19 April 2009

Turnoff Week & Mindfulness

Turnoff Week begins tomorrow morning at 8 AM. I think this will be my 9th or 10th year of participation with my students out of the past 13 years. TV is not hard for me to cut out, but staying away from the computer screen will be much more challenging. The Center for Screen-Time Awareness has great materials for participation with students and families and Adbusters has a Digital Detox Week campaign going at the same time (they even have a customized message for participants to copy and paste into Twitter or Facebook, which I will be doing tomorrow morning).

Ironically, perhaps, or perhaps they planned it, this week's program of Speaking of Faith featured one of my favorite authors, Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is one of the country's foremost researchers on mindfulness and its application to stress-reduction and health, in gerenal. Two of his books, Wherever You Go, There You Are and Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, have greatly contributed to my understanding of mindfulness and ability to live in the present moment.

I wasn't able to listen to the entire show this morning while cooking pancakes for the kids, but the following caught my attention in a post on the show's blog this past week:
In the second half of our upcoming show with Jon Kabat-Zinn (first available in podcast on Thursday morning), he argues, to some degree, that the accelerated pace of technology and its significance in our lives doesn’t allow us to be mindful, to live in the present. All this communication and digital connectedness actually creates an inner dissonance — a disconnectedness with our own selves.

One memorable moment in Krista’s interview: Kabat-Zinn describes a person viewing a sunset. Instead of simply taking it in, he says, we either are thinking about how we might write about it (or perhaps tweet or blog it), or, that certain somebody standing next to you actually has to gab away and tell you how gorgeous it is — which completely removes you from the moment of recognition and contemplation. In other words, we have this compulsion to do something with the moment in order to make it meaningful. We are not being mindful.
While I certainly try to live in the present moment, my family, colleagues, and students would all probably attest to my getting lost in my thoughts from time to time. I will even admit to doing exactly what Kabat-Zinn spoke of in that second paragraph. Even this morning as I listened to the show and made breakfast for the kids, rather than enjoying the moment I was composing this blog post in my head. The worst part of it was that I knew I wasn't living in the present, but I was more interested in the ideas in my head than the pancakes on the griddle. However, I find comfort in the fact that Kabat-Zinn writes that knowing that one is not being mindful is a step in the right direction.

The ability to live in the present is also a great assest in the classroom. In two professional books that I have read this school year, Teaching with Intention and That Workshop Book, the authors share the importance of living in the present. Debbie Miller describes time and again how she listens to her students and takes notes on the things they say in an effort to truly understand what they are learning and where she needs to go next in her instruction. Samantha Bennett, likewise, reminds us that the key to a successful workshop environment is listening to students and really hearing what they have learned. I know that the days when I am not distracted by thinking about what I will be teaching later in the day or about how to handle a situation with a difficult student go so much smoother when I am present and therefore more connected with my students.

I'm sure my absense from the online community will not be noted by many this week, I rarely update my Twitter or Facebook status. However, I find myself checking in on a frequent basis, looking for new ideas or wondering what family and friends are up to. This week I hope that as I keep the computer turned off (at least most of the time), I'll find my thoughts slowing down, becoming more coherent, and I'll find myself enjoying the wonder of the present moment.

1 comment:

team krasean said...

I'm inspired, but I'm an online teacher, so that poses a problem! It might just have to be a no TV week for me...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. You have some wonderful ideas and resources for how to come more mindful.