Closing the Compassion Gap in Education with Personalized Mindfulness
By Andy Bradley and Nick Mosca
Andy, thanks for joining me today about your work to close the compassion gap. I thoroughly enjoyed your TEDx talk, which can be found here. For those unfamiliar with the term, can you explain what the compassion gap is and offer an example of it?
Thanks Nick – a genuine pleasure to connect. Thanks for watching my TEDx talk and for making space for us to share perspectives.
Ok, so what is the compassion gap? For me it is a kind of longing. A longing for connection and safety. I am really fortunate as I grew up in a loving family and I feel so blessed to have created a family which is close and full of love. What I notice though is that many of our human family are in survival mode much of the time and that the fundamental nature of the way we have designed our systems – the way many of us practice our faith, the way we learn, the way our health care systems respond, the way business is done and the criminal justice system prevent the flow of compassion. We are often somehow asked to leave our most human selves at the door and so many of us end up spending our days feeling like we don’t matter. A gap then opens up in the way we relate to ourselves as we may feel like we are somehow broken, not good enough, endlessly comparing and coming off worst – or pretending that we feel ok when our needs are really not being met.
An example of the compassion gap here in the UK is found in the almost systematic way that values and ideals of student nurses are undermined through the way they learn and encounter the health care system which as I have said asks us to leave ourselves at the door and research shows that many of the student nurses have their most human values and ideals crushed within two years of qualifying.
I am privileged to be invited into healthcare and other system spaces to throw light on the compassion gap and to think together about how to close the gap. In this context I think and talk a lot about mindfulness and invite people to develop a simple present moment awareness practice which I refer to in the TEDx talk – Quiet Mind, Open Heart.
I am really interested to hear how you feel personalized mindfulness could contribute to closing the personal and system wide gaps I am describing. And to hear what your own sense of the compassion gap is.
The idea of leaving our most human values and ideals at the door, as if we are somehow ashamed of them or scared to share them, is unfortunately quite common in the US as well - especially in education. Naming it, however, is the first step to addressing it and I truly applaud you for doing so.
Personalized mindfulness can contribute to closing the compassion gap you’ve described in several ways. First off, research has shown that compassion is a natural byproduct of a regular mindfulness practice. But the catch is you actually have to practice to gain this benefit!
For most of my clients, mindfulness is seen as just another chore they have to cram into their already crazed schedule. But that’s because they are leaving their learning styles and interests at the door. When they begin practicing mindfulness in ways that are aligned with their personal preferences, that’s where the magic happens. Then, mindfulness is exercised regularly; from a place of intrinsic motivation. And compassion naturally flows from there.
One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is through listening to music. I do this with my students as well. For the duration of a song, I will gently shift my awareness back to a single instrument whenever it wanders. Every time I bring my awareness back, that’s the practice of mindfulness. This technique has empowered me to practice upwards of 30-45 minutes a day and has made me far more compassionate with myself and others because I am training myself to become more present.
If you could choose a personalized mindfulness practice, what would it be? What are some personalized mindfulness practices you’ve seen others undertake?
Thanks Nick – I am fascinated by what you are pointing to – my partner is a teacher and we have had many conversations about how essential it is to adapt to enable all of the 5-year-olds in her class to connect with the material, grasp the concepts in their own ways and as a result grow in confidence.
To come to your questions – I call my personalized mindfulness practice my ‘Here I am’ practice – calling it this and beginning with a ritual of lighting a candle and entering a mindfulness space each morning is a signal to the part of me that loves to be in the moment that this space is being created. Within this space I currently meditate following my breath and I write in a journal about whatever comes to mind for just 5 minutes. So, I am realising that writing is part of my personalized approach to mindfulness as I have stuck to this practice most every day for eight years! As a result of connecting with you and being invited to tune in more to this idea of personalized mindfulness I am going to add mindful movement (dancing!) into the mix as I realise how much I love to put headphones on, put my I Pod on shuffle and let my body do just what it feels like!
I have heard so many different gateways into mindfulness from people – here are just a few examples:
- Preparing a meal in silence (no external stimulus)
- Walking the dog
- A bath
- A shower
- Playing a musical instrument
- Working out at the gym
- Writing poetry
- Making something out of wood
I think that a personalized approach to mindfulness gives us energy – sometimes in my work I play with the idea that if you were a dog, what would make your tail wag! And when you are done with the tail wagging and ready for a rest, what do you do that fills you up with peace?
So maybe personalized mindfulness can include both joyfulness and peace.
I so appreciate this inquiry Nick and hope that your readers will find something here that resonates.
Thanks again for pondering the compassion gap with me.
Love to all from Brighton in the UK
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Andy Bradley is a Compassion Captain who has made it his life’s work to bring compassion into health and social care. His vision was nurtured during childhood and teenage years spent growing up in a care home owned and run by his parents. Andy established Frameworks 4 Change in 2004 with the mission to create and sustain consistently compassionate caring environments for older people (including those with dementia), people with mental health issues and people with learning disabilities. He is an international speaker and trainer on the applications of mindfulness and compassion in care settings and the wider community.
Drawing on over ten years of experience, Nick Mosca’s professional development courses, webinars, and presentations have enabled hundreds of clients to align mindfulness practices with their skills and interests. Nick holds a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University where he won The Billings Prize for inspiring behavioral change through positive humor. He is an avid speaker and writer through The Atlantic, WABC Radio, Yale University, Psychology Today, New York University, The Milken Scholars Program, Share Fair Nation, The HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, The George Jackson Academy, Toastmasters International, and as the Research Chairman for The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. To inquire about Nick’s services, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org