Meditating Through Tough Times
A loaded question, to be sure, considering that my mantra can be different (and occasionally snarky) according to the situation: “Getting cut off in traffic is good for me!” or “Snow is lovely and not at all inconvenient.” And lately the one that I have little choice in:“Keep calm and practice social distancing.”
Mantras are phrases that are repeated as a form of calming and meditating. This practice aids us in centering ourselves to come back to a pure sense of awareness. It’s so powerful and enticing that retreats and clinics include “mantra” in either their name or their mission statement. Better yet, science has affirmed this practice as a way to help ease the mind, body, and spirit. It can be a word, a syllable, a phrase, or just a sound. The less complicated, the better.
It is so hard for me to commit to this practice. So much so, that I have to believe that there are others like me who also struggle to calm down (FYI, the “calm down” directive, in the history of humankind, has never worked as “advice”). You might even call me a mantra-not. <pause for laughter> My perception is that I am super important, extremely busy, and my brain needs to hold all the things.
This perception looked just as harried as it did when I was teaching English to secondary students, including so many factors, movements, tests, emotions – not to mention responsibility for other people’s children. It’s not surprising to me that there is a nationwide crisis around teacher retention. My work with teachers at Learners Edge has affirmed that teachers are, by and large, a group motivated by making a difference. They care for and love children who aren’t their own, and they give so much of themselves to the point of their own energy depletion. It’s hard to teach “halfway,” and to ask teachers to reduce stress and build in time for self-care, because they are so conscientious, caring, and intrinsically motivated to be as effective and impactful as super-humanly possible.
Now, educators need to engage in online learning delivery while being homebound, some with their little and not-so-little ones reaching out for them every 10 minutes. Add to that disinfecting all surfaces, planning when to go out and get essentials, and occasionally going to the grocery store less than normal, only to choose from whatever hasn’t already been sold out.
If ever there was a time for mantra practice, it’s now during the coronavirus pandemic. It's a solitary practice, so there’s no fear of spreading germs. To help us (you and me) mitigate our stress and focus on our wellness, we need to find a way to ground ourselves. That’s why I am volunteering us (you and me) to do our own mantra meditation practice.
It turns out that when you search “mantra practice,” Google pops up 49,500,000 hits, which led me to reading a bunch of sources to guide me (and you!). Now, for me and for the dedicated teachers I work with, here’s what I have come up with for a mantra practice.
This practice has a lot of potential to slow my brain down and re-center my thoughts. In fact, I’ve even noticed that during the time I’ve been writing this post about mantras the tone of my writing has slowed into a less frenetic pace. If that happened to me, just think of the benefits this could have for students and your colleagues during school. Understand the impact and care you are providing by teaching mantras as a tool to move through each day.
Just remember- you are doing this mantra meditation for you and for you only, and it can be 2 minutes or 30. You make the rules, and you adjust as you need to. You get to be the one who creates calm around you in the face of anxiety. Your mantra is just that: yours.
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