Sunday, October 2, 2016
For those confused by my blog address, I will one day purchase the "mindfulyumakids," domain to add to "mindfulphillykids," but for now we'll stick with what's in place...
I made it! I'm 10 weeks in to my new life in the southwest of the US, and what a roller coaster its been so far. I am the preschool teacher at a lovely little Catholic School, Immaculate Conception, in Yuma, AZ. Yuma is in the southwest corner of the US, just minutes from the borders of California and Mexico. It is a three hour ride to San Diego, and three hours to Phoenix. The families and teachers at IC couldn't be more friendly and welcoming, and our classroom is HUGE! The two assistant teachers I am blessed to work with are utterly amazing, embracing the same holistic approach to education that I hold dear to my heart.
This is my first experience teaching at a Catholic School and, prior to moving to Yuma, I had been focused on secular mindfulness practice. I knew that the transition had seamless potential, but I just didn't know where to start. I have spent the first two months of school re-integrating into classroom life and forming relationships with the children and staff at our school. The more I learn about teaching the Catholic faith, the more I am able to also bring tools of mindfulness into the classroom in the form of Christian meditation. This week I will reach out to parents of our class to share what I am finally beginning to see clearly. I hope to work together with families to implement Christian meditation, also known as contemplative prayer or prayer of the heart, into our classroom and into family life at home.
This transition has not been easy for me. From east coast to west coast, from established friends and family to new friends and different family, from working with just a handful of children to a whole classroom of children (albeit a small one- only 12 children to start the year, whew!), from having daily interaction with my one-day-husband, to embracing a long-distance relationship- this transition has been a doozy! It is has been hard, but it is a good kind of hard. I feel myself learning and growing everyday, and I really can't ask for anything more.
Thank you to all who support me day in and day out, especially my dear Mom, who makes this experience possible with her ongoing love, support and sharing of a beautiful home and delicious meals!
Here's a new video I just watched about mindfulness in the classroom. I'm hoping to be able to take this training soon: Mindful Schools In-Class Instruction- https://youtu.be/MMK481p5wWM
Peace from me to you! -Kim
Saturday, May 21, 2016
As some of you might know, I am planning a relocation in the coming months. I'll be leaving my beloved neighborhood of West Philly and heading west to be with my sister and mom. My sis and her husband have lived in Yuma, AZ for ten years and have two beautiful children who I clearly do not see enough. My Mom packed up and sold her house in Jersey to be a closer Bubbie, my Dad and stepmom June have been making yearly extended PopPop & MomMom trips, and I now find myself needing to be an everyday Aunty as well. This means that my career trajectory will also change a bit as I move from the familiarity of PA to the yet unknown of Arizona.
I have, for quite some time, felt in my heart that I am meant to share my passion for early childhood education by creating, or at least helping to create, a high quality early learning program. Despite tremendous support from colleagues and families with whom I closely work, and a year of intense research and planning in the Philadelphia community, I have not yet taken the startup leap.
Since around the time of this blog's creation, as I continued to experience the powerfully transformative effects of mindfulness practice, I decided that my next professional step will be to throw myself fully into sharing its benefits with early childhood teachers and families with young children. I am working on a business plan for a community-based nonprofit where I will be able to offer services to the Yuma community within a space that could also be used for much more. It is a plan I am excited to grow. But as autumn (my season of relocation) moves closer, I also realistically understand that I will need to continue bringing in an income as I develop my business. I therefore began to investigate the early learning community in Yuma and I feel both encouraged and disheartened at my early observations, both from the standpoint of an employee and as an enrolled child.
In Philadelphia I have always had employment options. I am qualified to work in a classroom, but most recently I have chosen to work one-on-one with several families as a private caregiver and early childhood educator, a nanny. The flexibility, autonomy, and immense impact I can make in becoming so close to families has just felt right for me. There have always been plenty of families able and willing to pay for my level of attention and I have not ever had to worry about finding work. There does not seem to be much of a nanny market in Yuma, and so I began looking at early learning programs for which I might work. There are many childcare options for families with young children, but my initial research did not find a great many high-quality options. Not only do the expected wait-lists abound at the limited programs available, but there are also qualifications to be met in order to enroll, whether income or employment-based. In a world where families often need to supplement care of even very young children, the decisions about how to do so can seem trying at the least. There is a great deal of research that informs us of just how important early experiences are to the growth and development of humans. Not only is there the issue of outside care and education of the children, but also that of parent understanding and growth. Where or how can the average family ensure an optimal daily experience (daily life experience = learning) for their children? I now find myself wondering, "Where will I find myself upon first moving to Yuma? How can I make the most vital impact? Is my most logical first step to open a mindfulness studio, or would I be of more value working directly in early childhood education?" That heartfelt message just keeps coming back to me. I did not start a school in Philly, but maybe Yuma is where I was meant to be...
And so as I sit on a bench in Clark Park today, shielded from the spring raindrops by the tree umbrella above, I seek clarity. I still have so much to learn in the field of early childhood education and in the practice of mindfulness. Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed at the books to be read, the conferences to attend, or the certifications to attain. After some moments of silence this morning, I remind myself: Practice. Life is about practice, in all that we do. Practice makes progress, and progress can only occur if we commit to the practice. With a deep breath in... clarity, and with a slow exhale... peaceful practice.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
I am indeed alive and kicking, despite the lapse in blog posting. I have always wanted to write a blog, but often hesitated because I worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up. Well, I am glad I finally did it and here's to everyone else out there just doing their best along with me!
This year I was reminded of just how much can happen in 12 short months! Last April when I created "Relaxation Story" for my LO, little did I know the journey I was beginning. Since then I immersed myself in books, articles, and videos about the benefits of bringing mindfulness to children, and the most valuable lesson I learned was that it really comes back to my own practice.
Every practitioner says it, and I remember reading and re-reading the reminders to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Well in the beginning I thought I was practicing, I was doing my best, every day, to sit on my cushion and follow my breath. I felt the effects of increased concentration, impulse control, calmness and better sleep. Despite this, it wasn't until I relinquished my goal of "getting better at mindfulness so that I can teach," that everything fell into place.
Eventually I realized, through mindfulness practice, that my next steps professionally would fall into place if only I allowed the space necessary for personal growth. My big decisions seemed much more accessible and a great deal less intimidating after this realization. Although I have a list of important trainings and retreats that I am saving money to attend, when the opportunity arose to take a 6-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course to deepen my practice, I jumped at the opportunity. It wasn't until after the first class that I realized I veered off course of my "mindfulness plan." At that point there was nothing much I could do but to sit back and breathe. It proved to be the best decision I ever could have made.
During those weeks of weekly meetings with like-minded people, I was able to look within myself and figure out how to bring mindfulness practice off the cushion and into my every-day life. From sending loving kindness to my fellow SEPTA commuters, to noticing all of the bubbles and warm water I use to wash the daily dishes, mindfulness began to grow roots deeper into the soil of my life. I continued reading and practicing yoga, qi-gong, and other mindful movement exercises as a way to deepen my understanding of myself. As a result, when I interacted with the children, I shared what I was learning in an authentic way. They received it with renewed interest and understanding. We are all benefiting from the invaluable side effects of mindfulness together.
So much has changed since the last time I wrote here in July, and at the same time everything is exactly the same. Being mindful really allows us to see what happens in every moment. To notice the patterns by which we live, and to respond thoughtfully to life's surprises instead of reacting instinctually, we live a richer life. I feel so fortunate to have found what feels like a secret to living life, and am more excited than ever to share these strategies with all the children in my life.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Sunday, May 24, 2015
May 24, 2015
This weekend I have pretty much lived in my neighborhood park. The freshly cut grass, the tall trees and the community of people surrounded by mild temperatures and a gentle breeze- a true oasis in the city! I feel as happy sitting here in the grass as I would sitting on a beach somewhere far away. Maybe its purely the the effects of nature or perhaps the meditation and all the reading that make me feel so hopeful and content. I've spent the last two days absorbed in a book lent to me by an amazing woman in my life. Its title is Voluntary Simplicity by author Duane Elgin. The book was first published in 1981, and was revised for the second time in 2010. Its themes are more relevant than ever and speak to me exactly where I am these days. The idea that we have the ability to choose to live a more simple, less materialistic life... The possibility that it could just make some of us feel happier than a life filled with busyness & material possessions... especially since so many of the quotes from people who answered a survey on living a simple life back in the 70s, seem like they could have been written today... if nothing else, this book makes me feel like I'm not alone in my right-now desire to live on the simple side- no car, low-stress 9-5, second hand clothes, real food, less chemicals.... its nice to feel part of a community.