"Happy Teachers Will Change the World"
We just finished our first Applied Ethics Retreat at the Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism. We had a cozy house of wholehearted teachers who wanted to learn how to practice mindfulness. The teachers have the noble responsibility to educate students. In the retreat everyone was quite aware that to be able to teach mindfulness, one first must know to be mindful in their own lives. Teachers must also be the example of applied ethics, so students can trust and follow. Ghandi has said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
In the retreat the importance of learning how to return to oneself and be oneself was promoted. We can do this by mindful breathing. Being aware of our in breath and our out breath, allows us to recognize more clearly what is going on within and around us, without being carried away or drowning in it. It helps us to maintain our concentration. One Teacher shared that after learning about the practice of mindfulness, what she did in two weeks stressed and unhappily, she has now done in a week with much more efficiency and satisfaction. She was very grateful to the practice. After taking up the practice of mindful breathing and caring for her own emotions, she did not allow her emotions to spill out but rather as graciously as possible walk away from the situation to breathe and do mindful walking. This gave her mind more space to do what she really needed to be doing and fulfill her responsibility. Focusing on what is important in the here and now rather than getting caught up and carried away by the drama is much more worthwhile and beneficial. Advice was given to the happy practitioners of the retreat that: Yes, the practice of mindful breathing can do wonders for a person, but it needs to be introduced at the proper moment in a skillful manner, so students can accustom themselves to a new way of dealing with life. Teachers nowadays have more of a role of being guides for their students and knowing tools to help students and how to be present for students than being the leader and telling them what do like in the past, because now with the internet, children and adults have access to limitless information. They come into school knowing so much about this and that already. It is really important for teachers to be centered in themselves.
Retreatants really loved the practice of Total Relaxation, an opportunity to sleep, although not the actual purpose, still the restful sleep was greatly appreciated. Eating mindful meals and doing walking meditation together was also very nourishing. They enjoyed the silence and peace while eating their food. In the retreat there were two Dharma Talks one was an mp4 talk by our Teacher, Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) on Applied Ethics for Teachers and the other live by our eldest brother. Retreatants were reminded to actually do the practice themselves and by doing so they create the space for others to follow. A question was asked how can we maintain our practice? The answer was simple; when you suffer enough, you will practice. Practicing is a means for making our lives better, more happy and peaceful and to live more deeply, meaningfully. Teachers must first take it upon themselves to practice caring for and embracing their emotions, then their students will learn to do the same.
The retreat concluded with a couple teachers sharing their personal practice of bringing mindfulness into their classroom/ school. Both shared how mindfulness changed their lives, so they could not help but bring the practice into their work place. The practice is part of their daily lives. Mindfulness does not necessarily mean you are Buddhist. It can be very secular. One of the teachers has already implemented using the Mindfulness Bell as part of their assembly gathering at her Christian School.
The Applied Ethics retreat is a beginning for teachers to start coming together to support and reinforce each other in practicing mindfulness in their daily life and bringing it into their schools and work. Once a month on the fourth Saturday, there is a Day of Mindfulness at Hong Kong Institute of Education. You are encouraged to join and build your network of support in learning and developing your mindfulness practice.