I’m looking out the window at the busy street that runs in front of my house. It has been covered by snow for the past 48 hours, but now it’s melting and traffic has picked up. A smart driver knows, however, that a small ice patch could be lurking anywhere so it’s important not to follow the driver in front too closely. Your car may lose its “stopping power” if it skids on that patch of ice.
Following an upsetting conversation, or an email thread, or a news feed, too closely presents some of the same problems. Instead of leaving some space around these provocative stimuli, I attend to them closely, vigilant, ready to take offense, already constructing the words that will win a debate or cut an opponent down to size. And then I have my say and craashh! What happened to my “stopping power”?
Meditation is a practice of learning to make space and give ourselves more stopping power. In fact, the word STOP also serves as a handy acronym for a basic meditation practice. Read what Dr. Elisha Goldstein has to say about it here (Mindful.org), and listen to this online lesson. Increasing our stopping power can save us all kinds of heartache.
“Breathe. Exhale. Repeat.” is the title of a popular article (NY Times, 9 Nov 2016) on the how-to, and benefits of, controlled breathing. As the article puts it, “Controlled breathing … has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. … It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.”
“Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success.“ – Mathieu Ricard, “A Way of Being” (Tricycle, Summer 2006)
This livescience.com news item caught my eye (‘Can You ‘Catch’ Stress in a Classroom? Science Says Yes’ by S.G. Miller, livescience.com, 27 June 2016)
Head lice and strep throat aren’t the only things you can catch in a classroom. According to a new study from Canada, stress may be contagious, too.
Researchers found that when 4th- to 7th-grade teachers reported feeling “burned out,” their students also had elevated stress levels.
Meditation traditions (zen, for example) often encourage meditation without any thought of personal gain. However, this has not prevented researchers from looking for possible benefits (and harms) that meditation might bring about. Stress, focus, attention management have all been investigated, and now researchers are looking into academic performance.
Students may believe that they have a personal monopoly when it comes to fear of academic failure, but there is plenty of fear to be found in almost any classroom. Not only is fear of failure widespread among students, it is also found in faculty.
A team of Norwegian researchers has just published an exploratory study that asks whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) can help students deal better with their fear of academic failure: Hjeltnes, A. et al., “Facing the fear of failure: An explorative qualitative study of client experiences in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program for university students with academic evaluation anxiety”, International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, DOI 10.3402/qhw.v10.27990.
Here are my top picks from the Feb ’16 issue of the Mindfulness Research Monthly newsletter, a publication of the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). The newsletter lists several interesting articles describing the effects of mindfulness interventions on military personnel. My top picks include studies of the connections between mindfulness practice and perceived stress in college students, successful parenting behaviors, and stress levels during romantic conflicts. I also picked out several review articles examining the status of mindfulness research with regard to job burnout, executive functioning, ADHD, and possible concerns about the suitability of mindfulness practice.
Robin sent me this interesting article from the Well blog in the NY Times: How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body (G. Reynolds, 18 Feb 2016). Researchers divided 35 unemployed people into two groups: a meditation group and a control group (note: lack of a job was considered an adequate source of stress). Both groups were “treated” for 3 days, Continue reading
Here are my top picks from the January ’16 issue of the Mindfulness Research Monthly newsletter, a publication of the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA). Several articles describe how mindfulness interventions affect student stress and teacher burnout. Another article that might interest those who would like to teach meditation recommends ‘best practices’ for conducting mindfulness programs in public schools.
It’s a fact: not everyone is willing to sit down, much less sit still. But there are other ways to cultivate mindfulness. Attending to how you walk, listen, watch, wash the dishes, even brush your teeth, may provide you with all the opportunities. Here are some interesting links on this topic that Robin recently sent my way: