Really, it all comes down to this. It is the basis of every workshop I do; it is the basis of how I relate to my own staff; it is the stuff of how I, in my best moments, relate to the kids in my care.
The sum total of your effect in the world comes down to who you are being, moment to moment.
The most powerful thing you can sometimes be is present.
Over the past year, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much time we, as teachers, as youth workers, as people, are not present to what is happening around us. Most of the time we are caught inside our own heads, mulling about what just happened or worrying/daydreaming about what is going to happen. Either way, that prevents us from actually being present to the now, robbing us of the ability to enjoy what is happening and preventing us from being attentive to the needs of the children and staff around us.
In his book, Beginning Mindfulness, author and Zen master Andrew Weiss suggests a technique he calls the “Mindfulness Bell”. Basically, a bell with a distinct and pleasing sound is rung at various times during the day. When the bell rings, the agreement is that all within earshot will stop, quiet themselves, and just become present to what is happening in their worlds, both external and internal for a moment.
For the new year I propose a challenge on two levels. The first level is this: Install a mindfulness bell at your place of work, and enroll the staff that work there in the possibilities of once-a-day mindfulness. If you can’t enroll them in the idea of being present, then you might try to enroll them in stopping for the bell as just a game.
For those who would like an additional challenge and work in a school or after-school center or program, here is the far greater challenge, with the far greater reward: not only enroll your staff in playing the mindfulness bell game, but enrolling the children (who have a far less difficult time being present to life) in the mindfulness game.
Good luck, and please let me know how the experience works for you and your workplace.