Contemplative practices as a path to integrated presence and wellness for teachers.

Year: 2018

Author: Tichy, Michelle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

According to the Contemplative Mind in Society contemplative practices have their roots in two intentions, “cultivating awareness and developing a stronger connection to the divine or inner wisdom (Contemplative Mind in Society, 2011). The Contemplative Mind and Society organizes contemplative practices in seven categories: stillness, activity, movement, rituals, creativity, relations and generative practices. Through work with pre-service teachers, pk-12 teachers, and professors we have examined the influence of contemplative practice adoption in the perceived sense of overall wellbeing and presence on educators. Using interviews, journals, and focus groups we looked at how adopting daily contemplative practices of any kind had an effect on the way that educators felt about their wellness and their ability to be present in the moment with their students. In this study we expanded our scope from the more frequently studied mindfulness practices to also look at the broader landscape of contemplative practices looking at things like drum circles, labyrinths, journaling, and storytelling. By expanding this study to the larger set of contemplative practices we were able to capture a larger group of participants who reported having at least one daily contemplative practice, allowing us to examine if the specific practices had an impact on perceived benefits. Our findings reflect a strong connection between daily or even weekly contemplative practices with educator’s sense of positive wellbeing and ability to stay fully present while teaching. We also found that the more regular the educator’s contemplative practice(s) were the more automatically they were able to use them to come back to the present moment when things became stressful or overwhelming in the classroom. Additionally, the educators who reported regular use of nay contemplative practice reported being physically sick less often, they reported a more positive sense of self, and they had a higher rate of saying they loved what they did professionally. Most of our contemplative practitioners shared a great deal of hope, gratitude, and compassion for themselves, their students, and the world as a whole. Next step in this work is to examine ways to integrate contemplative practices into more teacher education programs, school systems, and wellness programs for all educators.