As we reflect during the 3rd week of our eight-week program working with the teachers at David Crockett Elementary in Phoenix, I am struck by one comment in particular. It is our first long sitting mindfulness practice with the teachers and we have them sharing about their experiences when one of the teachers says, “I was excited when you said we would be sitting that long, it’s like you gave me permission to just stop and be still.” This comment struck a chord. When do we get permission to just be still, especially in the middle of the day? The answer for the majority of the modern world is never. In a world where everyone is more concerned about getting things done and getting them done quickly, it is radical thinking to pause. We often tell the kids when leading them in mindfulness that they are embarking upon a practice that is revolutionary even though it is thousands of years old.
I’ve heard it said that the set-point of the modern day nervous system is somewhere near fight or flight. With this knowledge there is no question that we need a practice that is scientifically proven to lower stress and anxiety but will people actually give themselves permission. After years of teaching these principles the one thing that has become apparent is that people have a strong desire to change but they struggle with implementing the small practices in their life to facilitate the change they desire. There is a disconnect between what we want and what we will actually do to get it.
So as I reflect on the work that we are doing at Crockett and other schools throughout the Phoenix area, I wonder, what will happen if we are given permission to pause? What will happen if we are required to pause?
These are the questions that we are attempting to answer at Mindfulness First as we create Arizona’s first mindful school. Will teachers, administrators and students experience the vast benefits of mindfulness being built into their day of learning in just 5-10 minutes a day? Will awareness seep into other parts of their lives from just a few moments a few times a day? As we connect with other organizations and facilitators we hear that the answer is yes, we hope that the answer is yes, but truthfully it is still unknown.
Ask any longtime mindfulness practitioner “why mindfulness” and there is no doubt you will get an answer that is centered around their own healing on some level. Whether it be fear, pain, depression, anxiety, hopelessness or even a searing sense of curiosity, on some level something was missing. With the understanding that we all sought this practice out with at least a small sense of desperation. Because of this desperation we were willing to put in the time to get the results that we desired. Working with individuals that didn’t seek out mindfulness introduces some interesting unknowns. It is apparent that the same willingness to put in the extra time for mindfulness is not present, however there is overwhelming interest and a blossoming of desire that cannot be overlooked.
One thing is certain, as we continue our work with the teachers it is glaringly apparent that they NEED permission to pause. They NEED permission to reflect. They NEED permission to understand themselves better so they are better able to handle the rigors of teaching. As a society we NEED to give it to them. If we really want to change our world for the better there is no doubt that we must give children a different set of tools to navigate their lives with, in the same breath however we must give these same tools to the teachers, to the administrators and ultimately to the parents. In a world like ours there is no doubt we need change. Is it radical thinking to find that change in the silence of our own hearts? At Mindfulness First this is exactly the type of change we believe in and in our own corner of the Universe we are doing something about it. We are searching for the answers as we link arms with all the other organizations and teachers that believe that mindfulness can be the answer.
We are giving the permission to pause, we are giving the permission to reflect, we are giving the permission to understand ourselves better. We are giving it to the teachers and the students of one school in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona and already we are seeing what is possible in just a few moments a few times a day.