Meditation in the Classroom

Last Wednesday, Hillary Johnson of Calm Chicago came to my class and spoke to my students about ‘Mindfulness and Meditation’. After connecting via LinkedIn in the Spring, I first met Hillary at a coffee shop to pitch my idea of her visiting my class and speaking to my students, an engagement she graciously accepted. A few weeks ago, Chris Cinnamon visited my class and spoke to my students about the significance of breathing right, and posture and alignment, in addition to demonstrating a few Tai Chi moves. He even invited my students and me to try a couple of classes at Enso Tai Chi, something I might actually take him up on in a few months.

Many of my students have taken on meditation as part of their Happiness Projects and were therefore looking forward to Hillary’s visit to understand and learn more about what they had potentially, hitherto, only read about. Some were practicing meditation but as it became evident from students’ comments on their Reflections assignment, none had done so in a guided manner. Hillary’s guest presentation included an explanation of the need for a holistic understanding/rationale for prioritizing our mental health/emotional well-being. She explained and elaborated on the concepts symbolized by RAIN or Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Not-Identify/not-self, among other things, and then led a meditation session in the classroom that lasted a little over 20 minutes.

Hillary Johnson, Founder, CalmChicago presents 'Mindfulness and Meditation'
Hillary Johnson, Founder, CalmChicago presents ‘Mindfulness and Meditation’

Students’ reactions at the end of the meditation session were a bag of emotions ranging from feelings of calm and restfulness, to surprise (many thought they had only been meditating for under 5 minutes and were surprised to find that we had been at it for 23 minutes), ease of physical pain, focus, and reduced stress. During our discussion, students talked about how they had never had a guided meditation session before and the impact of what they had experienced was truly profound. Several of them are now seriously considering doing this as a matter of habit. I am proud of my students for being open to new experiences. Perhaps some of them will indeed be able to pursue lifelong meditation and some may not but the intentions are noble and a good place to start.

I am further encouraged to introduce a quick 5 minutes ‘Centering of the Self’ time for all my face-to-face classes from now on. Of course, 5 minutes aren’t enough but it will force all of us, students and instructor, to just hit ‘pause’ for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, re-center ourselves from the craziness that life before and after our class will unleash on us, and just use those few minutes to calm ourselves. I think I really will incorporate this into all my classes.

New course on Happiness

This fall I am teaching a new course called, “Communication and the Art of Happiness at Work”. A huge shout out goes to Sarah Tracy at Arizona State University (who unbeknownst to her is someone I consider my mentor :)) for her incredible generosity, kindness, and willingness to share not only her syllabus but other resources from which I have drawn content to use for my own class. I attended a short course she offered at NCA last year (The power of positive scholarship: How to create an entire class, specific curricula, and ⁄or an action research project related to the bright side of communication) in Washington, DC and learned a lot. I really think it is important for members of our scholarly community to share resources, best practices, pedagogical insights, and such with others willing to learn and implement such efforts in their own teaching, research, and other engagements.

I am really excited about the course. I am offering this course in a new hybrid format where I have some face-to-face and some online classes. I am eager to see how the format with work with such a course. What I am also super excited about is having guest presenters come in to two of my face-to-face meetings. On October 15, Chris Cinnamon will attend my class and teach my students and me some basic Tai Chi moves. You can read more about him here. On October 29, I will have Hillary Johnson of Calm Chicago introduce to my students and me new research on mindfulness and meditation as well as lead us into a direct experience of the two. For more information on Calm Chicago, click here.

In addition, students complete weekly activities and reflections, complete a happiness project and presentation, read peer-reviewed journal articles, and complete two exams. I look forward to a new quarter with new experiences.