Betsy Hanger

Building Bridges: a Mindfulness Conference for Educators

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference is the premiere professional gathering for mindfulness educators, thought leaders, and researchers in the field of mindfulness in education. A joyous annual weekend of practice, learning, and just catching up, it’s sponsored by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. Many educators trained by Mindful Schools, comprising 20% of the attendees, arrived from Canada, Brazil, and all over the US on February 10, 2017. Eager to exchange ideas, meet new people, and attend three days of workshops, we enjoyed greeting familiar colleagues and having those “face-to-name” moments: “I know you from Facebook! I remember you from our course!” Often a noisy bunch, we were notable for a lot of hugs, high-fives, and networking and enjoyed a hilarity-filled reunion dinner on Saturday night with almost 50 Mindful Schools grads.

fun-gathering-of-many-ms-folksThe weekend is an opportunity to practice  secular mindfulness as well as talk. We began with a free morning of practice to set the intention for the conference, then our workshops and panels often opened with brief sitting practices. Yoga and meditation were available each morning (thank you Mayuri Gonzalez!)

Our graduates offered ten of the 25 sessions: a marvelously musical keynote, games and fun variations with youth, strategies for working with resistance. Researchers  at UNC gave a poster session expanding our school-based curriculum for training families in their homes. Mindful Schools’ Head of Research, Camille Whitney, PhD presented an inspiring up-to date review of research.

Catching the Wave: Trends in Mindfulness Education
Below is a collection of highlights and resources by thought leaders shared at the conference.

The Importance of Secularity
For many of us, the most moving moments of practice/professional learning came from a keynote presentation by Fiona Jensen and Adria Kennedy of Calmer Choice on Cape Cod, MA. If you’re not familiar with the story of how their program paused for months because of questions about the secularity of their curriculum, we urge you to inform yourselves. In true mindful fashion, the fruits of the practice—self-compassion, equanimity, and engaging other world views with a curious mind and open heart—helped these leaders to resolve the crisis and resume services for over 6,000 school children and their teachers. Camille Whitney, PhD, our Head of Research, noted “I loved how their presentation included mindfulness and empathy practices. In one exercise, we imagined ourselves both as the parent who opposed the mindfulness program, and the leaders of that mindfulness program — very powerful to get a felt sense of both perspectives.” Here at Mindful Schools, we’ve published guidelines on what secularity means to us.

Though the conference has ended, the networking, collaboration, and friendships keep growing. We’ll be inviting you to some webinars growing out of this conference, and hope you’ll follow all these mindful leaders through our Facebook pages and website. Let us know what inspires you!


Mindful Schools transforms school communities from the inside out. Learn more about our online course offerings, Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials. Graduates of Fundamentals and Essentials may move on to advanced courses including Mindful Communication and Difficult Emotions.

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