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Shannon Sinclair: Practicing Mindfulness

Taylor Abbey | tabbey19@dtechhs.org | June 12, 2018

The Mindful Reset enrichment class every lab day serves as a perfect way for d.tech students to d.stress and clear their minds.

Every Thursday over on the far east corner of our school, the quaint and typically quiet room of 233 is occupied. Inside, students can be seen spread out across the room, each lying on a yoga mat with their eyes closed. Photos of serene landscapes are taped on the wall, as well as a sign by the door that reads: “Session in progress. Please do not disturb.” This is where mindfulness instructor Shannon Sinclair can be found every lab day for her enrichment class: Mindful Reset. Taking place during labs three and four, Mindful Reset allows students to get an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and the benefits that accompany it.

Junior Jasmin Texidor describes what a typical session looks like: “First, [Sinclair] gives a brief introduction about mindfulness, then we do a one minute sit where you close your eyes and practice deep breathing.” After this one minute is up, Texidor describes how students are able to choose what form of mindfulness they want to do next: body scan, yoga, guided meditation, etc.  “Most times I just feel so much better afterwards,” Texidor says. “It’s kind of like a therapy session– that’s what I treat it as. You just get to talk and release everything.”

Sinclair first became interested in mindfulness 25 years ago after hearing the Dalai Lama speak in Berkeley. “I was struck by his calm nervous system and I noticed how the whole room was just absorbing his calm energy,” Sinclair says.

However, Sinclair soon came to realize that meditation is far more complex than just sitting on a pillow and taking deep breaths. At the beginning, Sinclair put pressure on herself to “meditate right,” which subsequently led to her overcomplicating the practice. “I was always trying and striving, and the goal of mindfulness is to not strive.”

While meditation and mindfulness may seem easy in theory, it takes a considerable amount of time before someone can effectively reign in their thoughts and really be in the present moment.

“It’s been about 30 years of progression until I’ve gotten to this point,” Sinclair says, “and I still have ways to go.”

Mindfulness also extends into Sinclair’s full time job as well. Sinclair frequently travels to teacher trainings and workshops to share the practice with teachers who help students from English Learners backgrounds as well as students who are refugees. “I integrate a lot of mindfulness techniques into my workshops because the teachers seem really stressed,” Sinclair said, “They’re taking on the stress of the students and the stress in their lives as well.” Sinclair decided to share this practice at d.tech due to how critical she feels it is for high schoolers to adopt mindfulness into their everyday lives. “A lot of times students around high school age are really feeling that pressure of ‘who am I going to be?’” says Sinclair. “I feel like mindfulness techniques, if I had started them in high school, would’ve really helped me be a lot less hard on myself.” Sinclair strives for high school students to become more “in tune” with who they are, as well as having them understand how mindful thinking can aid in getting through these trying times.

The world of mindfulness can be difficult to get accustomed to and finding a solid foundation to start from is tricky. “The thing I would recommend first, if you’re interested in it, would be to take a class, there are a bunch of things going on in the Bay Area,” Sinclair says. Sinclair puts a strong emphasis on practicing with a group, especially if you’re just starting out, since being a part of a group dynamic allows you to become even more immersed in the practice.

Sinclair also recommends meditation apps that can be easily used on the go. Apps such as “Headspace” and “Zen” are especially useful if you’re looking for guided meditation. For quick and easy deep breathing exercises, apps such as “Breathe Deep” and “3 Minute Mindfulness” come in handy.  If you feel as though you don’t have the time necessary to practice mindfulness, there are many creative ways you can squeeze it into your daily schedule. Junior Troy Springett, who recently started incorporating mindfulness into his daily schedule, mentioned, “Sometimes I use my time on the train in the mornings to practice mindfulness, and a little time at home as well.” Springett specifically refers to taking a few deep breaths in the morning while on his way to school, saying how it helps to clear his mind before a busy school day. Even if you can’t find the time at home, a short breathing exercise during your daily commute is a step in the right direction.

Sinclair isn’t the only one who wishes to increase teen involvement in practicing mindfulness. Chemistry teacher Greg Fenner expressed his appreciation for Sinclair’s commitment to the practice, as well as the integration of mindfulness techniques in schools. Fenner, who frequently practices mindfulness himself, said that while he had no involvement in incorporating the class into Lab Days, he values that students now have easy access to a practice that’s often shrouded in ambiguity. Fenner strongly advocates for students to try the practice at least once, saying, “If students are trying to find ways to help them focus– whether they have emotional swings, get distracted easily, get frustrated easily–meditation can help them be able to be more in control of their actions.”

While meditative practices may not seem to be the most exciting thing to many teens, they come equipped with psychological benefits that, frankly, we desperately need. High school is a stressful time for most students, which means looking out for your mental health is critical to staying afloat. If you’re looking for a way to destress and clear your mind, Shannon Sinclair’s Mindful Reset during labs three and four may be the place for you.

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