Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Choosing Where to Be
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Slice of Life: Choosing Where to Be


We spent this past weekend at a Choice Literacy writing retreat.  There were too many wonderful aspects of these three days to list them all.  On the drive home we both reflected on the weekend and what we noticed about ourselves as writers over the past few days.  The word that best summed it up for us was mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as

1.the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2.a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations

Three days with no cooking, cleaning, carpooling or digital distractions gave us the space we needed to think, reflect, create, talk and write.  It was more than time – minutes away – it was the quality of the time.  We chose to turn off our phones and close all social media applications. We decided not to check email.

These decisions gave us the space, not just the time, to truly be present in what we were doing.  That space allowed us to question, hear feedback, revise and learn.  When our schedules are packed it is easy to divert our attention when a thought, an idea, or issue that is worthy of our focus comes along.  Rather than linger on our “near-wins” we move on to the next items on our to-do lists.  When we create space to be mindful and present, we give ourselves the opportunity to stretch ourselves and learn.

We know that three day retreats are not going to be something we do often as working moms, but we want to think about what we can learn from our experience.  How can we create spaces for ourselves at home and at work that supports mindfulness?  One idea we decided to try is to plan more time with no technology distractions.  Switching our phones to “do not disturb” and choosing to turn “wi-fi” off when we need to be present in our work or at home.  Technology has so many benefits in terms of communication, access, and information.  It seems as if the world is at our fingertips and we can literally be productive from anywhere at any time.  In some ways it makes our life easier, but it also has traps.

We find ourselves over-committing, being too responsive or getting distracted by the technology available to us.  At times we both find ourselves guilty of missing the moment we are in because technology has us in a different place.  We both struggle with truly being present when we know there is a world of opportunities, demands, and responsibilities awaiting us on our phone or computer.  This happens both at work and at home.  When you try to be everything to everyone, you can wind up impacting very few people and feeling depleted.

This weekend made us realize that just because you may be able to juggle all the balls doesn’t mean you should.  We know we cannot change the chaotic pace of our lives; we are not sure we want to.  There are so many moments of joy, connectedness and fun in our crazy lives.  We would, however, like to be more aware of our mindfulness.  We want to create more space in our lives to be present and truly experience the moment we are in.  Jim Elliot reminds us, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  We hope to choose mindfulness more often so we can focus more on the moment we are in and learn from being aware of what we are thinking, feeling and questioning.

How do focus your attention to the moment you are in?  Do you create space for yourself to think, reflect, question and respond?  How do you balance being connected and being present?  We would love to hear your perspective.


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    Posted at 11:00h, 04 October Reply

    Thanks for this reflective post. I find that sometimes it is the hardest to be mindful about what you REALLY need and want- not what you think you do Taking quiet moments like you said, without social media and distractions, is the only way to listen to yourself. For me I get this reflection time when I go for a jog, during my commute, but most of the time I realize I am listening to a podcast or audiobook. I guess I have erased this time from my day. Time to put it back in, thanks again for your post!

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    Posted at 11:27h, 04 October Reply

    This was a great post! I am really focusing on being more mindful and present in what I am doing this year. It isn’t easy with a full time job as teacher, being a writer, being a mom to a busy teen boy and a college girl I miss. It seems my mind wanders to so many places when I am trying to immerse myself in one aspect. Posts like this keep reminding me to stay present and remember just because I may be able to juggle all the balls doesn’t mean I should!

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    Posted at 11:45h, 04 October Reply

    Thanks for this great reminder! I love the thought about “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” I think that applies to so many things in life. I’m off to a writing retreat of sorts this weekend, too. Three days of renewed learning about picture book writing and time…to think, write, notice, and create. My phone will be silenced.

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    Posted at 12:04h, 04 October Reply

    This is the modern dilemma, isn’t it? I’ve found that choosing when to be present and for whom to be present helps me focus my energy. PS. Loved spending time with you both this weekend – such fun!

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 12:25h, 04 October Reply

    It is SO hard to find time at home with the magnetic pulls of the kitchen, laundry room, grocery store, and driver’s seat! Beautiful reflections and reminders about being present with what and who you’re with. You inspired me to sit with my computer upstairs and my phone downstairs! Great spending time with both of you!

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    Posted at 12:41h, 04 October Reply

    You bring up a big issue for us and our children. How do we teach them to live mindfully when we have such a time with it? It is a part of our lives. We can divorce ourselves completely, nor do we want to. But how can we stay healthy and mindful in this screen-driven world? Your post has brought me questions. This is a good thing. Thank you.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 13:44h, 04 October Reply

    I do set aside time without the tech so I can “be” and perhaps it’s humorous, but I start by doing an activity that requires movement. Walking is one way. I try to notice things I might write about. But if I know what I’m going to work on, I dust. I don’t like dusting at all, but find that I can do some pre-thinking before I sit to write and it helps. I believe that tech is wonderful too, but it has taken parts of our lives that were not taken before, so it seems we must make an effort to pull away.

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    Posted at 18:56h, 04 October Reply

    “Just because you may be able to juggle all the balls doesn’t mean you should” – spot on. I practice a long disconnected time in the summer. It is much harder once the school starts. Planning days away from home helps. I don’t use internet on my phone – it’s purely for calling and sending messages. Still working on my regular mindfulness practice. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

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    Mary Ann Reilly
    Posted at 21:50h, 04 October Reply

    How we live is a decision. If mindfulness matters, then I suspect our lives are shape with that in mind–letting go of those things that detract. Thoughtful post. Thanks.

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 01:42h, 07 October Reply

    Your post supports one of my main reasons for practicing mindfulness with my third graders! We all need to work on this, so for me, teaching it to my students has double bonus value, as it slows me down and teaches them how to be in the moment too.

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