Daily meditation is becoming part of my daily routine. I try to make time to do sitting meditation twice a day: in the morning before I go to school and in the evening when I return home. I was doubtful about doing an early meditation session as I am not the most positive person in the mornings and as a teacher I have to leave the house very early. In all honesty, despite teaching for six years, I have never got used to facing a class of lively and often loud teenagers at 8.30am! I always adjust and within 10 minutes I am engaging with them, leading the class or facilitating their learning, but first thing in the morning it all seems impossibly daunting. I have been pleasantly surprised, however, by how easy it has been to incorporate a meditation session into my morning: I set aside 10 minutes every morning right before I leave the house, I sit on my meditation stool in the living room, wrap myself in the blanket and focus on my breathing.
I find, by taking the time to focus on the present moment in the morning, I approach the day with more awareness and calm and it reduces my anxiety or concerns about the day ahead. As a teacher this is vital, as your own irritation, frustration and worry can easily transfer itself onto the students.
I have come to look forward to my afternoon meditation session when I return from school. I often find it hard to switch off when I return from a busy day at school. At work I am constantly active, engaging with multiple people and often juggling a variety of tasks. I have to be organised and plan meticulously. As a teacher you are also performing on a daily basis: standing up in front of large groups of young creative minds and attempting to engage them, hold their attention and encourage focus and a desire to learn. It can be very hard to switch from my role as teacher when I return home and I frequently find myself running over thoughts and worries and continuing to work at speed whether it is doing my washing, hoovering, cooking dinner or continuing to work from home. This frantic activity is not mindful and it is exhausting. By meditating in the afternoon, I draw a line between school and home and approach the evening more mindfully. That does not mean I do not plan, mark, do household chores or cook anymore; rather I approach these tasks with awareness.
Seeing the positive impact these mediation sessions have on my daily life, has led me to consider how I can extend mindfulness into my day to day life. Of course by meditating in the morning and afternoon, this helps me to be more aware throughout the day, but I would also like to consider some ways in which I can draw my attention to the present moment throughout the day.
One area I am working on being more mindful is the time I spend on the internet. I use the internet a lot at work and I also enjoy browsing other people’s blogs, looking at favourite websites, sending messages to friends and writing on my blog at home. The internet is a source of great inspiration, means of creativity and knowledge, but it is vast and it is very easy to get sucked into it and lose a sense of direction or purpose. I am very aware, from the time I spend with young people, that social networking, while enabling people to communicate and stay in touch, can also be very damaging. On these websites people present an image of themselves, as they want to be perceived. People seek confirmation through these sites (I include myself) and it can become addictive. It is also easy to become satisfied with you own life, by comparing yourself to the lives (or the way they present their lives) of others. This is what my sister calls ‘the missing out’ culture: we look at the people around us and feel we should be doing what they’re doing, spending time with the people they know etc. I am trying to be more mindful of the way I use the internet. At times that means restricting the time I spend online, but even when online I believe there are ways to be more mindful.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes of being mindful when you are online and using breathing to bring your awareness to the present moment and what you are doing in that moment.
I am going to try to breathe mindfully when I switch my computer on to help me be more aware of what I am doing. When I find myself flicking through internet pages, I am going to try and breathe and focus. It may be that I continue flicking through the pages mindfully or that I choose to focus on one page and truly appreciate it, or I decide to switch the computer off and go and drink some tea or read a book: whatever I do I will try to do it mindfully. The internet can be a wonderful resource, when used with awareness.