Stopping Teacher Burnout (Greater Good)

The SMART-in-Education program helps teachers cope with rising academic demands and falling budgets.


Joan, a Bay Area elementary school teacher, was struggling with managing her fourth grade classroom, especially a student who wouldn’t stop speaking out of turn or bullying other students. She held it together during the day and then came home and yelled at her own kids. She came to doubt her ability to meet the ever-increasing demands placed on her by the double-whammy of budget cuts and rising academic mandates.

Seeking help, she signed up for the eight-week SMART-in-Education program, which I launched in 2008 to help teachers relax and manage their stress. There she discovered that she was not alone. In fact, she was facing the same kind of stress that leads nearly half of teachers to quit within their first five years on the job.

The SMART-in-Education program takes place over nine evenings and two Saturdays. It is based primarily on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, an evidence-based practice that emphasizes the cultivation of mindfulness, the moment-to-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations.

But SMART (which stands for Stress Management and Resilience Training) has added several components to the basic MBSR curriculum, in order to respond to the special demands put on teachers. Participants spend time exploring the inner geography of emotions, especially fear and anger. Using mindfulness tools such as meditation and body awareness, they develop the capacity to recognize, tolerate, and even transform challenging emotions into insight, self-acceptance, and vitality.

Participants also spend a great deal of time developing skills like kindnesscompassion, and forgiveness, through exercises and discussions tied into their actual experience in the classroom.

For example, when practicing with kindness and compassion, the teachers spend one week bringing to mind a challenging student and taking a few minutes in their home practice to silently send him or her wishes of kindness and well-being, such as “May Sam be happy, and feel loved,” or “May Sofi find peace in her heart, and develop her gifts.” Another week, they are invited to bring to mind a student they tend to overlook, who is neither delightful nor frustrating.

Read the full article at

Copyright © 2012 Greater Good Magazine


Want to learn more about mindfulness in education? On February 4-5, 2012, the University of California, San Diego, Center for Mindfulness will host a conference, Bridging the Hearts & Minds of Youth: Mindfulness in Clinical Practice, Education and Research.

This is Your Brain on Mindfulness (Lion’s Roar / Shambhala Sun)

Meditators say their practice fundamentally changes the way they experience life. Michael Baime reports on how modern neuroscience is explaining this in biological terms.


Meditators find truth through carefully exploring their inner subjective experience in what some people like to call “first-person investigation.” Science looks to the external material world and relies on third-person investigation and methodologies that lead to discoveries that can be tested and replicated by peers in the scientific world. The ways that these traditions search for truth couldn’t be more different, and yet it shouldn’t surprise us to find that the two truths are actually one. Continue reading “This is Your Brain on Mindfulness (Lion’s Roar / Shambhala Sun)”

Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble With Maps (PDF)

The following article by Jon Kabat-Zinn explores the foundations of MBSR and the importance of meditation practice and retreat attendance.

“As I will recount a bit further along, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was developed as one of a possibly infinite number of skillful means for bringing the dharma into mainstream settings.1 It has never been about MBSR for its own sake. It has always been about the M. And the M is a very big M, as I attempt to describe in this paper. That said, the quality of MBSR as an intervention is only as good as the MBSR instructor and his or her understanding of what is required to deliver a truly . . . . “

Download the original PDF article here:  kabat-zinn-on-mbsr-origins.PDF

Contemporary Buddhism, Vol. 12, No. 1, May 2011 ISSN 1463-9947 print/1476-7953 online/11/010281-306 q 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14639947.2011.564844

Buddha Lessons (Newsweek)

by Claudia Kalb, Sept. 26, 2004

For decades, Dalia Isicoff has suffered the agony of rheumatoid arthritis–joint pain, spinal fusion, multiple hip surgeries. Painkillers dull the aches, but it wasn’t until she took a course at the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine that Isicoff discovered a powerful weapon inside her own body: her mind. Using a meditative practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, Isicoff learned to acknowledge her pain, rather than fight it. Her negative and debilitating thought patterns–“This is getting worse,” “I’m going to end up in a wheelchair”–began to dissipate, and she was able to cut back on her medication. The pain hasn’t gone away, but “I view it is an ally now,” she says. “Mindfulness is transformational.” Continue reading “Buddha Lessons (Newsweek)”

Finding Happiness: Cajole Your Brain to Lean to the Left (NY Times)

All too many years ago, while I was still a psychology graduate student, I ran an experiment to assess how well meditation might work as an antidote to stress. My professors were skeptical, my measures were weak, and my subjects were mainly college sophomores. Not surprisingly, my results were inconclusive.

But today I feel vindicated.

To be sure, over the years there have been scores of studies that have looked at meditation, some suggesting its powers to alleviate the adverse effects of stress. But only last month did what I see as a definitive study confirm my once-shaky hypothesis, by revealing the brain mechanism that may account for meditation’s singular ability to soothe.

The data has emerged as one of many experimental fruits of an unlikely research collaboration: the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious and political leader in exile, and some of top psychologists and neuroscientists from the United States. The scientists met with the Dalai Lama for five days in Dharamsala, India, in March 2000, to discuss how people might better control their destructive emotions.

One of my personal heroes in this rapprochement between modern science and ancient wisdom is Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Davidson, in recent research using functional M.R.I. and advanced EEG analysis, has identified an index for the brain’s set point for moods.

The functional M.R.I. images reveal that when people are emotionally distressed — anxious, angry, depressed — the most active sites in the brain are circuitry converging on the amygdala, part of the brain’s emotional centers, and the right prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for the hypervigilance typical of people under stress.