Every year in January, the American Montessori Society (AMS) holds a Winter Retreat for Montessori Heads of Schools. The retreat is held at a foreign country to allow the heads to experience a different culture and to connect with each other. There is always a speaker and a topic of focus for the retreat. This year, the topic was “Nurturing Well-Being, Spirit, and Evolutionary Growth in Montessori Educators.”
This year, I was fortunate to attend the retreat that was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. About sixty Montessori heads of schools were there enjoying the camaraderie of each other, the blue water, and beautiful sunshine. We spent a couple of days attending workshops presented by Dina Amsterdam who owns a company, Leadership Within. A yogi and meditator for over 20 years, she works with educators and a variety of organizations teaching mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and simply nurturing well-being.
Leaders of schools have a responsibility not only to nurture their own well-beings, but also the well-being of others. Those can be achieved through specific practices in identifying our Inner Landscape – body, heart, and mind. We did exercises with partners to practice recognizing our Inner Landscape.
The four foundations of Well-Being are awareness, kindness, breath, and ease. Dina states that “The four foundations are essential skills that increase our ability to live with greater peace and balance and considerably less stress and strain. We use the four foundations to recognize support, as well as intentionally influence the ever –changing conditions of our Inner Landscape”.
“Was Buddha A Preventive Cardiologist?” Dina shared with us an article she wrote based on research and linking mindfulness to cardiovascular disease. She concluded that “As a scientifically minded yogi who has benefited greatly from mindfulness practice, the results of the research in this area are very exciting to me. Under rigorous scientific evaluation, the Buddha’s ancient inner technology seems to be an excellent adjunct prescription, not just of cardiovascular disease, but for many stress-related illnesses and, most certainly, for a greater sense of overall well-being.”
I walked away from this retreat feeling validated for practicing mindfulness in my daily life as a leader, but also having practiced it in the classroom with the students when I was a teacher. It really works!! Those fewminutes of meditation every day uplift your spirit and energy and give you a push to continue your day in a peaceful and focused manner. They help you to be present at each moment and to give your 100% attention to your daily activities and interactions with the community. When I practiced mindfulness with the students in the classroom, I observed the benefits the students cultivated from those exercises. They helped them to stay focused and to recognize their emotions and to calmly deal with them.
Dina recommends the following books:
- The Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson
- When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
- How to Meditate by Pema Chodron
- Genuine Happiness by Alan Wallace
I am currently reading a book entitled Mindfulness For Teachers by Patricia A. Jennings. I am considering sharing it with the student teachers I train during the summer at the Houston Montessori Center. The book offers insights and practices the teachers may find beneficial to implement in their classrooms.
By: Nahla Nasser, M.Ed. | Lower and Middle School Principal