• Mindful Mondays: How Can Mindfulness Help Cultivate Equanimity?

    Equanimity is the ability to be balanced even when facing difficult circumstance. Its attributes are mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper especially in the midst of difficult situations. These can be difficult qualities to embody especially when working with students.

    Due to the nature of teaching, educators must make countless choices throughout the day and because of stress and other pressures it can be difficult to stay emotionally balance. However, successful educators are often able to face this pressure and support their students because they can keep cool and maintain their love for the job. Luckily equanimity is a state of mind that can help all educators and can be cultivated with mindfulness.

    Researchers"describe equanimity as a state and dispositional tendency that can be developed over time through specific contemplative practices.” It is a particular way of seeing and experiencing situations. They explain, "equanimity transforms our sensory-perceptual and cognitive-emotional systems to widen our perspective on experience, more readily engage incoming sensory information, and more efficiently disengage cognitive-evaluative and emotional-reactive behaviors when appropriate.”

    In other words, equanimity means having a greater understanding of an experience in a way that doesn’t illicit judgment or a strong emotional response. This quality of mind is extremely helpful to educators who often must contend with complex situations and support the varied academic and social and emotional needs of students. 

    In addition, equanimity also supports wellbeing. The researchers of the aforementioned article conclude that "equanimity captures potentially the most important psychological element in the improvement of well-being.” Having a greater understanding of why we are feeling a certain way, or why our students behave and perform as they do, can support us in not overreacting and having greater emotional balance.

    We might, for example, remember that we didn’t get enough sleep the night before or that our students might be stressed about an upcoming exam. Knowing those things can help us understand situations with a bit more wisdom and can help us have greater compassion for ourselves and our students. This kind of insight helps us make more skillful choices and supports healthy relationships, which is good for everyone’s wellbeing.

    Mindfulness Supports Equanimity
    As the authors also mention, contemplative practices such as mindfulness support developing equanimity. Mindfulness supports this quality of mind because it strengthens the ability to bring awareness with kindness and curiosity to a situation, and orients us towards cultivating calm and concentration.


    Bringing awareness to a situation with kindness and curiosity allows us to be open to the possibility that any given situation, as challenging as it may be, has something to offer us.


    This sense of assurance help us remain calm and allows us to focus on what truly matters at any given moment. Having strong emotional responses often get in the way of seeing things clearly and sometimes force us to act in unkind and unwise ways, which only create more complications and rarely help us resolve a conflict or misunderstanding. They also tend to exacerbate an already challenging situation because it can add to a sense of overwhelm and despair.

    Equanimity shouldn’t be confused with aloofness or not caring, however, which presents itself with not wanting to engage with or disassociating from an experience. Equanimity is the ability to use our capacity for understanding and greater perspective so we’re not carried away by our emotions. It does not mean we ignore how we feel.  

    We acknowledge the circumstance and bring kind and curious awareness to it. Equanimity arises from our non-judgmental awareness—or the ability to see and feel without getting caught up in any given situation so we can maintain a sense of balance or peace. Bringing this approach into the classroom can help us address our students’ needs more effectively and will help us make more skillful choices as we balance all the pressure of teaching.


    This article is part of our Mindful Mondays initiative. Receive weekly emails with instructions for the practices of the week, links to guided practices, and suggestions for implementation by registering. The program is free for all. Sign up now to access this week's recorded practices for you and your students!


    ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:

    Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor.  He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY.  Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at argos@littlefloweryoga.com. 

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  • Mindful Mondays: How Can Mindfulness Support Self-Compassion?

    Sometimes the hardest person to be compassionate to is ourselves.

    Compassion or, "noticing another person’s pain, experiencing an emotional reaction to his or her pain, and acting in some way to help ease or alleviate the pain” often comes quite naturally when directed at someone we care for or love. When it comes to the way we speak and act towards ourselves, however, we often lack this same self-compassion.

    Dr. Kristen Neff who has written and done research on self-compassion explains, "self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.”  Dr. Kristen Neff's helpful description offers us insight into how self-compassion can support us and why it is is sometimes  difficult.

    One of the reasons self-compassion can be extremely difficult is because we’re often our harshest critic. A lot of our self-talk can be filled with judgment and blame, which makes it hard to be forgiving and loving towards ourselves. It also often prevents us from acting in a way that will actually alleviate our suffering like asking for help. Self-critique can isolates us and make us feel like others won’t understand us and the lack of connection makes us feel worse. 


    That's were mindfulness steps in to help.


    We can use mindfulness to bring curiosity and kindness to the way we see ourselves and our actions. When we make a mistake and notice ourselves speaking harshly to ourselves, we can remind ourselves (the way we might remind a good friend) that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes often offer us valuable lessons. When we notice through mindful awareness that we're feeling lonely or exhausted we can practice self-compassion and give ourselves what would be most helpful in the moment.

    Dr. Kristen Neff offers practices and audio recordings that can help us be more self-compassionate. She offers activities that can help us be kind and generous towards our body and practices that support greater understanding towards ourselves and the things we feel and think. Below find a list of some of the activities she suggests.

    • How would you treat a friend? A writing exercise that asks us to think of the ways we would support a good friend who was struggling and compare it to the way we treat ourself when we’re struggling
    • Self-Compassion break: This activity asks us to take a mindful break when we’re experiencing difficulty and to acknowledge what we’re feeling. It then prompts us to be kind to ourselves.
    • Working with critical self-talk: In this activity we’re asked to notice when we’re being self-critical, make an effort to compassionately soften the self-critical voice, and reframe the inner critic in a friendly and helpful way.
    • Self-compassion journal: This writing exercise is meant to encourage us to reflect on the ways we might feel bad or judge ourselves on a give day. It then asks that we use mindful awareness to access our sense of common humanity and to reflect with kindness on the events of the day with some greater understanding.

    For more resources from Dr. Kristen Neff on self-compassion including video, workbooks, publications, trainings, and more make sure to visit self-compassion.org.


    This article is part of our Mindful Mondays initiative. Receive weekly emails with instructions for the practices of the week, links to guided practices, and suggestions for implementation by registering. The program is free for all. Sign up now to access this week's recorded practices for you and your students!


    ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:

    Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor.  He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY.  Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at argos@littlefloweryoga.com

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