Mindfulness, Mindful Breathing, and Metta Bhavana

Nurturing Loving Kindness through Mindful Breathing

Hearing. Touching. Seeing. Thinking. Feeling. Breathing. These are some of the faculties through which we construct and process the human experience, the human substance. These are the senses that construct what it means to be a human being. But what about the “being” part of being human? How often do we succumb to the pressure to produce things with our time, to do something productive with our time? Bombarded with to-do lists, we multitask our way through our days often at the expense of our to-be list. Our worries are perpetual, sending our minds to hundreds of places, lingering in the past or fretting about the future—but what about the place that matters most? What about the here and the now, the present moment? Where, for example, is your mind while you’re reading these words? You may have thought of a few or dozens of other things while you were reading. Your phone may have beeped or blinked, prompting your attention away from what you’re reading. Or perhaps another tab on your web browser is blinking, and you’re finding it hard to focus on just one thing. But that’s OK. This is not your fault. We live in a world that attempts to sap every second of our attention at every turn, yet there are ways to shape a space for ourselves. First, grant yourself permission to answer any important messages or do any important tasks that you need to do. When you’re ready, come back and grant yourself the permission to focus on just one thing: you.

Mindfulness - Strive to be alive in the presentTake a moment to breathe in gently and deeply, focusing on the feeling of the air passing through your nose and filling your lungs, and think to yourself, I am in the present moment; then breathe out with a soft smile on your face, feeling your shoulders relax as your lungs un-wind, and think to yourself, this moment is beautiful. Repeat this for a few minutes. If this is your first time, you might try breathing and being for, perhaps, two to three minutes, but feel free to go longer if you want. If you become distracted, that’s ok: forgive yourself and use your breath to re-center yourself. In-breath: you are the present moment. Out-breath: the present moment is beautiful.

How do you feel now?

When we bring our senses off of auto-pilot (often driven by our stresses and anxieties), when we bring our body and our minds into unison, we transition, paradoxically, from a doing thing to a being thing. The verbs of our human substance shift from passive to purpose: instead of hearing, we listen; instead of seeing, we look. This is the essence of mindfulness, and if you spend some time breathing a moment ago, bringing your breath into your being, your consciousness, you’ve already engaged in a mindfulness practice: that was mindful breathing. There are no secrets to this. Anyone can do it. And you can do it at any time.

Following is a framework for developing Loving Kindness which I invite you to read. You may also enjoy listening as a guided meditation which you can do from this point forward. I invite you to engage in several minutes of mindful breathing before moving forward from here.

Engaging in Metta Bhavana, or “Loving Kindness,” is—in my view—an extension of mindful breathing. Through mindful breathing we bring our being to the present moment, and in Metta Bhavana we persist in the present with thoughts of empathy and compassion across the spectrum from ourselves to the entire world around us, freeing us from feelings of fear, doubt, anxiety, odium, and the stress that continually cripples us.

The first phase of the Metta Bhavana meditation is to bring your being to the present moment, to bring your mind and body to unison, to make your purpose singular. This and every phase may take several minutes or more, and that’s OK.

Once you’re ready, and you feel like your focus is singular, begin wishing yourself well. Think and breathe:

May I be well.

May I be happy.

May I be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to yourself, imagine your mind and your heart illuminating a warm, golden light. Feel the light’s warmth, its radius growing each time you wish yourself well. Feel yourself settling into the embrace of the Earth as it holds you as the warming lights from your mind and heart converge and join. This is your Metta. Nurture it until it surrounds your entire being.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you are close and have a special bond. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to your kindred spirit, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you feel neutral. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this neutral person, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending even further from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you sometimes have difficulty. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this challenging person, imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending yet further from your being each time you repeat your loving kindness.

When you’re ready to move on, consider someone with whom you are presently in conflict. Think and breathe:

May they be well.

May they be happy.

May they be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to this person with whom you’re presently in conflict, consider that this person is—like you—a collection of their own world experiences, and that at times, the world has perhaps not always been revealed to them in the same ways as it has been to you. Imagine your mind and your heart further illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius reaching far and wide from your being, now beginning to surround your community.

When you’re ready to move on, consider all sentient beings including yourself. Think and breathe:

May we be well.

May we be happy.

May we be free from suffering.

As you repeat these wishes to the world, imagine your mind and your heart illuminating your warm, golden light, its radius extending around your surrounding community and growing beyond it. Now your being is a furnace of understanding, compassion, and empathy. You are the present moment; you are an agent of peace; and, thus, the present moment is beautiful.


The contents of this post grow from my readings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn. If you are interested in further reading, here are some books that may interest you.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2012. Print.

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994. Print.

Hạnh, Nhất, Mobi Ho, and Dinh Mai. Vo. The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. Boston: Beacon, 1987. Print.

Hạnh, Nhất. The Sun My Heart: From Mindfulness to Insight Contemplation. Berkeley, CA: Parallax, 1988. Print.

Why Study English and Literature?

World Peace

English Literature and Literacy as Movement Toward Peace

My immediate and future goals in English studies and scholarship grow, at least in part, as a response to the literacy needs of the communities in which I have been studying. In a variety of ways, my local community is a borderland: generally speaking, the millennials—those who make up the majority of my peers in my local chapter of English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta along with the base population of my own students at the same university—encounter, interact, and experience literary texts through technology in a way that is quite different than I did just a few years ago; the central valley of California is also home to immigrant families from Latin America and is also refuge to several cultural groups recently subject to diaspora, all of whom possess home discourses that are unique yet on the border from the discourse presently valued in academia. Both the hegemonic and non-hegemonic millennials I have mentioned are on borders and are seeking literacy, if only implicitly by their choice to be at the university—thus I see it as my mission to help them, through various literatures, to seek and to have genuine encounters with other minds who may have world experiences quite different from their own, encounters that are independent from space and time though at times contextualized by both. This is at the heart of collegial literacy as I see it.

Through composition and literature, my goal is to help nurture the minds of my students and colleagues so that they become the peacemakers of the future. To that end, I am presently working on my master’s thesis in English literature along with a certificate of advanced study in composition.World Peace My next step is to apply for a PhD program where I hope to extend my work in literature and composition studies with a movement toward teaching language to communities that are technologically and culturally diverse. Ultimately, through my master’s thesis, certificate, and future PhD program, I wish to foster literacy in my communities because I believe in the power of language to do the work of that which has no other antecedent motive or purpose: although reading and writing are indeed practices of self-discovery, literacy in language and literature defragments diverse discourse communities. Literacy is the path from war and separation toward understanding, unity, and peace.

Trends in Educational Technology, Journal #2

Educational Technology and Rhetoric

One trend that I’ve noticed as I’ve begun to converse and network with other teachers is that teachers frequently default to a mode of communication that is response-centered rather than understanding-centered. In other words, teachers tend to listen to respond rather than listen to understand. I believe this happens because teachers are frequently put in the position of being asked questions and having answers expected from them. I’ve observed the communication style of my colleagues in this course to hold true to this. To be clear, though, I don’t mean to use this space as a place to vent or complain but rather to use this situation as a springboard into a brief discussion about where I see opportunities for educational technology to shine.

Listening first to understand rather than first to respond is a communication style that is not new: rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke and Psychologist Carl Rogers were talking about this back in the 50s. Both Burke and Rogers submit that in order for all parties in an argument to be able to move forward toward a solution (a solution, for Burke, being movement toward peace), we must make our first priority to understand each other so that we can move toward common ground (peace).

That being said, I want to return to one of the important points from this Forbes article where Shapiro suggests that educational technology has great use outside of the classroom where it can be used to communicate “objective” knowledges, the kind of formal knowledge Heidegger described as stuff that fills the empty vessels of our students’ minds. Educational technology allows for this kind of knowledge exchange to happen outside of the classroom which enables us as teachers to foster healthy rhetoric in the face-to-face classroom where we can make it our first priority to get our students to seek to understand ideas by asking questions, seeking ambiguities, feeling comfortable in spaces of uncertainty where the real thinking happens, rather than pressuring them to have the “right” response on a test.

I see this as one of the most powerful and compelling implications for instructional design and technology, and it is my personal goal to continue to think about how I can design my curriculum and evolve my pedagogy to allow me to continue to trend toward making my classroom a rhetorical space where we privilege grey areas and approach problems from a position of inquiry where our goal is to seek a sense of mutual understanding before we pass judgment when our impulse is merely to respond.

Mindfulness Practices in and out the Classroom

A Pedagogical Innovation: Mindfulness Practices in and out the Classroom

I first feel compelled to offer a disclaimer that the innovation I have am offering is not a technological innovation in the “high tech” sense nor is the thing itself an innovation; rather, I am offering an innovative use or application of a practice that is not traditionally associated with pedagogical practices in the West. This practice which I will herein refer to as mindfulness gives both teachers and learners tools to, as Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “keep one’s consciousness alive,” to be conscious of walking when walking, of breathing when breathing, of reading when reading, of writing when writing (11-12). In his book Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners, John Kabat-Zinn offers a friendly definition of mindfulness: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (4). Although mindfulness is “the heart of Buddhist meditation,” the bearing of mindfulness on secular and pedagogical paths has little if anything to do with Buddhism or becoming Buddhist, but, as Kabat-Zinn offers, “it has everything to do with examining who we are, with questioning our view of the world and our place in it, and with cultivating some appreciation for the fullness of each moment we are alive . . . with being in touch (emphasis added)” (3-4). I realize that this must sound rather new-agey­, and the connection of mindfulness and pedagogical practices and instruction design remain unclear, but once we begin to pay attention to the particular things we want teachers and learners to do in and out the classroom, mindfulness practices become a means and an end with those goals. That being said, I am offering a handout developed by Dr. Asao Inoue (University of Washington, Tacoma) and myself that, in its present form, is tailored for the writing and composition classroom; however, mindfulness practices can be used in any classroom across the disciplines and grades, and its widespread application and ease of adaptability make this innovation easily adoptable, but I will speak in more detail to the adoption and diffusion of mindfulness in the classroom following the handout.


Reading and Writing as Mindful Practices

“Some people, especially the very young, are good at noticing things that the rest of us don’t see or have ceased to notice. Growing up, we all become increasingly desensitized to the world around us; we tend to forget the specific things that get us to feel and think in particular ways.” (Writing Analytically 15)

Listening. We take the act for granted, but what do you do when you listen to a text, or another person speaking to you, or something on your PC? What is happening in your head as you listen to someone else say something to you? What is happening in your mind as you read these words? Are you fully and undividedly listening to the words on this page as you read them in your head? Chances are, if you are like almost everyone else on the planet, your attention is divided to some degree. You may be reading these words, but you are also thinking of other things.

“…we aren’t the victims of declining intelligence, but of habit. That is, as we organize our lives so that we can function more efficiently, we condition ourselves to see in more predictable ways and to tune out things that are not immediately relevant to our daily needs.” (Writing Analytically 15-16)

Have you ever read a page or even a chapter from something, finished reading or paused, then realized that you don’t know much of what you had just read? Your mind was multitasking as you were reading. This multitasking of the mind actually keeps you from reading academic and dense texts carefully and critically, even to the point of not really knowing what you just read.

“Moving along the roadway in cars, we periodically realize that miles have gone by while we were driving on automatic pilot, attending barely at all to the road or the car or the landscape. Arguably, even when we try to focus on something that we want to consider, the habit of not really attending to things stays with us.” (Writing Analytically 16)

If you are like most people, there are other voices in your head as you read a book or this page – or do anything in your daily life, really. These voices, we might say, are an ongoing, running monologue to yourself about anything and everything, your own voice speaking to you in your mind as read these words, telling you that you are hungry, or that you should have worn that green shirt today, or that you don’t really understand the point of this class, or that you’re anxious about a job or dating prospect, etc. This is normal. Everyone’s mind does it. In fact, one might say it is how our minds work, but they don’t always work this way. Occasionally, our minds are silent for a moment. In that moment, we aren’t thinking of anything. There is no monologue. When this happens, we are the most aware and alert to things around us, including words. Many have found ways to silence the monologue intentionally so that a deeper awareness of what is happening in one’s life, such as reading a text, can occur, a deeper awareness of what these words mean and don’t mean, what they could mean, and what might be underneath them, assumed by the writer, tacit or implied. This kind of listening to words we read in silence takes practice, but it’s easy to begin doing.

Mindful Reading

Mindful reading is reading when your mind is most calm and silent – that is, reading when the monologue has stopped. The key is to find some practices that will help you stop the monologue, at least for a time, so that you can read a text more carefully, more focused, more aware of its nuances and possible meanings. To mindfully read a text, do the following before you begin any session of reading:

  • Find a quiet, distraction-free place with little or no ambient noise or motions in the background. This is important. Sounds and sights around us in small ways take our attention away from a text when we read, even when we don’t realize it. Silence and the absence of motion in the environment are your friends when trying to silence the monologue and find focus and awareness when reading.
  • Create a comfortable, upright bodily position in which to read. If we are going to read with purpose, it makes sense to get our bodies into a position of intention. When you are upright and your back is straight, your diaphragm has more freedom to articulate your lungs—physiologically, you can get the most oxygen to your brain, helping your body stay alert. It’s not really a good idea to read lying down. That bodily position is not conducive to alertness and awareness, which is important for carefully reading a text. When you lie down your body begins to shift into rest and relaxation mode. This might work well for you for casual or leisurely reading, but reading academic texts is a different kind of act with different purposes requiring a different type of agency, namely more focus and attention than you might be used to giving while reading.
  • Spend 2-5 minutes just breathing mindfully. There is lots of research that shows the benefits of mindfulness practices. One of the benefits is helping one to focus just on the body so that the mind’s monologue subsides. There are several ways to mindfully breath, but to start, try sitting in your comfortable, upright position, closing your eyes, and breathing in through your nose, deeply and slowly, then out through your mouth slowly and completely. As you breathe, notice the feelings in your body, in your nose as the air comes in, in your belly and throat as you exhale. Just pay attention to those physical sensations. When your mind begins to talk to you, notice the thought and let it go. Don’t pursue it or worry about it. Notice and release it. It’s okay to have thoughts during mindful breathing. If you practice this, you’ll find it easier to clear your mind, but clearing your mind is not the point. The point is to focus on your body, on your breathing. Just be right there in the moment, breathing.
  • If you can, ring a bell or chime and focus on the sound. By focusing on the sound of the bell as it fades, listening to it, following the sound as it gets softer and softer, you will notice that your mind becomes quieter. Your mind is busy listening to that sound as it fades, searching for hints of its tone. You can repeat this several times. The reason this activity works to help quiet your mind and move you toward a more focused awareness is because of the silence. The silence is actually more important than the sound of the bell. In a sense, you are really listening to silence, which helps your mind settle and focus.

The interconnectedness of mindfulness practices and reading and writing well go hand-in-hand, but I believe using mindfulness practices as a way to prime teachers and learners for literacy events—which require both physical and mental presence—can be endlessly effective across the disciplines (including STEM fields which also require highly focused thinking and attention to detail). As I mentioned, the widespread adaptability and application of mindfulness practices make the odds of this innovation being adopted highly likely; simply put, it is simple and easy to apply to your pedagogy. But this is not the only reason why I believe mindfulness practices will be readily adopted by those who give it a chance.

Mindfulness practices have a distinct relative advantage over pre-existing technologies, namely that mindfulness practices are not replacing anything! They merely offer a set of tools for teachers and learners to achieve focus and peace which enables more productive and meaningful intellectual and physical labor. We are at risk to lose nothing other than the short amount of time we spend attending to ourselves in advance of our labor, but if mindfulness practices can help us be not only more productive during our labor but to feel better about our labor throughout the process, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Mindfulness practices are also compatible with existing values and practices with one small caveat. You’ll notice that I am careful with my language by naming these tools “mindfulness practices” rather than meditation. The word meditation carries with it spiritual connotations, and it is not the intent of these pedagogical tools to get teachers and learners to have a spiritual experience (although if they want it to a spiritual experience, that’s perfectly fine too); rather, this is a pedagogical tool to help teachers and learners become more aware of what they are doing when they are doing it, to truly be alive and present in the moment.

Seeing as though mindfulness practices only take time—a few minutes per day to begin with—there is no real monetary cost. There is only the opportunity cost of a few minutes’ worth of time, but again, if mindfulness practices can help us be more productive and at peace with the time that follows, the return on investment of that few minutes is exponential. Of course it goes without saying that since implementation of mindfulness practices in the classroom is essentially free, so too can be your own personal trial of mindfulness practices. With an open mind and a few minutes’ worth of time, you can quite easily keep a journal in which you reflect on the quality and intensity of your intellectual and/or physical labor in tandem with mindfulness practices then observe the results thereof over time. You can have your learners do this as well. In fact, having learners (and teachers for that matter) reflect on the quality and intensity of their labor—to be aware of these things—not only makes the effectiveness of mindfulness practices quantifiable over time, it is the only way to identify what goes well and what doesn’t go well so that we can seek improvement with our labor. Observing ourselves, indeed, is at the very heart of mindfulness.


The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. Trans. Mobi Ho and Dinh Mai. Vo. Boston: Beacon, 1987. Print.

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Hyperion, 2005. Print.

Rosenwasser, David, and Jill Stephen. “The Analytical Frame of Mind.” Writing Analytically. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2012. 1-38. Print.