Educators’ Retreats

Freedom Within, Freedom All Around: A Session of Practice for Educators

On March 24th, 2016, a delegation from the Wake Up Schools home office in Plum Village—consisting of two francophone novices, Dao Sinh and Dao Son, and lay residents Michel, Yvonne and Jadzia—made their way to the Maison de l’Inspir, a Paris meditation practice center, to attend a workshop for educators led by Christiane Terrier, a pioneer of the Educ’Inspir initiative. Since 2013, she, with the support of Sr. Giac Nghiem, Sr. Dao Nghiem and Sr. Hai Nghiem of the Maison de l’Inspir, has offered days of mindfulness for educators every other month. This time, the theme of the day was “Freedom,” inspired by the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Be Free Where You Are, a record of teachings given during his 1999 visit to Maryland Penitentiary in the United States.

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Education Is Not for Information, but to Teach Human Beings

Many professors are surprised to find out that no extra time needs to be added to their course. Our presence, our way of being, is how we teach others to be present. In our retreats, we help many teachers learn how to incorporate mindfulness practice into their daily lives. We always start with the teacher’s own practice, not by just teaching them techniques of how to teach children. The teachers usually come looking for techniques. They want another certificate, but when they come to a Wake Up Schools retreat, they are a little surprised to find that their own transformation is what is most important. They learn how to stop and look deeply into their own body and mind.

In life we are always running towards the future, or regretting things done in the past. We are lost in our thoughts. With mindfulness practice we learn how to stop running to be fully present in the here and now with our breathing. The breath is always there for us. When I breathe in, I’m aware that I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I’m aware that I’m breathing out. We follow our breathing with all our attention. When our attention shifts to something else, like thoughts about the past or the future, we can smile to our thoughts with love, not punishing ourselves because we lost the focus on our breath. With love, you bring your attention back to your breath and your concentration increases, as well as your capacity to keep from being dragged down by the projects and worries of daily life. We can come back to the present moment like this in only two to three seconds. We can do this not only for ourselves, but also to help our students and others to be more present. This is the biggest gift we can give to ourselves and to our loved ones.

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