As we sat in a large ballroom in a hotel right outside of Washington, D.C., we waited with anticipation for the start of the Mindful Life Conference. I sat beside my friend and fellow Mindful Educator, Stephanie Lupoli. “A Gathering for All Things Mindful” was something we had traveled many miles from Astoria, New York to attend. Founders, Eric Forbis and Mo Edjlali, warmly greeted the crowd. People were coming together for this event from many different backgrounds: law, medicine, politics, science, social work, media, technology and education. We were encouraged to quickly connect with those around us. The room felt light, open and filled with excitement. Immediately we knew there was something different, something extraordinary about this conference.
A special guest speaker walked out onto the stage. With kind eyes, a warm smile and tattooed arms, this incredible human being inspired us with stories, insight and poetry. He had us engage in a heartfulness practice where we visualized the young people we work with surrounding the room. He reminded us to spread love and to lead with kindness. He reminded us to breathe. With his invitation, hugs were being passed around the room between complete strangers. These were REAL hugs, not the awkward “pats-on-the-back” type of hugs. And what made this all possible? Mindfulness.
This was the container created by Mindful Schools Lead Facilitator, Vinny Ferraro. He opened the conference with a heartfelt talk about his own experiences as a young boy and asked us to connect to the parts of us that cared. This was one thread that wove its way through each of the sessions as the weekend unfolded.
There were many great workshops to choose from. We were able to attend sessions led by Sharon Salzberg, Tim Ryan, Judson Brewer, Pam Dunn, Vinny Ferraro, Dan Siegel, Tara Brach, Caroline Welch, as well as Ali Smith, Atman Smith and Andres Gonzalez, the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation. We watched panel discussions with Mikey Siegel, Jim Gimian, Barry Boyce, Pilar Gerasimo, Rhonda Magee and many more. The last day of the conference was spent in an intensive daylong workshop focused on transforming our educational environment for good with Dr. Tish Jennings. There were many gems collected from these sessions. Here are a few that seemed to stand out.
- Access to mindfulness needs to be universal.
- Be sure to keep mindfulness in schools secular.
- Compassion is a strength.
- Seek out valid research.
- Kids need to spend more “time-in” rather than “time-out”.
- Take a “YOU” turn when you sense judgment. Ask, “What is going on within myself?”
- See the “gold” in others … and see it in yourself.
- Move beyond our stories.
- Anyone who causes suffering is suffering.
- Tried something and it doesn’t work? Pivot (gracefully). Make a decision. Turn and change.
- Small shifts are crucial.
- Lack of emotional regulation derails classroom management.
- By savoring moments of love, joy, inspiration, gratitude and awe, we build resilience. Help kids learn to notice these moments.
- Don’t be attached to outcomes.
- Just do the work.
- Meet people where they are.
- Be the practice.
Danielle Mahoney is a mindfulness educator, literacy coach and nationally board certified teacher. She graduated from the Year-Long Certification program in 2015.