Deb Howcroft-Miles is a yoga teacher and mindfulness instructor who helps teachers to realise the importance of being connected to their purpose.
She is particularly passionate about working with women and helping them to come home to their bodies. Too often we get caught up in living life for others that we forget we have a life of our own. You deserve to feel relaxed and calm. You deserve to be happy, healthy and in balance.
In this episode, Deb talks about the importance of teaching mindfully.
You can find Deb at Mindful Living Matters.
Check out our Mindfulness Teaching Resource Collection!
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Mindful Teaching: Full Episode Transcript
Bron: Hello. We’re here today with Deb. Deb is from Mindful Living Matters. She’s a yoga instructor and she is an expert in mindfulness. Deb works with some teachers and students in Queensland, getting them to pause, reflect, be mindful and practice that really in depth practice of meditation, Deb. Hello, welcome to the podcast.
Deb: Hi, Bron. Thank you so much for having me. It’s such a privilege to be here.
Bron: It’s so nice to see you. We actually met when we Teach Stater hosted a yoga night in our Milton office for teachers, and I was so impressed by the way you ran that meditation that you did with the teachers, because I think that you’re really in tune with the needs of teachers. So yeah, thank you for coming to that. And it was lovely to meet you and yeah, so today we’re going to have a chat to you just about what is really mindfulness. If it’s not something that teachers have explored yet, what is it and how can it, how can they work it into their lives?
What is Mindfulness?
Deb: Yeah, thanks Bron. So I would define mindfulness as a conscious observation in the present moment. So it’s about being fully in the now and having all of your senses tuned into what’s going on around you. And I personally call it being witness to yourself. So being witness to how you’re reacting to what’s going on in the present moment, I guess there are a few more formal definitions of it, but that’s probably the easiest way is being witnessed to the self and without judgment or criticism for what your observing in that moment as well. That’s probably a big one is, is removing all the judgment and criticism and even expectations of what you’re observing in that moment.
Bron: That’s really important because I think sometimes we are quite self critical in the world we live in. And it can be hard to shut that part of our brains off. So when you’re talking about practicing mindfulness, does it have to be something very formal and prescribed or can it be just part of your day something informal and organic?
Deb: Yeah. Look, there’s probably two ways that you can look at it. You could look at it from that formal perspective. And this is where, you know, what most people see as being the perception of what mindfulness is, it’s that sitting down or lying down and, and actually meditating or you know, doing yoga.
That that’s definitely a place where I sit for my formal practice of undertaking a mindful practice, and it’s about moving the body in that mindful way. But one of the things that all of my teachers and I come from a background of teaching martial arts, and then moving into a, a formal yoga practice. And my teacher used to talk about taking these lessons that you learn off the mat. And that I guess is the more informal practice because what we learn from going into ourselves and, and, and observing how we interact with with our, our body and with the external world, this is where the, this is the gold. This is where we learned some really great lessons that develop us as a person, as a, as a whole being.
Bron: And isn’t that the case kind of with life, you can learn so much in a theoretical or ah, you know, formal setting, but when things are going to hit you hard and you need to rely on those tools, that’s unpredictable, it could happen anywhere. So to have the tools from that, that formal kind of background, and be able to apply them wherever you are in the world is really important.
Mindfulness as a Transferrable Skill
Deb: Absolutely. And I think teachers’ll probably notice this more as, or describe it more as a transferable skill. You know, this is one of those things that they probably are teaching their, their children in the classroom, all of these great pieces of knowledge and learning. But if those children can not take that information and apply it out into the real world, then, you know, have, have the children actually really learned anything. So, so teachers would probably relate more to mindfulness as, as being a transferable skill.
Mindful Teaching Practice
Bron: Yeah, really well put that’s. Yeah, exactly. So how did teachers already within their classrooms, do you think Deb use mindfulness as, as a professional skill?
Deb: I think all teachers would be pretty, pretty clued on to mindfulness. There would be plenty of things going on in the classroom where the teachers would have to have that awareness of managing a large classroom. And for me, that’s, that’s where I would see them in the room in the classroom. Actually, I’m using mindfulness, maybe when they handing out student papers, you know, they’re going to be making eye contact with their students and, and ensuring perhaps that a student actually understands the paper that’s in front of them.
And they’re going to be picking up on these cues from the student, you know, how does a student look at a, are they looking like they’re you know, confused over something. And other things that I’d say, you know, probably the more practical aspects is you know, as they’re handing out that piece of paper, what does it feel like in their hand? Just, just little like that.
Being Mindful in a Busy Role
I think that teachers are probably doing whether they’re aware of it or not, that teachers are pretty busy. So whether, whether there is that the chaos of, of the mind going on as they’re handing out these papers, but I would say that most teachers would, would informally, already be practicing mindfulness by having this ability or at least be able to practice mindfulness because they have a strong ability to be able to observe what’s going on around them.
Bron: Yeah, exactly. That’s so true. And I did read somewhere that teachers in their professional work make the most decisions per minute than any other professional or working person. Because as you said, teachers have a huge mental load. They take on a lot. It’s not just a matter of standing up the front of a classroom and delivering the curriculum. It’s all of the extra information that their brains are taking in processing and, and working with. And like, even when you said just then it really resonated with me about feeling the paper in their hand. So many times I’ve been handing out worksheets and I get to the realszation where I think, Oh, this doesn’t feel like the right number of worksheets because teachers know I’m going to run out.
Deb: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Bron: All these little yeah. Observations that you’re taking in as a teacher, you probably don’t even notice if you weren’t to count them up throughout the day, but it would be hundreds of decisions that you make mentally making through your senses. And through even, I guess your intuition teaching is quite intuitive. You can pick things up from kids that are nonverbal communications that they’re giving you. So, yeah. That’s awesome to hear you say Deb, that teachers are already equipped to practice mindfulness informally.
Teachers: You’ve Got This
Deb: Absolutely. And I think, I think that the, where the issue lies is that we are very busy and we, we actually forget that we know this stuff and that we practice this stuff because of that, that chaos of the busy-ness that’s going on around us. And if mindfulness can just help us just, just to stop for a moment to realise we’ve got a handle on this, we, we do this every single day and, and, and we can do this without letting that mind speak, jump into, to tell us that, you know, we’re so busy, we can’t do this. It’s it’s fact you’ve got this, you’re doing it already.
Bron: That’s yeah. That is such a good thing to say. Like, we talk a lot on this program about positive self talk and affirmations and yeah, “You’ve got this” is like, the best affirmation cause he can apply it to anything.
Avoiding Overwhelm and Burn Out Through the Practice of Mindfulness
Deb: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I guess that’s the informal practice, but we have to bring the, the formal practice into our daily life to remind us that practicing our own life, practicing to remind ourselves that, that, you know, we’ve got this weekend, we can relax, we can enjoy the subtleties of life. We you know, and it’s that practice that removes us from overwhelm and, you know, in a way from burnout to, you know, we can enjoy exactly what we’re doing.
Bron: Yeah, exactly. And I think that you really hit the nail on the head there overwhelm is a feeling that a lot of teachers identify and feeling burnt out is another feeling that teachers are often report that they experience. So, and it’s definitely a time to a good time to take, take some time to invest in yourselves. So yeah. Well, thank you so much, Deb, for explaining to us the basics of mindfulness and I’m really looking forward to chatting with you more about this.
Bron: Awesome, Deb. Thank you.