Try Something New for 30 Days

”These are days you’ll remember. Never before and never since, I promise the whole world be warm as this. And as you feel it you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky. It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.”
—These are days, 10,ooo maniacs.

You know that thing where you learn a new word and then for a time you start hearing that word ALL the time  even though it seems that you’d never really heard it before? You hear it on the radio, in conversations at work, on your favorite sitcom? It’s as though the universe it telling you to pay attention.

Recently this happened to me with the concept of meditation.

First I heard an ad for Headspace, which is an app that is an introduction to meditation. Then on the Happier in Hollywood podcast, I listened intently while Liz and Sarah talked about their meditation practices. My boss mentioned in casual conversation that she meditates followed by yoga daily.

Every three months our school closes for an in-service. The staff has a chance to meet and discuss Montessori philosophy and learn about tools and techniques that help support self-care and personal growth as well as better ways to support the children in our care with their own personal growth. During our February in-service Monti Pal a psychotherapist and Montessori mom taught our teaching team about mindfulness. She explained in simple terms how important it is to be present in the moment and to make mindfulness a daily practice. 

Things have been a little nuts at work with a recent turn over of adults.  I’ve been stressed about it and my husband surprised me one weekend by telling me he has started meditating and that I should try it too. My jaw dropped and then I listened as he described what had been working to keep him from losing  his cool at work.

my H at age five on the playground at Montessori school

I decided to try meditation.

I remembered a TED talk I had seen recently in which Matt Cutts urges the viewer to try something new for 30 days. I listened to the universe and I took his advice.  I did it! All 30 days.

On display at a beautiful Thai Fusion restaurant in Denver

I started with the Headspace app I mentioned earlier and I really liked the 10 day introduction to meditation.  The guy has a really soothing voice and he walks you through a simple ten minute meditation each day in which there’s a little breathing, a body scan, an opportunity to let the mind wander and then bring the attention back to the body. Lastly the guide suggests a mood check to assess how you’re feeling.  I added a simple step at the end by setting an intention for my day. So far I kinda like it. It feels like a really good way to start the day, especially if I follow it with yoga with Adriene.

I have missed a day here or there and that’s ok. On the days when I practice my meditation and the follow that with yoga, I feel stronger. I feel proud of myself. I feel good.

***

As a Montessori teacher, I help young children learn to recognize and manage their emotions. Young people often have BIG feelings and they need time and space to practice how to navigate their feelings.

My colleague, Christina of Montessoriishmom.com, wrote a terrific article about how to use mindfulness with a toddler for Motherly.com called “Ease Your Anxious Child: 6 Simple Mindfulness Exercises To Try Today“.

 I recently learned about the RULER method of teaching children about feelings developed at Yale center for Emotional Intelligence. Simply put we intend to teach children to:

  1. Recognize emotion in themselves and others,
  2. begin to Understand the causes and consequences of different emotions,
  3. build a sophisticated vocabulary to Label a full range of emotions,
  4. how we Express  emotion as well as external factors that influence expression,
  5. and then the goal is to teach the children how to Regulate their emotion.  

It was a terrific lecture and I took lots of notes about how to help the children in my classroom. In fact, I mentioned it to my boss and she sounded like she might include some of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence techniques for  teacher in-service in the future.

a 5-year-old finding a moment of quiet (not sleeping)

This week I added the “quiet spot” in my classroom. I wanted to provide a place where the children can have some private time to get quiet and re-set. I arranged the furniture a little differently so that the adults could supervise a child in the quiet spot and yet the child feels secluded. There’s a cozy cushion (actually it’s a dog bed kinda like this one!) and I put a little shelf next to it with some of our peace activities.  

 

a worry stone

I noticed the success of the quiet spot RIGHT AWAY! I made sure the children knew that only one person could be in the quiet spot at a time and that if they saw someone there, they were working hard on finding peace and that they could not be interrupted. For several days I protected and guided the work there at all costs so that the expectation was clear. Also, if someone was particularly active, like standing up a lot or something like that or if they weren’t actually being quiet, then I would redirect them.

Sometimes a child will just lay there on the cushion and sometimes a child will take something with them from the peace shelf. Some of the things we have out right now are:

  • A meditation stone (a cool-looking, heavy rock)
  • An hourglass
  • A worry stone (something pretty that fits in the palm of a tiny hand)
  • A finger labyrinth
  • Some visualization cards from A Handful of Quiet
  • A “breathe deep” stone (a big, smooth river rock the child holds to his chest and takes 5 deep breaths)
she holds a large river rock against her chest, taking five deep breaths

All of the peace work can be used elsewhere in the classroom too. We teach some other breathing and meditation techniques that require no object at all.  And then of course the adults and the older children model the kindness and compassion of helping out a friend who is struggling with conflict either internal or external.

It’s really easy to show a child how to take deep breaths and they remember to practice if they see a tangible object that reminds them to practice. Do you have a quiet spot in your home or in your classroom? How do you help the little people in your life recenter?

taking time for me

 

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I put the needs of others before the needs of myself, and I have for as long as I can remember.  I take care of my home, my husband, my two boys, and my students.  I know that old southern  adage, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and yet I constantly struggle to refill my own cup.

In February of 2015 my friend and coworker, Christina from www.montessoriishmom.com told me about the Happier podcast and I started to learn more about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies.  The Four Tendencies is a personality framework that classifies you based on how you handle inner and outer expectations. If you want to know more about this framework, follow this link to take the quiz.   I ordered my copy of her book on The Four Tendencies here.

I could talk about the Four Tendencies all day long. I’ve been obsessed with understanding them since I first heard the Happier podcast. The main point for this post is that I found out that I am an Obliger and by making a few changes in how I approach my own needs, my life changed for the better.  I found out that in order to DO for MYSELF, I need outward accountability.  Otherwise, I will always put others first.

After listening to the Happier podcast for a year, I finally bought her book  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It has helped me on my journey to find time for ME.  Similar to Rubin’s story in The Happiness Project, I have everything that I need. Product DetailsI have a happy family, a great job, we’re all healthy, and yet I still felt like I could be, well…happier. In order to find what I was looking for, I used outer accountability to take care of my body, embrace my hobbies and my need to be creative, and to take time to be spontaneous and fun.

I started a bullet journal. It has changed my whole life.  A bullet journal is an empty book that you customize to be a planner and then some.  It’s not only a way to keep track of the family calendar and work tasks, it is also my outer accountability as well as a creative outlet that I didn’t realize I was missing.

I loved buying school supplies when I was 10…I still love it now!

I plan out the nightly dinners. Writing the dinners that are planned is critical when time at home is at premium.  I have a page where I write down cute or clever things my boys said. I have a page where I list movies or books that I want to remember. The list goes on. The part of the bullet journal that gives me outer accountability is so simple: I get to cross a task off the list! I have a goal tracker. I track if I exercised, if I drank enough water, if I took my vitamins. 

My bullet journal

If I get to cross it off the list, I am more inclined to do it. Also, I write down all of the mundane things I am required to do both at home and at work so I get a happiness boost when I check them off the list.  If for some reason I can’t manage a task using my bullet journal as my accountability, I look for that accountability somewhere else.  Which reminds me, I need to get my car inspected and it has migrated forward week by week through my bullet journal nagging at me. I need to ask for help outside myself. For example, if I make an appointment with the mechanic, the mechanic expects me on a certain day, which is my outer accountability.

Rubin also suggests  that I should think about what I enjoyed doing when I was in the third grade, and that it’s likely that I will still like to do a version of those things now.  It’s kind of true! “Third Grade Me” liked:

  • camping and being outside
  • coloring, drawing, and being crafty
  • reading mysteries,
  • making box-forts,  
  • and playing school.  

Drawing out the next pages for  my bullet journal, using washi tape, stickers, insightful quotes and cool markers fulfills a creative bug for me like coloring in coloring books did when I was in third grade.  

Me in the octopus skirt I made for myself

I didn’t realize that being creative made me feel happy until I started with the bullet journal. I even enjoyed taking notes at my CPR and first aid class, because it felt creative! (I’ll be honest, I doodled a little.) I have started several sewing projects for myself. I was a professional seamstress, and yet, my skills have been used for my lovely classroom and my sweet family.  I made an octopus skirt, that took little more than an hour to make, and it is awesome. Football season is coming up, so I am contemplating a knitting project to enjoy while I sit and watch the Texans with my husband.

I love volunteering for Cub Scouts day camp. I spend a lot of time working with the Boy Scouts, too. I still love camping, cooking and sleeping outside. H and I went to sleep-away camp for a week this past July with his Boy Scout troop. It was super HOT. We slept in tents for a WEEK.  It was super-duper triple digit hot, and I still  had a blast.

Lost Pines Boy Scout Camp
dinner with M and her brothers at the Boat House Grill

Finding time for friends gives me a happiness boost.  My former college roommate Kim lives on the other side of town with her husband and three kids.  We try to alternate playdates, usually meeting at a restaurant halfway between our locations, and an evening hanging out with just adults. As corny as it sounds, my husband is my best friend.  We make it a priority to have date nights. Now that our boys are older, we have ventured out into new territory: happy hour. Once in a while we  indulge in a margarita at Chuy’s on a Friday after work. There’s nothing like getting chips and queso out of the trunk of a car at Chuy’s.

It’s hard to get this fish out of the water even when it’s tasty Tuesday

The hardest part for me on my journey to pursue happiness is to splurge on myself, to be spontaneous and to have fun (even to let myself be fun). In The Happiness Project, Rubin says to “be serious about play.” I am not really into sweet treats or desserts, so I often forget to splurge on a trip to Amy’s Ice Cream with my boys. Making memories and bonding over ice cream makes me happier, so why do I say “no” more often than I say “yes”? I started a  “Tasty Tuesday” tradition this summer.  Even if I’m tired from working at Montessori School, I try to make dinner particularly fun like a spontaneous trip to the pool, cooler in tow, with sausages on sticks, watermelon and those yummy two-bite brownies.

H testing our our geodesic dome before it’s done

My 11-year-old, H, is less and less into playing with mom so when I asked him to play with me he looked up something really cool on Pinterest, if you can believe it. He and I started making a geodesic dome out of cardboard. Instructables is an awesome website! We need a few more boxes to complete it, making it tall enough to get inside. It is going to be so super cool! It’s like an upgraded box fort from third grade.  I can’t wait to crawl in with my younger son and take turns reading Encyclopedia Brown.

It’s been a challenge to find ways to play that feel authentic to my growing happiness.  When I started this work on myself, I didn’t want to “fake it til you make it”. Although this is still a work in progress, at 43 years old, I feel like I am finally figuring myself out.