Meditating on May
Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network
May 2022 was an incredible month. It started with the online Provincial Spring Meeting and ended with in-person Regional Gatherings in the North, West, Central, East and South regions. Throughout the month CALP staff across the province were invited to join other staff from their region and the province to connect, reconnect, celebrate, share and network. It was restorative.
In part, it was restorative because I had several opportunities to meditate. Sometimes more than once in one day! This prompted me to explore my own understanding of meditation. I don’t know about you but I have always assumed that meditation involved stilling my body and my mind. If I was picking a soundtrack for meditation it might sound something like this song.
I knew that music could aid meditation but I was surprised to learn that the shaking and dancing we participated in at the Provincial Spring Meeting was also a form of meditation. What about stilling my body? Instead Marsha Shack, Classroom Connections, used dynamic, rhythmic music and invited us to shake or bounce our bodies for 5 -10 minutes. Marsha then played an uplifting song and encouraged us to dance in whatever way felt right. It was so fun and energizing. I was curious, what are the benefits of meditating with my body in motion? I learned that expressive meditation:
- raises energy
- releases tension
- breaks up habitual physical, emotional and/or mental holding patterns
- increases awareness of mind-body patterns
At the South Regional Gathering Tammy Nischuk, SAIL, introduced us to the concept that doodling or drawing can also be a form of meditation. Doodling helps us create a calm space for ourselves in a busy world. With each line, dash, circle, and zig-zag I felt myself relax and restore. This is one way to practice concentrative meditation.
At the same gathering, Elder Lucille Provost guided us through a meditation that invited us to ground our bodies, acknowledge the busyness of our minds, embrace mindfulness, and practice self-care. This mindful meditation involved a body scan and an increasing awareness of breath. There was soothing flute music in the background. It was transformative.
I am learning so much about meditation. You can practice with a group or there’s an app for that. It can be quiet or disruptive. It can involve story and art and music or none of the above. Regardless of how you do it, meditation has incredible benefits. According to the Center for Mind-Body Medicine meditation can:
- manage the fight-or-flight, stress, and freeze responses
- promote the healthy integration of thoughts and feelings
- revive functions that have been compromised – memory, focus, self-awareness, judgment, emotional intelligence, and compassion.
Expressive meditation includes active techniques, such as chanting, dancing, shaking, and fast, deep breathing. Movement alters brain chemistry, and therefore mood.
Concentrative meditation quiets the stress response, making it easier for us to accept and put our emotions in perspective. It enhances activity in the hippocampus and frontal cortex, which allow us to gain perspective on our emotions, to integrate them more easily with our memories and our ongoing experience.
Mindfulness meditation involves being relaxed and aware of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise, without focusing on a particular object. This is what people typically think of when the word “meditation” is mentioned. Becoming aware of your anxious thoughts and emotions, you can nourish and strengthen yourself, allowing yourself to gradually release the hold they have on you.
With all these benefits, I am eager to hear about how you use meditation both in your own self-care practice and in your work with adult foundational learners. How do you meditate? How and when do you incorporate meditation into your learning opportunities?
If you, like me, are a beginner meditator I asked Marsha and Tammy to share more about:
Emily Robinson Leclair
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