This year our guidance counselor, in collaboration with school administration, chose “Mindfulness” as the school theme for promoting the well-being of our students. While some may conflate this with some new-age movement promoted by Hollywood elite, it’s important to remember that it is an invaluable tool for fostering greater awareness in a world that is driven by the speed of our wi-fi and the myth of multitasking which often results in doing little (if anything) well. Mindfulness echoes the “Growth Mindset” articulated by psychology professor Carol Dweck which recognizes the need for students to be aware of how they approach difficulties in the classroom by utilizing different approaches to learning. Of course many of us have “fixed” mindsets about certain things in life ranging from how we like our coffee prepared to expectations of work colleagues. But when it comes to education we can defer to language that doesn’t promote the best in our students, e.g., “math may not be your best subject,” or “we can’t all be athletes.” In short, a growth mindset isn’t just effort; it is being mindful of how we develop and grow as learners.
I often reminded new teachers I was mentoring that when class begins, the students in front of you are the most important people in your life. That is mindfulness. Even as you read this post you may be thinking about what you’re making for dinner tomorrow, or how busy your weekend it going to be, or how relaxed you’ll be after paying your bills. Whatever it is, in doing so we neglect being mindful of the people and events that are in front of us, here and now. When I am home playing with my boys, I remind myself that I am in fact playing with my boys and not thinking about enrollment numbers, or that driver that cut me off, or if we can afford taking that vacation. Mindfulness is a call to model the virtues of patience and humility in every moment of every day.
Within the Catholic tradition, mindfulness is evident by many of the great thinkers throughout time: Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and Hildegard of Bingen, among others. Their lives are powerful testimonies of what it means to be practitioners of mindful practice, to immerse oneself in prayerful reflection by meditating on the great truths of life. The Mysteries of the Rosary is the quintessential mindful practice of Catholicism. By calling us to prayer, we are invited to be present and aware of our minds and hearts, how we reason and how we feel. Placing ourselves into the vignettes of Jesus’ life and resurrection and that of the early disciples, we gain a greater appreciation for the daily miracles (and challenges) of our own life. In short, by becoming mindful of mindfulness we begin to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the beauty that is imbued in even the most mundane of acts and the simplest acts that surround us.
It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!