Through the Midcareer Program in Educational Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, I have been attending learning sessions on mindfulness. While I have been interested in learning more about mindfulness for my own health, I am particularly interested in how important the skill of mindfulness has become in a world filled with distractions. It seems that our lives are reaching a fever pitch of activity, much of it mindless and on automatic.
I first started to ponder mindfulness after reading Howard Rheingold‘s book, Net Smart. In his book, Rheingold describes five literacies, the first of which is attention, the foundational literacy. I find it increasingly challenging to get off auto pilot when it comes to checking email and Facebook. I also know this is a concern of our parents and our students. So I wanted to learn more, both professionally and personally.
My biggest takeaway so far is that we have the ability to choose our responses to a situation. In the course we are learning various techniques to become more successful at this. When an event occurs – a stimulus such as the ding of an email, the sight of a sugary sweet or the urge to check Facebook – we have total control of our response. Most often our response is on autopilot, happening outside of our awareness. These behaviors tend to be more primitive. We do have control over the time and actions we place between the stimulus and response. This is mindfulness.
“Relaxation comes naturally when we stop stirring the pot.”
Mindfulness circumvents the autopilot. In the period of mindfulness, we STOP – BREATH – BE. We realize we have the opportunity to do something else that is not necessarily automatic. This is how patterns and habits are changed.
Stop = physical stillness, the undoing of the auto pilot
Breath = disengage from the stimulus and go to the breath
Be = stop long enough so the next action is chosen, not automatic