Happiness is about learning how to make lemonade with your lemons, right? Actually, I disagree. I also think this saying is a bunch of pretentious hogwash that people use when they want to pretend like they're having a good time. Nothing is more patronizing (and less helpful) than someone telling you to find a silver lining.
Mindfulness can easily come off as all of the above: how people should be happy and peaceful and focused and how all of these things are totally possible if you just meditate every day and take on a whole new attitude. This is exactly why (I would be willing to bet) so many people don't open themselves up to this work, and honestly I can't blame them! When presented in this manner it absolutely leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The thing is, when presented in this manner it isn't actually mindfulness (sounds more like a pyramid scheme, really). What is the glue that not only pulls it all together and has, what I believe to be, the most profound and positive affect on your life is non-judgment. Mindfulness is not mindfulness without keeping things nonjudgmental.
Lets just take a step back for a moment and get clear on what non-judgment means: it is the ability to allow things to be what they are without creating bias around the moment. It's the ability to step back from good things and bad things and just let them be things. We don't have to make lemonade when we don't believe that lemons are bad and needing to be changed into something else. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is happening right now without judgment of what is happening right now... THIS is what makes it REAL. I definitely sit down to my mindfulness practice and just stew the entire time on something that is going on in my life (that may be totally trivial, by the way), but this is OK because beyond becoming perfect and happy, my mindfulness practice is about being real and letting life be what it is. Life is savage enough, when you heap judgments of "good" and "bad" and "right" and "wrong" on top of it, it becomes hardly tolerable.
As a teacher you go into the school year, week, maybe even day with a plan and a relative image of perfection in your mind. But as you all know, you never fully know what's actually going to go down and what degree of hot mess your classroom will be in that day. JUDGEMENT lets you know how the day went and whether you got anything done that was intended to get done, whereas BIAS lets you know whether this was good/bad, right/wrong. Bias has you fighting against reality and this my friends is a giant waste of energy because if you learn anything from this newsletter it is that fighting against reality will never get you anywhere. Judgement in terms of assessment is necessary, it tells you when to stick to the plan, when to course correct and when to straight up abort mission. Bias, on the other hand, tells you to stick to the plan because damnit you worked hard on that plan and you're going to make it happen come hell or high water. The practice of nonjudgment allows you to live with the reality of what is going on around you, because instead of wasting energy creating bias you are proactively learning to respond in an affective way to the moment. Going with the flow isn't about letting life happen to you, it's about letting life unfold as it will and responding with your absolute best self to create the very best result possible. As I have said before, you are only showing up with your best self when you are showing up fully present, unencumbered by the past [regrets] or future [worries].
Mindfulness is the practice of letting life be what it is and staying focused on the present so that we may do our best to experience it and respond to it. I can tell you from experience that it is incredible how much more enjoyable life becomes when you stop trying to make it anything other than what it is. More so, I can promise you that when you allow life to be as it is you are going to address situations far more successfully because you won't be addressing the situation that you wished were happening, but the one that actually is happening. As lovely and magical as Mindfulness sounds, it's really a practice for realists who want to stop wortying about the hand they were dealt and start doing something about it.
So next time you practice mindfulness, be it breathing exercises, yoga, meditation or relaxation, instead of trying to make it the exercise that is going to change your life, just let it be an opportunity to pay attention and see how your body and mind respond to what is going on... and nothing more. If your mind wanders, let it wander. If you start thinking about how whatever you're doing is really awkward, let it be awkward. If you can't relax, then don't relax. Just do me a favor and don't start wishing it were something else, judge it (or yourself) for what it is, or pretend that it's amazing when it totally isn't. Just let it be.
This is why I encourage you to try doing something every single day, because although the practice may be the same (for example, doing calm breath for 5 minutes every morning), you and your mind are in a completely different state of being every single day. Your class is technically the same every single day, but as we know they absolutely are not the same every single day. A daily mindfulness practice allows us to explore, nonjudgmentally, who we really are and how we really respond to things and it is through this combination of honesty and nonjudgment that we are given the opportunity to create positive change. The more present and nonjudgmental we are within the classroom every day the more capable we are of creating a positive learning experience for all.
Chelsea M Latham
When I was a kid my mom would occasionally refer to me as a Reverend, because I had the need to speak so passionately about just about everything. Little did she know that some day I would build a business upon sharing the wisdom that I am so passionate about. So here you go, here are some bits and bobs of thoughts strung together for your enjoyment.