Monday, June 27, 2011

A Montessori Teacher's Mask?

Do you put on a front to accept others? Do you pretend everything is perfect? Do you say things you don't mean? Do you accept yourself just the way that you are? Do you buy things you can't afford?

I just had one of those experiences the other day. I went out with my child to the local farmers market and after we decided to go to our favorite antique store. Knowingly we are going on vacation in a month, we made a family agreement not to make purchases of things we don't need. How am I setting an example to my child? Many thoughts were going through my mind. Apparently the mask went on as I went to the register to pay for the items. I was hoping the clerk did not see my face, hopefully hiding from my mask. As we went home that day, I did have to explain why that was not the best thing for mom to do. We all make mistakes sometimes...even moms and Montessori teachers.

In Nurturing the Spirit in Non-Sectarian Classrooms, by Aline Wolf, she talks about how "how we are all human beings, wounded in some way." We hide our "shadow side" from others and most of us wear an invisible mask. She states, "The mask is not our true self but is the way we want others to see us. Teacher's often wear the mask of perfection, never wanting to admit weakness to their students, when actually talking about their own flaws would make them accessible." (p.35)
"Mistakes bring us closer and make us better friends." - Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind, p.249)

Below are some questions you may want to ask yourself. I will be answering and sharing with you...some are a little tough. Please feel free to comment or add more additional information to Mindful Montessori. Follow me and cheer me on!

75 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Why not me?
2. Am I nice?
3. Am I doing what I really want to do?
4. What am I grateful for?
5. What’s missing in my life?
6. Am I honest?
7. Do I listen to others?
8. Do I work hard?
9. Do I help others?
10. What do I need to change about myself?
11. Have I hurt others?
12. Do I complain?
13. What’s next for me?
14. Do I have fun?
15. Have I seized opportunities?
16. Do I care about others?
17. Do I spend enough time with my family?
18. Am I open-minded?
19. Have I seen enough of the world?
20. Do I judge others?
21. Do I take risks?
22. What is my purpose?
23. What is my biggest fear?
24. How can I conquer that fear?
25. Do I thank people enough?
26. Am I successful?
27. What am I ashamed of?
28. Do I annoy others?
29. What are my dreams?
30. Am I positive?
31. Am I negative?
32. Is there an afterlife?
33. Does everything happen for a reason?
34. What can I do to change the world?
35. What is the most foolish thing I’ve ever done?
36. Am I cheap?
37. Am I greedy?
38. Who do I love?
39. Who do I want to meet?
40. Where do I want to go?
41. What am I most proud of?
42. Do I care what others think about me?
43. What are my talents?
44. Do I utilize those talents?
45. What makes me happy?
46. What makes me sad?
47. What makes me angry?
48. Am I satisfied with my appearance?
49. Am I healthy?
50. What was the toughest time in my life?
51. What was the easiest time in my life?
52. Am I selfish?
53. What was the craziest thing I did?
54. What is the craziest thing I want to do?
55. Do I procrastinate?
56. What is my greatest regret?
57. What has had the greatest impact on my life?
58. Who has had the greatest impact on my life?
59. Do I stand up for myself?
60. Have I settled for mediocrity?
61. Do I hold grudges?
62. Do I read enough?
63. Do I listen to my heart?
64. Do I donate enough to the less fortunate?
65. Do I pray only when I want something?
66. Do I constantly dwell on the past?
67. Do I let other people’s negativity affect me?
68. Do I forgive myself?
69. When I help someone do I think “What’s in it for me”?
70. Am I aware that someone always has it worse than me?
71. Do I smile more than I frown?
72. Do I surround myself with good people?
73. Do I take time out for myself?
74. Do I ask enough questions?
75. What other questions do I have?

These questions are from:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Young Chic's Montessori Journey of Becoming a Spiritual Aware Adult

I am in the beginning of Nurturing the Spirit as a Montessori teacher. With seven years under my belt I may still be considerd a young chic. I came upon Montessori as many Montessori teacher's do. I was a parent looking for a place for my child to be while I was at work.

With a suggestion from a friend, I observed the toddler Montessori classroom where my 2 year old would spend her days. It was in the most peaceful, caring and loving environment. As I continued with the tour, it amazed me. Teaching was always deep in my heart, but I was always yearned for something more...something that I believed would make some kind of difference in the world. As I was touring the Primary and Elementary environments, this is the place I knew my child and I had to be.

From that moment it all seemed to fall into place. The following year I was an assistant in the elementary classroom and learned many of the important aspects of the Montessori Philosophy such as Caring for the Environment, Order and Independence. That summer I began my training to become a Primary teacher. I then continued my independent study and began in my very own Primary class. Seven years later, I continue to be forever thankful for the Montessorians that have been around me to help guide and direct me on this journey.

At the end of each year, I take the time to reflect on the past year. What worked? What didn't? Do I need to change the environment? What will my goals be for the following year? What are the spiritual needs of the children? How will I implement these in the classroom? How will I prepare myself?

I have always wanted to expand my spirituality. Why not with the Montessori philosophy and children I work with. How do I begin? I began reading, Nurturing the Spirit in Non-Sectarian Classrooms, by Aline Wolf. This is an amazing guide for all Montessorians who want to be true to Montessori's philosophy, "Help me to help myself". This is a widely used Montessori quote. It is not only Practical Life skills, but more about guiding the spirit of the child. "We must help the child to act for himself, think for himself, this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit. It is the teacher's joy to welcome the manifestation of the spirit." - Maria Montessori, Education For A New World.

Below are some more links that may help you continue on your journey of nurturing the spirit within yourself and the children you guide.

Montessori Conferences:

Mindful Blogs:

Please feel free to comment or add more additional information to Mindful Montessori. Follow me and cheer me on!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mon"tea"sori Herbal Facial, Nurturing Your Spirit and Yourself

Stop sewing aprons, stop making 3 part cards and YES please put down The Absorbent Mind! Did I get your attention? Now I would like you to walk out to your garden and pick some Thyme, Peppermint and Lavender. If you do not have a garden I am sure you can find these herbs locally or in your neighbor's garden. (a little sarcasm) Below is a familiar "lesson" on how to give yourself a Monteassori Herbal Facial. It may fit nicely in your Montessori Philosopy, Botany or Practical Life album.

Monteasori Herbal Facial

Material:  A large pot with lid, water, dried or fresh herbs or essential oils and 2 large towels.

Preparation: Clean your face thoroughly and tie your hair back if needed.


1. Boil a kettle or pot full of water then add the herbs and fruity ingredients (about 1/3 cup fresh or dried herbs and fruit slices per 4 cups of water). Boil for a minute or two then remove from heat. Cover and let steep for about 5 minutes.

2. Place pot on counter or table on top of a towel and remove lid. Cover your head with a another large clean towel and position your face over the steaming water (with the towel acting as a tent over the bowl to capture the steam).

3. Keep your eyes closed and your face at least 10 to 12 inches from the boiling water during the facial. Enjoy the fragrant steam and relax, but don’t overdo it–keep the facial time between 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Once the facial is over, splash face with slightly cool water and pat dry.

Points of Interest:
  1. Nurturing your Spirit
  2. Taking time for yourself
  3. Need I say more?
Control of Error: Yourself

Direct Aims:
  1. Order
  2. Sequencing
  3. Organization
  4.  Thinking
 Indirect Aims:
  1. Relaxing
  2. Furthering use of herbs
  3. Observing which combinations you like.
Ages: 20 and something years.

  1. Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Lemon or Orange Slices
  2. Chamomile, Rosemary, Peppermint
  3. Green Tea, Rose Petals, Chamomile
  4. Rosemary, Lemon, Honey
  5. Lemon Slices, Peppermint
  6. Lemon balm, Lavender
  7. Chamomile, Fennel Seeds, Rose Petals
  8. Thyme, Peppermint, Lavender
  9. Parsley, Lavender, Lemon balm
  10. Sage, Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme
  11. Cinnamon, Orange Slices
  12. Peppermint, Cloves, Rosemary

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Teacher, Prepare Self

The Mindful Montessori blog has come to fruition as a goal for my Montessori classroom in 2011-2012 school year. Every year, the Head of School will give all staff members a Professional Development and Goal Setting form that will has several questions. The final question is "What are your two goals for next year?" In the years past, I remember having....finish my Montessori training.....a clean and organized closet...consistent daily record keeping....and now nurturing the spirit. Over time, this has been an area of my montessori environment I have not given as much attention to as I  would like. As time has gone by I began to observe playing the "Silence Game" and Grace and Courtesy lessons are not a Montessorian's only option to establish mindfulness. So where do I begin?...with myself.
This is my summer plan to begin my practice.
  • Reading...Nurturing the Spirit, In Non-Sectarian Classrooms ...and any books that I come across I will share.
  • Workbook...Shining Through, A Teacher's Handbook on Transformation
  • Yoga classes,  2-3 times a week
  • Daily Meditation
  • Journal writing 
Mindful Montessori will include topics of The Teacher's Preparation, The Environment and Mindfulness Practices. I am looking forward to a Mindfulness year.

A Montessori Teacher's Thoughts

What is Mindfulness to me?
Mindfulness is having focused attention to internal and external experiences in the present moment of time, without judgment.
Mindfulness has its origins in the Buddhist tradition. However, Mindfulness practices have been used in treatments for stress, chronic pain, anxiety and others. Researchers suggest this type of training can benefit in everyday life.
Why am I practicing Yoga and Meditating?
Mind and Body of course!
I honestly love Yoga! I am not a fan of “exercise”.  I cannot see myself running miles every day even though I am quit envious of those that can.  It is something that I feel is a way for me to be completely present at what I am doing. Meditation is something that my sister has recommended to me. This is something that is getting better and better with time.  I was so excited when I meditated for 12 minutes today, allowing thoughts and body pain come and go …and then centering myself.
What have I noticed in this short period of time?  
v  Peaceful mind
v  Listening attentively to others.
v  Enjoying my time, not always thinking what’s next?
v  My mind is not on the go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice, A New Season

Happy Summer Solstice!

My Mindful Montessori summer plan is going well so far. I have started my yoga routine. Yesterday was my first class in about two weeks. My body is sore! To keep myself going I have made the commitment to go two more times this week. Above is a video on how to do one of my favorite yoga poses...Sun Salutation in honor of the first day of summer.

Meditation has been the most difficult thing for me do. Finding a place where you can have no interruptions may be difficult. My favorite place is on my back deck surrounded by beautiful large trees.  Meditation is the first thing I have to do in the morning, even before I have my coffee.  I find myself wanting to keep my eyes closed but I have read to keep them open and looking downward. I have started with ten minutes and I hope to move to 15 minutes by the end of next week.

I continue to wait for a couple of my books that I have ordered. I am looking forward to future posts. What does all this have to do with Mindful Montessori?... the teacher must prepare herself.  Please leave comments. I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit."

- Maria Montessori

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mindfulness Meditation

How to do Mindfulness Meditation

By “Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. Just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.”

In mindfulness, or shamatha, meditation, we are trying to achieve a mind that is stable and calm. What we begin to discover is that this calmness or harmony is a natural aspect of the mind. Through mindfulness practice we are just developing and strengthening it, and eventually we are able to remain peacefully in our mind without struggling. Our mind naturally feels content.

An important point is that when we are in a mindful state, there is still intelligence. It’s not as if we blank out. Sometimes people think that a person who is in deep meditation doesn’t know what’s going on—that it’s like being asleep. In fact, there are meditative states where you deny sense perceptions their function, but this is not the accomplishment of shamatha practice.

Creating a Favorable Environment

There are certain conditions that are helpful for the practice of mindfulness. When we create the right environment it’s easier to practice.

It is good if the place where you meditate, even if it’s only a small space in your apartment, has a feeling of upliftedness and sacredness. It is also said that you should meditate in a place that is not too noisy or disturbing, and you should not be in a situation where your mind is going to be easily provoked into anger or jealousy or other emotions. If you are disturbed or irritated, then your practice is going to be affected.

Beginning the Practice

I encourage people to meditate frequently but for short periods of time—ten, fifteen, or twenty minutes. If you force it too much the practice can take on too much of a personality, and training the mind should be very, very simple. So you could meditate for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening, and during that time you are really working with the mind. Then you just stop, get up, and go.

Often we just plop ourselves down to meditate and just let the mind take us wherever it may. We have to create a personal sense of discipline. When we sit down, we can remind ourselves: “I’m here to work on my mind. I’m here to train my mind.” It’s okay to say that to yourself when you sit down, literally. We need that kind of inspiration as we begin to practice.

The Buddhist approach is that the mind and body are connected. The energy flows better when the body is erect, and when it’s bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process. So there is a yoga of how to work with this. We’re not sitting up straight because we’re trying to be good schoolchildren; our posture actually affects the mind.

People who need to use a chair for meditation should sit upright with their feet touching the ground. Those using a meditation cushion such as a zafu or gomden should find a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm-down on your thighs. The hips are neither rotated forward too much, which creates tension, nor tilted back so you start slouching. You should have a feeling of stability and strength.

When we sit down the first thing we need to do is to really inhabit our body—really have a sense of our body. Often we sort of prop ourselves up and pretend we’re practicing, but we can’t even feel our body; we can’t even feel where it is. Instead, we need to be right here. So when you begin a meditation session, you can spend some initial time settling into your posture. You can feel that your spine is being pulled up from the top of your head so your posture is elongated, and then settle.

The basic principle is to keep an upright, erect posture. You are in a solid situation: your shoulders are level, your hips are level, your spine is stacked up. You can visualize putting your bones in the right order and letting your flesh hang off that structure. We use this posture in order to remain relaxed and awake. The practice we’re doing is very precise: you should be very much awake even though you are calm. If you find yourself getting dull or hazy or falling asleep, you should check your posture.


For strict mindfulness practice, the gaze should be downward focusing a couple of inches in front of your nose. The eyes are open but not staring; your gaze is soft. We are trying to reduce sensory input as much as we can. People say, “Shouldn’t we have a sense of the environment?” but that’s not our concern in this practice. We’re just trying to work with the mind and the more we raise our gaze, the more distracted we’re going to be. It’s as if you had an overhead light shining over the whole room, and all of a sudden you focus it down right in front of you. You are purposefully ignoring what is going on around you. You are putting the horse of mind in a smaller corral.

When we do shamatha practice, we become more and more familiar with our mind, and in particular we learn to recognize the movement of the mind, which we experience as thoughts. We do this by using an object of meditation to provide a contrast or counterpoint to what’s happening in our mind. As soon as we go off and start thinking about something, awareness of the object of meditation will bring us back. We could put a rock in front of us and use it to focus our mind, but using the breath as the object of meditation is particularly helpful because it relaxes us.

As you start the practice, you have a sense of your body and a sense of where you are, and then you begin to notice the breathing. The whole feeling of the breath is very important. The breath should not be forced, obviously; you are breathing naturally. The breath is going in and out, in and out. With each breath you become relaxed.


No matter what kind of thought comes up, you should say to yourself, “That may be a really important issue in my life, but right now is not the time to think about it. Now I’m practicing meditation.” It gets down to how honest we are, how true we can be to ourselves, during each session.

Everyone gets lost in thought sometimes. You might think, “I can’t believe I got so absorbed in something like that,” but try not to make it too personal. Just try to be as unbiased as possible. Mind will be wild and we have to recognize that. We can’t push ourselves. If we’re trying to be completely concept-free, with no discursiveness at all, it’s just not going to happen.

So through the labeling process, we simply see our discursiveness. We notice that we have been lost in thought, we mentally label it “thinking”—gently and without judgment—and we come back to the breath. When we have a thought—no matter how wild or bizarre it may be—we just let it go and come back to the breath, come back to the situation here.

Each meditation session is a journey of discovery to understand the basic truth of who we are. In the beginning the most important lesson of meditation is seeing the speed of the mind. But the meditation tradition says that mind doesn’t have to be this way: it just hasn’t been worked with.

What we are talking about is very practical. Mindfulness practice is simple and completely feasible. And because we are working with the mind that experiences life directly, just by sitting and doing nothing, we are doing a tremendous amount.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is holder of the Buddhist and Shambhala lineages of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He has received teachings from many of the great Buddhist masters of this century, including Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche and his father Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1995 he was recognized as the incarnation of the great nineteenth-century Buddhist teacher Mipham Rinpoche.

This article was originally published in the January 2000 issue of the Shambahala Sun, and is excerpted in our 30th-anniversary collection of the finest meditation teachings from the magazine, as printed in our January 2010 issue