My Present is LOVE!

Posted on February 14, 2016


“What happens when I incorporate Mindfulness practices in my English Language Arts classes?”


Wearing my birthday gifts: earrings made by Ashleh and scarves from The Carpenters, and holding the spoon that Cale carved.

Monday, February 8, 2016

On my 52nd birthday,  I tell my students, “It’s my birthday, and the gift I most want is a more peaceful, loving world, so today we’re going to practice Loving-kindness meditation.”

In every class period, some students respond, “Oh good. That’s my favorite one!”

To help students remember what to say (to themselves) when they practice Loving-kindness meditation, I have written it on the board:

May I be happy;

May I be well;

May I be free from suffering;

May I be at peace.

I point to the words on the board and remind everyone, “We start with focusing on sending compassion to ourselves, then we focus on a person we feel comfortable and safe with, then a person who is part of our lives that we have neutral feelings toward, then someone we’ve had some difficulty with, and finally, all beings in the entire world.”

To prepare for our practice, I instruct the students, “Okay, Maples, devices away. Earbuds off and out. Devices away (It takes a few repetitions for this one). Clear your desk of all distractions and get into a comfortable position. Let’s dim the lights, please. When we’re comfortable and quiet, I’ll start the recording of Dr. Vo–aka Dr. Mindful.”

Within less than a minute, the room is silent. We can hear the click of heels on the hallway, the sounds of doors opening and closing. We can hear Ms. G next door, talking and tapping on her white board with markers; we can hear puzzling, interesting, astonishing, ridiculous, hilarious things said by students in the hall. We can hear the air whooshing through the ventilation system. We can hear crows and geese calling outside, the sound of tires humming as they roll down McKenzie Street. We can hear each other cough, sneeze, clear our throats.

Breaking the silence, Dr. Vo leads us through the practice, “Welcome to Loving-kindness meditation. To begin this meditation, find a comfortable seated position….”

We breathe and become aware of our interdependence and inter-being with all the beings with whom we share our home, Earth. We breathe and say silently together,

May all beings be happy;

May all beings be well;

May all beings be free from suffering;

May all beings be at peace.

While we breathe and smile together, I am filled with a deep sense of peace, joy, and hope. We are creating a more peaceful, loving world, right here in Room A125. Together. These teens and me. We are a caring circle of friends.

After the meditation, we take out some paper and write for five minutes, reflecting on the Loving-kindness meditation. I look forward to reading what the students write. Today especially, each reflection is a gift, because it is my birthday, and my birthday present is LOVE, the greatest gift of all.

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I love the way I can stumble into research that informs my Mindfulness research project. I clicked on an article about a website where women can anonymously rate their employers for creating female-friendly workplaces, and the article about Love was underneath it. The title, “There’s No Such Thing As Everlasting Love (According to Science)” grabbed me. I love Love Research. Helen Fisher is one of my favorite love researchers. Love and science? I clicked! And here’s what I found:

“In a 2010 study from her lab, Fredrickson randomly assigned half of her participants to a ‘love’ condition and half to a control condition. In the love condition, participants devoted about one hour of their weeks for several months to the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation. In loving-kindness meditation, you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being. Ultimately, the practice helps people step outside of themselves and become more aware of other people and their needs, desires, and struggles—something that can be difficult to do in our hyper individualistic culture.

Fredrickson measured the participants’ vagal tone before and after the intervention. The results were so powerful that she was invited to present them before the Dalai Lama himself in 2010. Fredrickson and her team found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, people could significantly increase their vagal tone by self-generating love through loving-kindness meditation. Since vagal tone mediates social connections and bonds, people whose vagal tones increased were suddenly capable of experiencing more micro-moments of love in their days. Beyond that, their growing capacity to love more will translate into health benefits given that high vagal tone is associated with lowered risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.” by Emily Esfahani Smith, January 24, 2013.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Dear Reader,

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.