In the spring of 2010, when I spoke at the Mindfulness in Education Conference at Lesley University, I found myself repeatedly forming circles with both hands and moving them toward one another. Over and over, I spoke of circles beginning to converge. As a mindfulness educator, I continue to see a coalescing or “coming together” of this field’s previously “separate” parts, perspectives, approaches, and philosophies into a more unified and spacious whole. Below is a summary of my 2014 closing keynote for the Bridging and Minds of Youth Conference in San Diego describing of some of the many circles that are now converging as the field blossoms. For clarity and ease, the term “teachers” will refer to classroom teachers, and the term “educators” will refer to all of us involved in the shared work of bringing mindfulness into education. Read full article
Our children are suffering, in large part because our society values doing over being, and product over process. Our culture tends to put test scores, wealth, and status before joy, connection, and well-being. Scientific research and the media tell us that young people’s lives are increasingly stressful. For some, the stress is simply living in our fast-paced, media-saturated Western world. For others, the stress comes from being pushed to perform, “succeed,” and get into a “good” college. For still others, the stress involves surviving in extremely challenging, even traumatic, home environments and life circumstances.
Regardless of race, education, or socioeconomic status, an alarming number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, obesity, eating disorders, and addictions, and engaging in cutting and other self-destructive behaviors, including suicide. Cruelty, bullying, and violence are on the rise. No one is immune.
Let’s do what we can now to immunize our youth against the stresses of modern life and the related diagnoses. Let’s provide them with mindfulness skills proven to be of benefit throughout their lives. There is absolutely no reason they should wait until they are forty-five, and have lost a job, had a heart attack, or are in the midst of a divorce to learn practices that will support and sustain them.
In addition to the tools for children and teens listed at right, I am available in person and via the web to offer introductory presentations, workshops, and 8-week courses to children and adolescents privately, and in schools, after school programs, and community settings (including sports teams, performing arts, service-learning, faith-based and other youth groups).
What I felt was that I was just closing my eyes and the whole room was silent. I felt peace.
“Excited. Golden. Ticklish.”
—Mindfulness “haiku” written by a 4th grade SQP course participant
I stop fighting and relax. Relaxing makes me feel calm and relieves the anxiety I carry with me everyday. Now when I have bad or uncomfortable feelings I can stop myself, notice and examine my feelings so that my feelings don’t make my choices for me.
Mindfulness is a great class because you can chill out, and relax. It will cool you down and make you less stressed. You should try it if you are mad or sad or just want to feel better. That’s what I do. Try it!
You spend hours training your body. It is just as important to train your mind for competition. Learn how.
Mindfulness can enhance athletic, and academic or work performance by:
- Strengthening mental focus, physical awareness, and emotional resilience
- Providing specific ways of working with distracting or negative thoughts and feelings
- Increasing your ability to persevere during periods of plateau, set-back, and injury
- Intensifying your natural love of of your sport
Perhaps the most well known examples of mindfulness enhancing athletic performance come from Phil Jackson’s use of mindfulness in coaching the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers to a total of 10 NBA championships. Other well-known athletes who have used mindfulness to enhance their performance include multi-time beach volleyball Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, US National BMX cycling team, SF Giants World Series pitcher Tim Lincecum, and recent Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks
Take your training to the next level.
With guidance and practice, you can learn to use mindfulness to enhance your training, deal with injuries and other challenges, and give yourself a competitive edge. These skills can also be of benefit in the classroom, work settings, and in life off the court or playing field, and out of the pool….
Mentally prepare yourself, your athletes, and your team for competition.
Mindfulness is an ideal tool to allow you to bring out the best in yourself, your athletes and your team. In the heat of the moment it is easy to loose sight of our intentions and coach in ways that are, at best ineffective, and at worst actually detrimental to achieving our highest aspirations. With practice, mindfulness can help you to create a supportive team culture, keep your cool, see clearly what is called for in a pivotal moment, diffuse negative team dynamics, and inspire your athletes to give their best in practice, competition, and life.
When you and your athletes learn mindfulness together, you have a common language for dealing with the up and downs of training and competition. Sharing this mental training with your team will allow them to make the most of your coaching and their natural talent, and ultimately perform optimally.
A lifetime of preparation
My work with athletes and coaches is informed by:
- being a young gymnast with minimal natural talent and unwavering commitment
- being coached by one exceptional and many competent gymnastics coaches
- having surgery on my right shoulder in 7th grade and my left shoulder in 8th grade
- coaching young gymnasts as a teen
- choosing to visit a friend, paralyzed in a fall from the high bar, in a rehabilitation hospital on my way from school to the gym almost every during my junior and senior years of high school
- being a walk-on varsity gymnast at Stanford
- experiencing fear and choosing to leave gymnastics
- becoming a competitive cyclist
- being hit by a car while riding (which synchronistically led me to mindfulness)
- establishing a long standing passionate mindfulness practice
- becoming a devoted recreational athlete upon entering my third year of medical school
- developing a yoga practice
- coaching 5-8 year olds in youth soccer
- mindfully learning to snowboard at the age of 40
- being a parent of two young athletes, one who is competing at the national level in cycling, and the other who recently choose to stop playing highly competitive soccer to pursue her love of the creative arts
- sharing mindfulness with many young athletes from very young youth soccer players to Division 1 varsity athletes,
- and most importantly, for the last 25 years, working weekly with my transformational life coach, Georgina Lindsey. More than anything else this extraordinary longstanding relationship has taught me that the skill, rigor, and compassion of a truly excellent coach nurtures what is best and truest in her/his players.
Finding Grace Amidst the Chaos
As educators we face enormous stress in the classroom and in preparing for and following up after class. We are called upon to simultaneously teach specific curricula, meet testing standards, engage our students, and respond to them with care and sensitivity.
Learning to balance the emotional demands of teaching with other professional and personal pressures is central to the teacher’s art and vital to professional longevity. Dr. Amy is available in person and via the web to offer introductory lectures, in-service workshops, and six-week courses to teachers. Here, you will use the practice of mindfulness and the process of inquiry to explore the unique territory of teaching and the universal territory of life.
You will gain specific skills for reducing stress and cultivating health and well being
- You will practice applying these skills to occasionally overwhelming moments inside and outside the classroom.
- You will experience the proven benefits of mindfulness
- decreased burnout and compassion fatigue
- increased empathy and efficacy
- You will begin to appreciate how developing your own practice might allow you to introduce these essential skills to your students.
You may even discover grace amidst the chaos.
Finding Grace amidst the Chaos
- Do you find the combination of living, parenting, and working inside or outside of the home stressful?
- Does having loads of laundry, late office hours, a full schedule of enriching activities, or “D all of the above” make you feel irritable and a bit crazy?
- Do you find yourself thinking, “If only I were a better Mother/Father”?
- Would you like to minimize the effects of daily stress on you and your children?
- Would you like to find some grace amidst the chaos?
Becoming familiar with the Still Quiet Place within yourself is an ideal antidote to the stresses of life in the 21st century. Together, we will use the practice of mindfulness and the process of inquiry to explore the delightful and crazy-making territory of parenting. We will apply these skills to the complex, sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of daily life with children, and learn to cultivate grace amidst the chaos.
Below are a few mindfulness exercises you can try with your children at home.
Adults, children and adolescents committed to enhancing their health through healing of the body, mind, and spirit will benefit from holistic medical care with Dr. Amy.
What is holistic medical care?
- It sees each person as a whole and unique human being rather than as a disease.
- It recognizes that each person has a natural capacity for well being. This capacity can be called upon and nurtured when facing the daily stresses of modern life and when confronting the more extreme challenges of illness and crisis.
- It nourishes health on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.
- It acknowledges that health is created within the context of a person’s life and that relationships, community, work, financial circumstances, and that a sense of connection or isolation, joy or lack of fulfillment, can either enhance health or contribute to illness.
- It is a process of partnership in which the patient is the expert on her/his body, and the provider serves the patient with compassion and excellence.
- Is truly integrative, combining the best of conventional modern medicine and “alternative” medicine.
You (or your loved ones) may benefit from holistic medical care if you or (they) are living with:
- PMS (prefer to use herbs or bio-identical hormones)
- Menopause (prefer to use herbs or bio-identical hormones)
- Depression, including postpartum depression (prefer to use mindfulness, amino acids and hormone balancing)
- Anxiety (prefer to use mindfulness, amino acids and hormone balancing)
- Intense anger