A large part of a well-developed mindfulness practice involves bringing awareness to your emotional state from moment-to-moment and how your emotions influence those around you. Parents of young infants will understand this intuitively – when you are angry or upset, your child is likely to also be upset. When you are calm and at ease, your child is more likely to respond in turn.
This ability, to notice your emotions in the moment rather than be swept away by them, is sometimes referred to as internal monitoring. The more that we practice monitoring and shifting our internal state, the more we can choose to create a warm, receptive, and caring emotional environment for our students. While this may seem like a stretch at first, scientists have discovered that we actually possess specialized neurons (known as ‘mirror neurons’) that naturally attune and mimic the emotional states of those around us – particularly those in a caregiver role.
So, before seeking to change the emotions and behaviors of your students, reflect on how you are feeling in that moment and see if you can shift your experience first.