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Mindfulness in Service

December 13, 2012


By Zac Dubois, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Capitol Middle School

Interventions with our students can be some of the most intrinsically joyful, or incredibly frustrating experiences we, as corps members, can face.  The crystallizing moment when you truly reach a student, and visibly make an impact on his or her understanding is nothing short of beautiful.  However, the exasperation of time constraints and behavior issues can be equally powerful.  As the winter break approaches, I think I speak for the corps when I say that burn out is setting in, and the frustration is becoming increasingly present in our lives.  

This being said, this is an especially important time for corps members to reflect on our purposes — both on an individual and organizational level– and realign our attitudes.  Personally, I find that implementing the Buddhist practice of mindfulness.   This philosophical framework does not necessitate identifying yourself as Buddhist, or even to regard it with any religious affiliation.  Mindfulness is simply an ongoing effort to remind yourself of where you are and what is going on around you in the present moment.  It is easy to become impatient or frustrated in this line of work.  A lot of this frustration comes from comparing where we are and what we are accomplishing in the present moment to what we want to / are supposed to accomplish in the future.  Instead of attempting to will the present to be different, try to accept the present for what it is.  Full acceptance of the present moment is harder than it sounds.  Before you can accept a moment for what it is, you must first become as fully aware of what the present holds as possible.  Observe your environment, focus on your breathe, observe, and drink it all in.  Don’t hold yourself or anyone else at fault for the present not meeting your own expectations for the future.  In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn: “…in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are.  Then, when you’re ready, move in the direction your heart tells you to go, mindfully and with resolution.”  In other words, you must know exactly where you are, before you can decide where you hope to go.  This proves no less true in your efforts to be an effective educator and mentor.  A pause in the name of clarity will not harm or distract your efforts; it will only illuminate them.

This all may sound like a heap of new-age mumbo-jumbo, and completely irrelevant to you.  But I challenge you to take a few minutes, or even a few seconds each day to think about where you are and what is around you, in the most literal and basic sense, and see if this does not help you realign yourself with yourself.  For more on mindfulness, check out Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt Dubois permalink
    December 14, 2012 11:33 am

    Well said, Zac. I think that’s great advice for people in any profession or stage of life.

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