Meditation, mindfulness and yoga carry benefits that are invisible, intangible and difficult to quantify. They are practices that promote equanimity and acceptance, and teaching them requires the same. Yet calm, non-judgmental awareness is often hardest to summon when it is needed most, even after twenty-five years of teaching and especially when there is a significant distraction in the classroom.
It happened to me last week: three students rolling their eyes, laughing and texting, even when I requested that they put away their devices. Or especially when I requested. I became distracted and flustered, while my own and then the rest of the students’ attention got pulled toward these “bros” like leaves to a pool drain.
I could easily have asked the guys what was happening and how they felt, rather than trying and failing to ignore the shenanigans. Instead, I plowed through my lesson plan with all the flexibility of a hammer, remaining in my role instead of in the moment, failing to regroup, to persevere, and, above all, to practice the heart of mindfulness: resilience.
I got stuck, focusing more on my teaching - and my “bad” teacher performance - than on my students’ learning. Yet, at times all of us get carried away by regret, anxiety and the one person in the room who doesn’t like us, not the other forty-nine who do. In mindfulness we learn to recognize these skewed perspectives, dead-end patterns of behavior and habits of mind.
In mindful awareness the disrupter in the classroom is seen, recognized and allowed his viewpoint, while firmly asked to adhere to a baseline of respect. In mindful compassion the rebel is given a chance, treated kindly and met with encouragement by a skillful teacher. Moment-to-moment the teacher perseveres, extending herself to the distractor (or the trio of “bros”) like water squeezing between stones, looking for an opening and a chance to begin again.