Using Mindfulness and Contemplation in Education and Therapy
During the past few months I have been engaged with four small groups regarding how to use mindfulness and contemplation in education and/or therapy. The groups have variations: two groups are university faculty members meeting to discuss specific books related to these topics; one group is in a medical technician training program; and, another group is in a community setting. Aims include uses of mindfulness and contemplation in teaching, in therapy, and in self-care. I have had many years of experience training educators, therapists and the public on such topics. Here I plan to simply list 20 ways to use mindfulness and contemplation practices in education and therapy. I will not differentiate between the two; I assume educators, university faculty, and therapists can figure out on their own the contextual, topic-related, and age-appropriate implementation realities. Here is my list.
- Before you begin any new activity or transition, simply sit quietly in complete silence for 2-3 minutes. Process what was experienced.
- Before educational tests or significantly emotional content in therapy, practice grounding strategies. Some examples are: feel your body being held at the surface of the seat or chair, or feel your feet connected to the floor or earth, or feel the inner sensation of long, deep, slow breathing, or look around and note something each of your senses perceives .
- Practice abdominal breathing – slow, deep, breathing all the way into the lower belly and out. Note that people with unresolved trauma or polyvagal system problems may experience an opposite effect – anxiety.
- Practice four-part breathing by noticing the movement of breath in and out of the nostrils, the throat, the chest/lungs, and lower belly. Then a little later, extend the exhalation slightly to enhance relaxation effects.
- Use your senses. Use each of your senses one by one, and notice what you notice but without any evaluation or judgment.
- Multi-sensory memory regarding a substance-free pleasant or happy experience in your life. Rest, use one sense at a time, and connect to the experience. Be with it! If a “shadow” come up – some negative issue associated with the memory – do your best to stay present in the re-experienced memory and deal with the shadow later.
- Focus attention and contemplation on the reality of impermanence in human experience. Everything changes! Pleasure comes and goes; neutrality/boredom comes and goes; and, suffering comes and goes. Hang around a while, and your current experience will change.
- Use the ancient Christian meditative process called lectio divina. Concentrate your contemplation on a single thing, topic, reading, formula, or task – AND revisit it by concentrating your contemplation on/about it again, and again, and again. Go deeper each time.
- Have an attitude of gratitude. Sit quietly and contemplate something you have gratitude about NOW. Rather than endlessly wanting/grasping something else, something new, be with deep gratitude for something you already do have right now.
- Practice loving kindness meditation for yourself. Say the following to yourself, silently. May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be free from suffering. May I be happy. May I live with ease. Continue to practice for ten minutes or more.
- Just sit! Simply stop all behavior and focus thinking on just sitting in quietude. Breathe slowly, deeply, and calmly. It may help to gently gaze at a clear wall.
- Friendly contemplation – simply contemplate on any positive interaction you experienced this week with another person, a pet, the environment, etc.
- Practice the half-smile. Generate positive proprioceptive feedback to your emotional brain by simply finding something to smile about. Even if you fail to discover a reason to smile, smile anyway. Notice.
- Practice caring compassion. Sit quietly and contemplate the suffering a person experienced. You may know or not know this person personally, but you do know they have suffered. Have an open-hearted heart-mind experience abut the person’s suffering. Care! Later you may be able to actualize this by doing something helpful to that person or persons.
- Practice self-compassion. This is a bit more difficult. Sit quietly and realize that you also suffer. Select a specific experience of suffering, and recognize that many humans suffer the same way you do. Just be with your soft-heartedness about your own suffering for a few minutes. Care about yourself! Be your own best friend.
- Practice some quiet meditation for a few minutes.
- Practice some gentle yoga for a few minutes.
- Do some walking meditation outside for a few minutes.
- Practice skipping as if a child – and notice. Most of the time all of your negative thoughts and painful emotions will leave your awareness.
- Practice a calming body scan for a few minutes
- See Quintiliani, A. R. (2014). Mindful Happiness… Shelburne, VT: Vermont Voices Press. See also mindfulhappiness.org for more practice activities.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness