Two years as I started teaching all of my classes on Zoom, I realized that mental health was going to be the greatest challenge I would experience with my students. I knew that my own mental health needed extra care and that my students needed models and pathways to do the same thing for themselves.
Mindfulness Meditation Practice
I slowly experimented with body awareness practices from my own yoga training , and over the past year have focused on teaching mindfulness meditation in all of my classes. To prepare for teaching meditation, I completed a certificate program to teach mindfulness meditation. Doing so has been transformative.
I introduce this practice at the start of the semester. I explain the many benefits it can provide someone if they practice regularly and provide the opportunity to try it every single class. I teach from a secular perspective and focus on the mental health benefits the practice provides.
MDC Students and Incarcerated Students
This Spring 2022 semester I went further with the mindfulness practice and made it a focal point of my writing classes. We read and did research on mindfulness, and in one of my sections, we connected with a meditation class I teach at Homestead Correctional Institution, a women’s prison in my community.
My MDC and Homestead students received the same meditation training the women did. They also read one book in common, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice Advice for Difficult Timesby Pema Chödrön.
Their experience learning about and practicing meditation became the ground for a semester that explored freedom from the lens of the incarcerated. Both sets of students, those at MDC and those at Homestead, exchanged weekly letters.
The letter exchange was a powerful experience. Initially, my MDC students had a sense that they were helping the incarcerated women in Homestead. Over the 13 weeks of writing, it became clear to them that the women were, in fact, powerful teachers with gifts and abilities that called for respect and admiration.
In my time off this summer, I’m attempting to do a similar program, this time with community people not enrolled in a college class. The set up will be similar. We will have two cohorts, one on the outside and the other on the inside. The two will read a common text, meditate, and exchange weekly letters. I’m excited.
If you’re interested In learning about mindfulness meditation practice in the classroom, don’t hesitate to reach out.