When did you first start practicing mindfulness and why were you motivated to do so?
Eleven or twelve years ago, while teaching music in a public high school, I began to notice anger in the faces of students, teachers, administrators and parents.
I felt tired and the joy of the classroom was swallowed by testing, or similar methods of assessment. I noticed young teachers lasting four years and then leaving, weary from the encounter. I noticed students sleeping in the classroom, yet full of life in the halls. Then, I became curious. I noticed that I was noticing. Unaware of mindfulness practice, I turned to a friend who seemed "steady." Only later would I even know to call that steadiness, grounded or mindful.
Did you take a class? If so, what sort of class was it?
Realizing without a major change, I would soon be following my younger colleagues to find a new career, far away from the school house. A friend pointed me toward a new masters degree offered by Naropa University. Living on the North Carolina coast, I had never been to Colorado, or even heard of Naropa when I connected with the department head, over the phone, during intermission of my spring musical. Although, much he said sounded quite foreign, it was his ability to really hear me all those miles away that persuaded me to pursue this degree in hopes of helping my students.
How has mindfulness made a difference in your life?
To my great surprise and delight, my situation with students, teachers, administrator, parents or even my own personal family did not have to change. Once introduced to the gift of awareness or mindfulness, with practice, I began to understand; my "noticing" was often all that was needed. More space began to open in my thoughts. With this space came better decisions when action was needed. But, truly, the most exciting discovery was the ability to stay grounded, dare I say joyful, in the middle of the storm.
What do you do for your livelihood (e.g., homemaker, teacher, firefighter) and does your practice of mindfulness affect that?
I am now, a music teacher in an elementary school. Mindfulness completely informs my ability to thrive in the classroom and school community. Mindfulness affects the way I walk from my car to the classroom, how I greet each class of students as they enter the room. Mindfulness affects the methods I use when offering Bach's great music. Mindfulness surrounds each email sent in response to a concerned parent or over worked administrator. Mindfulness reminded me why I love being a teacher.
Is there anything else you would want people to know about mindfulness and you?
When I stop and take one very deep slow breath, the raging problem before me becomes filled with the breath of possibilities.