By Christine Mason. As you head toward the summer and continue to plan for next year, here are a few recommendations for you, your schools, and your teachers.
If you, like me, are worn out because of the continual push to be greater– to have better scores, better teachers, better principals, and to acquire more accolades, perhaps you can designate this summer for rejuvenation. Amazingly, sometimes the best way to advance is to retreat or if not retreat, to at least take a break. To breathe, reflect and just “be.”
These past 20 years, in addition to dedicating myself to educational research and innovations, I have also delved deeply into yoga and I am finding that sometimes my greatest insights and wisdom come from just sitting still, and doing nothing. Doing nothing, if you have ever tried it, is not that easy. The mind wants to direct, to dictate, to jump around, to flit from one thought to the next. And if you are a no-nonsense sort of person with a business attitude, yoga and meditation can seem like the softer side of life, something to leave to people who really want to pursue it.
So am I recommending yoga and meditation to all? Well, hm, I am tempted to ask, “have you tried it?” There are a few different paths. However, more and more brain research is showing that mindfulness, meditation, and even deep breathing, good eating, and exercise, can sharpen your skills and give you an edge. It is almost like car maintenance. There are daily and weekly driving habits that will help extend the life and fitness of your car. Then there are things like annual maintenance. I just went to my auto garage yesterday and found that the latest thing I must do is “flush out the brake fluid” every 3 years– that one took me by surprise. Well, for humans, this might translate to identifying and committing to daily and weekly practices, with annual checkups, and perhaps just as importantly, the annual mind retreats.
So what am I suggesting? The paradox is that to leapfrog ahead, you may need to be still, reflect, contemplate, and even turn your attention away from school for a few hours or days. To sit with a few ideas. To have a time when you are NOT problem solving, NOT putting out fires, and NOT driving too fast or too far. To take your human car to your yoga garage, perhaps to a retreat, and to enjoy the other parts of life. Then, when you have had a full, deep breath, when you feel that your spirit is renewed, turn again to the difficult stuff — the technical details like the who, what, when, where, why, and hows. And see what happens. Research suggests that the mental break (particularly if it includes some breath or meditation work) will actually increase brain activity in the frontal lobe, which is a very good thing.
Next week: My explanation of the differences between yoga with mind breaks and being couch potatoes.