By: Vanessa Weiner and Sophie Sandweiss

This is one of my favorite times in the cycle of our year-long curriculum. We are deep into the chapter on Social Awareness and Relationship Skills, which strengthens the community we strive to create, and gives context to the first half of the year spent developing self-awareness and a personalized practice. The premise of our lessons now shifts to “you have these skills for yourself, what do you do with them once you show up in a group setting?”

Topics like seeing things as they are, noticing what is happening around you, and perspective-taking are all covered in this unit. The discussions are rich, especially with the longer mindfulness practices, and engaging material that includes a few selections of What’s really going on in this picture from the New York Times, Neil Parisha’s Book of Awesome, and Zoom.

We typically practice mindful looking at this time of year to show how the longer you see something for what it is, the more it presents. Have you ever really looked at something for a  full minute? Try it with our logo and see what happens…

When we re-branded back in 2015, one of the reasons the branding committee unanimously favored the then-new logo that our designer created was that it captured many of those topics in its simplicity.  At first glance, it seems to be simply a series of arcs or half circles. When you pause and take a second look though, you may see a dimensional image where each arc forms part of a larger whole, supporting the next and reinforcing our belief that mindfulness in the classroom, the community and the workplace will make all of us stronger and empower us to achieve our individual and collective goals.

On a recent trip to Barcelona, it was clear how these lessons are around us every day. On our first morning there, we woke up to a significant amount of cheering outside our window. Turns out we were right on the 25-mile marker of the Barcelona Marathon. At first glance, it could look like just another race. However, from a few stories up, there is a unique perspective on the tail end of this multi-hour run. If we weren’t really looking, we may have missed the girl who jumped in from the sidelines to run arm in arm with her partner for the final stretch; the young boy on a scooter happily pushed along by his dad running along side him; the dog waiting patiently at the sidelines for her owner to see what she needed to see; and the foil-clad finish-line crosser who was retracing his steps along this final mile clearly looking for someone yet to complete this grueling endeavor.

Back in the classroom now, we are in the process of figuring out what it means to have these skills for ourselves and what to do with them in social situations or group settings.  Our world today is feeling smaller and smaller as physical miles are no longer a barrier to team collaboration at the office. Even within high schools and colleges, there are more spaces for students to work together. Office spaces have led the way in this re-design of how spaces is used to promote effective teamwork, communication, and innovation. Our world is showing us that we need the ability to do this effectively, as these so-called “soft skills” are anything but soft.

One student shared the other day that he got home and “wasn’t feeling ready to tell my mom about my day, so I told her I needed a few minutes. I went to my room to practice breathing before coming back to the kitchen.” It’s so simple, but imagine how the rest of the afternoon/evening went for all those in that family community. What if we all knew how to develop healthy practices for self-care and how to show up in social situations with tools to be our best selves? How will you take a moment to pause and do that today – for yourself, and for those with whom you will interact?