Byron's Babbles

Responding With Mindfulness

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, science education by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 12, 2015


Being mindful in our responses ensures integrity in our interactions and solutions to opportunities (what I call challenges and problems). Absence of mindfulness raises the likelihood of emotional reactions and unproductive arguments instead of thoughtful and effective responses. We need to gain control through attentiveness and awareness, centering ourselves to lead our solutions and conversations fruitfully, honestly, and fully. It is easy to be pulled into reacting, and it takes more effort to respond. However, with mindfulness practices, I believe exchanges can be more productive and greater integrity can be maintained.

As we maintain our mindfulness through inner calmness and strength, we listen to what is being said more intently, and we watch the way in which it is being said. Also, we truly can begin to look at the challenge as an opportunity. We become more aware as we formulate our response. Our raised attentiveness enables us to respond more thoughtfully and, if needed, begin to direct the exchange in a direction of collaboration or more productive areas of discussion. Our mindful and responsive solution can truly become a new adventure and great journey.

Let me tell you the story of my morning. I am in Washington D.C. with a group of our Hoosier Academy families. They really wanted to go to the Smithsonian National Zoo. Well, as a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador and Smithsonian Diffusion Award Winner, I was ready to do anything Smithsonian! We arranged for our charter bus to take us there in the morning. Then we were going to have the bus take us at noon to the Smithsonian Castle and Enid A. Haupt Garden to meet up with some of my Smithsonian friends for a research experience. On the way to the zoo, our staff person coordinating the trip got an email telling her that we could not use the bus at noon. Ok, I’m not going to lie, my first thought was to react, but then I practiced mindfulness. Keep in mind the zoo is 3.8 miles from the Smithsonian Castle. Not an easy walk for a group of 55. Also keep in mind that almost all in the group had never been to Washington D.C. – certainly, never been on the Metro! 

As I took a moment to become mindful, however, I decided that with a Metro station two blocks from the zoo at Woodley Park, and then a short ride with one change from the Red Line to the Orange or Blue Line at Metro Center, it would be a cheap, $2.75 per person, experience and journey for our students and families. So, what did I do? While the group was exploring at the zoo, I went and purchased 55 Metro passes. What a great experience and adventure it was! Bottom line: we all got to Enid A. Haupt Garden on time for our program (see picture below)! I had students telling me it was the greatest thing they had done. All of our participants were glad to have had the experience. What a great lesson for our students to learn how to use mass transit.   While there may only be a slight difference between the words react and respond. In practice, there seems to be a gulf of difference. When people react, it seems to be defensive and snap, poor decisions are made. By practicing mindfulness, however, responding is more thoughtful. Mindful responses contain reasoning. If mindfulness is being more centered within and aware of others, then this is a practice we need to embrace to prevent reacting and focus on responding. Being mindful in our responses ensures integrity in our interactions. It might even enable us, as leaders, to provide opportunities of great adventures for those we serve!


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