for physical activity, perhaps when you notice they’re getting restless. Try something very simple such as tortoise pose, to camel, to triangle, to warrior, to mountain, and back down again. Or walking slowly around the room.
Ask the children occasionally throughout and after the sequence: what do you feel in your body? Then you can ask them to name an emotion they might be feeling: tired, happy, angry, bored, etc. This will help them to start recognizing emotions such as impulses of anger when they arise. When children learn to handle their anger (or any emotion) as an impersonal entity, they’ll be less inclined to deal with it violently either to themselves or others.
Introducing mindfulness to at-risk youth poses special challenges.
Ali and Atman Smith, and Andy Gonzalez of Holistic Life Foundation help children in one of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods find calm and confidence through yoga and meditation. Sam Himelstein, Behavioral Health Clinician at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center incorporates mindfulness with his young patients’ therapy.
All four men participated in last years Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conference. They offered 4 practical tips to help educators, counselors and parents effectively introduce young people to mindfulness practices.
1. Meet them where they are. They may not be ready to sit upright, or even close their eyes. Start with simple steps, such as focus on your breathing.
2. Make it practical. Let them know that they can return to their breath, or focus on their thoughts no matter where they are or what they’re doing. This will help them practice more often.
3. Clarify the session. For instance, tell them, “We’re going to focus on our breath and notice whatever comes in.” It helps set expectations.
4. Don’t be attached to formality. Setting strict conditions is unrealistic. It may prevent people from wanting to practice.
HLF at TedX
If you’re having trouble connecting with the young people you work with, fear not. There’s hope. It works. Holistic Life Foundation gave a TedX Talk about the effectiveness of their work in the community. HLF started in 2001 with 20 fifth-grade boys. The foundation’s after-school program introduced yoga, mindfulness, urban gardening, and teamwork. In a city where the dropout rate for high school students is routinely higher than 50%, 19 of those first 20 boys graduated and the other got his GED.
Watch the 2012 and 2013 Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth conferences for more insights behind the research and practice of mindful techniques in educational settings.
This year we reached a record number of downloads of our podcasts. Thank you! We’re glad you find the content useful. We went back to re-listen to some of our most popular posts. It looks like the concept of focus and attention training were of most interest to listeners. Here’s a recap of the 14 Favorite More Than Sound Podcasts of 2014.
#14 Daniel Goleman talks about Focus on Bloomberg.edu
Dr. Goleman spoke with Jane Williams about the importance of teaching kids cognitive control, the pros and cons of mind wandering, and how to effectively manage distractions.
In this episode, we heard an excerpt from a TEDx talk given by hostage negotiator and IMD professor of leadership George Kohlrieser. As he tells it, successful negotiation, no matter how high the stakes, comes down to bonding. And it’s not only others who have the ability to take us hostage – sometimes we can do that to ourselves.
Daniel Goleman spoke with Michael Brooks from the Majority Report on why inequality hurts empathy, the emotional impact of wealth and poverty and what we can do to create a more attentive and empathic society.
Many of these episodes explore concepts and tools that are important ingredients of success. So you might be surprised to hear that this one is devoted almost entirely to failure. But to Bill George, failure is an essential ingredient itself, as you’ll hear in this excerpt from Daniel Goleman’s series Leadership: A Master Class.
Daniel Goleman has introduced 6 different leadership styles that can be used to get results. In this episode, he talks about how leaders can’t rely on just one or even two, but must become proficient in as many as they can. Together, the styles become a set of tools the most effective leaders can use in any situation.
Daniel Goleman spoke in-depth with KQED about why the ability to focus is the key factor in achieving success – more than IQ or social background. He also discussed how we can cultivate different types of attentiveness, from a narrow focus that shuts out the world to the “open awareness” that is receptive to seemingly unrelated ideas.
Stay tuned for details about our new podcast series launching in 2015: What is Mindfulness? More Than Sound’s Hanuman Goleman talks with a variety of mindfulness practitioners, teachers and scholars about the definition of mindfulness.
More Than Sound was at the talk. We live tweeted some key points throughout the talk. Below are some highlights from the #triplefocus feed, with excerpts from a few of Daniel’s articles for supplemental reading.
A wealth of information means a poverty of attention.
“…a constant stream of distraction draws attention away from what’s immediately at hand; those seemingly urgent rings and alerts may not be crucial. Working to maintain clear focus on a task – despite intrusions – consistently occupies the brain’s circuitry for attention. “Cognitive effort” is the technical expression for the mental attention demanded to process our information load. Just like the muscles in our bodies, attention can become fatigued. Common symptoms of attention fatigue are lowered effectiveness, increased distractedness, and irritability. These symptoms also indicate depletion in the energy required to sustain neural functioning.”
“We can be more skillful at not being hijacked by distractions. We may notice them, but there’s a big difference between noticing that something may be occurring, being aware of it, and being hijacked by it, being pulled away from one’s central focus.”
“We all need a productive cocoon, a time we protect our focus from the multitude of distractions: emails, tweets, updates, and the rest of the onslaught. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, psychologists at Harvard Business School, studied 238 members of teams engaged in creative projects, from designing new kitchen gear to complex information technology systems. The team members kept daily diaries of their work days, including how productive and satisfying they found each day. The most productive and satisfying days, hands down, came when they were able to have unbroken time to focus on their project. These productive cocoons are where they came up with small wins, like innovations, problem solving, and taking concrete steps toward their goal.”
“Not all emotional partners are equal. A power dynamic operates in emotional contagion, determining which person’s brain will more forcefully draw the other into its emotional orbit. Mirror neurons are leadership tools: Emotions flow with special strength from the more socially dominant person to the less. Another powerful reason for leaders to be mindful of what they say to employees: people recall negative interactions with a boss with more intensity, in more detail, and more often than they do positive ones. The ease with which demotivation can be spread by a boss makes it all the more imperative for him to act in ways that make the emotions left behind uplifting ones.”
“While mild anxiety (such as over a looming deadline) can focus attention and energy, prolonged distress can sabotage a leader’s relationships and also hamper work performance by diminishing the brain’s ability to process information and respond effectively. A good laugh or an upbeat mood, on the other hand, more often enhances the neural abilities crucial for doing good work.”
Focused, Organized Minds: Using Brain Science to Engage Attention in a Distracted World explored how today’s technology is creating more classroom distractions and disorganization. Yet, academic testing and Common Core State Standards require students to be more focused and organized in order to succeed.
We followed attendee’s enthusiastic commentary about Dr. Goleman’s presentation on Twitter. Below are some highlights from #LB39 feed, with excerpts from a few of Daniel’s articles for supplemental reading.
There’s no doubt that IQ and motivation predict good grades. But when you enter the working world, IQ plays a different role: it sorts people into the jobs they can hold. Stellar work in school pays off in getting intellectually challenging jobs.
The more a youngster can practice keeping her focus and resist distraction, the stronger and more richly connected this neural real estate becomes. By the same token, the more distracted, the less so.
This mental ability is like a muscle: it needs proper exercise to grow strong. One way to help kids: give them regular sessions of focusing time, the mental equivalent of workouts in the gym. I’ve seen this done in schools, with second-graders becoming calm and concentrated with a daily session of watching their breath – the basic training in bringing a wandering mind back to a single focus.
The brain’s wiring gives preference to our emotional distractions, creating pressing thought loops about whatever’s upsetting us. Our brain wants us to pay attention to what matters to us, like a problem in our relationships.
There is now quite a bit of evidence to indicate that the circuits in the brain that play a role in regulating our attention, and very rigorous behavioral measures of attention, change in response to mindfulness meditation practice. One of the central indices of that change is our capacity to not be hijacked by distracting events in our environment, particularly distracting emotional signals, which often pull us away from our task at hand.
The more we understand the process of developing systems intelligence, the more we see the close connections between understanding self, understanding other, and understanding the larger systems to which we all belong. This suggests great potential for partnership between Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, and systems thinking.
Our capacity to care and our systemic awareness are inter-connected. In some very fundamental sense, all ethics are based on awareness of the consequences of actions. If I can see no effect of my actions on another, I see no ethical choices. We are seeing that the more kids are steeped in systems thinking, the more they express their innate predisposition to care at a larger and larger scale, whether it is in measuring how water is used in their school in a water-scarce region, or sharing the food from their school garden with their family.
A second potential area of synergy could be a rethinking of children’s cognitive development and potential. The findings of the past ten years or so, especially the work with young children, raise some big questions for the established views of the “cognitive ladder,” which place skills like synthesis at the top, with the presumption that this is what students will learn in college or graduate school.
We suspect the cognitive ladder as most educators know it today is shaped more than we can see by the reductionist bias of the western theory of knowledge. This is a theory that fragments, breaking complex subjects into smaller and smaller pieces. It is why, literally, an ”˜expert’ in modern society is someone who knows a lot about a little. With reductionism comes a natural bias toward analysis over synthesis, studying the pieces in isolation or analyzing subjects within arbitrary academic boundaries, like the separation of math from social studies or economics from psychology. This bias toward fragmentation and analysis is evident in the typical progression embedded in standard curricula toward more and more narrowly defined subjects, which progression continues right through college.
But if we start with a view that everything in the universe is interdependent, and that all humans have this innate systems intelligence, then we would have a different cognitive ladder. It would be more of a spiral. You would start with the idea that real thinking involves both reflecting on inter-dependence as well as about elements individually: synthesis and analysis. You would integrate movement along these two dimensions over time with a developmental progression.
A third important synergy between SEL and systems thinking has to do with transforming pedagogy and the culture of school. For example, a key to making such a spiral view of cognitive-emotional development practical in real educational settings is profound respect. You don’t try to teach kids something that has no meaning to them, something that does not connect in any way with their lives. But unfortunately, that’s still the modus operandi for 80-90% of school curricula. In contrast, students at every level find SEL compelling because it helps them deal directly with the issues that matter most to them: bullying, friendships, getting along, and the like.
We believe a wonderful joint project would be for leaders in SEL and systems education innovation to work on a common set of pedagogical principles, like:
Respect the learner’s reality and processes of understanding.
Focus on issues that are real to the learner.
Allow students to build their own models, construct and test their own ways of making sense of problems.
Work and learn together.
Build students’ ability to be responsible for their own learning.
Encourage peer dynamics where students help one another learn.
Perceive teachers as designers, facilitators, and decision makers (more than “curriculum deliverers”). This requires that teachers have strong content knowledge, continually being advanced through robust peer-learning networks.