Mindfulness in Education

Not everyone can retreat to a cave in the Himalayas to find their center. Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson, authors of The Mindful School Leader  found that most educators are overwhelmed and often don’t take the time for self-care. This quick, 30–60 second breathing strategy demonstrates an easy way to incorporate mindfulness and repose throughout a busy day. Try incorporating this exercise in the morning, before you open e-mail or when you first sit down to your desk; in the afternoon, at the beginning of a lunch break or planning period; and in the evening, as you close out your school work for the day discuss a strategy for making self-care a part of any educator’s busy day (2015, American Society of Curriculum Development) 

Below are two of Valerie’s talks on on Mindfulness in Education at Blue Cliff Monastery Retreats.

Personal and Societal Transformation

Valerie Brown was a high powered lawyer. Then she had an experience that changed everything. Listen to Valerie share her story of spiritual awakening.

“Is Quaker meeting for worship the same as meditation and is meditation practice the same as sitting in Quaker meeting for worship…? And the short answer is no…they are not the same thing…not at all…the other short answer is yes, there is a lot of overlap…and I think both Quakers and Buddhists or meditation practitioners would appreciate that yes and no answer…” According to Friends Valerie Brown, Doug Gwyn, Amy Ward Brimmer, Mark Helpsmeet, Kevin-Douglas Olive, having a meditation practice can be fine, even helpful. But it shouldn’t end there.

Valerie Brown spoke with a group of panel members on January 10, 2017 for a live online Kosmos Journal event. Watch Valerie and her activist colleagues Jodie Evans, Leslie Davenport, Shaun Chamberlin, Martin Kirk and Juan Orozco discuss the outlook for activism at a time of turmoil and disruption. How will the new political climate, as well as the increasing pressures of climate chaos and exploitative and extractive practices, impact the attitudes and tactics of changemakers in the times ahead?

The Quaker Process

Are you attending a Courage and Renewal Retreat and want to learn more about Quaker clearness committees? Listen to Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson explain their experience of the Quaker tradition – especially in regard to deep listening, discernment and the remarkable process known as the “clearness committee.” (2017, Spiritual Directors International)

This article, written by Valerie Brown and published in Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction in December 2017, explores the Quaker spiritual practice and process of the clearness committee, an individual path of spiritual discernment within community, and its implications for spiritual directors. It focuses on the structure and process of the clearness committee, while briefly examining how Quaker discernment may inform spiritual direction. Valerie’s motivation for writing the article arose from offering retreats and workshops throughout the United States and in other countries in which she has introduced non-Quakers to the clearness committee and observed the profound impact that it has had on both individuals and groups.


Many of us go through daily life on autopilot, without being fully aware of our conscious experience. Listen to neuroscientists Richard Davidson and Amishi Jha and clinical mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn discuss the role of consciousness in mental and physical health, how we can train the mind to become more flexible and adaptable, and what cutting-edge neuroscience is revealing about the transformation of consciousness through mindfulness and contemplative practice. (2013, New York Academy of Sciences)

Mindfulness and the Brain

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Mindfulness and the Workplace

The regular practice of mindfulness aids work performance in many ways. Read about some of the current research on:

Audio Guides

These are resources on calming and pausing and on the practice of mindfulness in daily life:


The books listed here are considered classics on the topic of mindfulness:

  • Chodron, Pema. The Places That Scare You. Boston: Shambhala, 2002.
  • Chodron, Pema. The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness. Boston: Shambhala, 1991.
  • Chodron, Pema.  When Things Fall Apart. Shambala, 1997
  • Chodron, Pema Start Where You Are. Shambala, 1994
  • Goldstein, Joseph. Insight Meditation. Boston: Shambhala, 1994.
  • Goldstein, Joseph and Kornfield, Jack. Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight
  • Goleman, Daniel. Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence. New York:  HarperCollins, 2013
  • HH Dalai Lama and Cutler, H. The Art of Happiness.  Coronet , 1998
  • Hanson, Rick. Buddha’s Brain, Oakland, CA, New Harbinger, 2009
  • Hanson, Rick. Hardwiring Happiness, New York:  Random House, 2013
  • Kabat—Zinn, Jon. Full Catastrophe Living. New York: Dela Corte Press, 1990.
  • Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go There You Are. New York: Hyperion, 1994.
  • Kabat—Zinn, Jon. Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through
  • Kabat-Zinn, Jon.  Mindfulness for Beginners.  Boulder, CO:  Sounds True, 2012
  • Kornfield, Jack. A Path With Heart. New York: Bantam, 1994.
  • Kornfield, Jack. After the Ecstasy the Laundry. New York: Bantam Books, 2000.
  • Kornfjeld, Jack. The Art of Forgiveness, Loving Kindness and Peace. New York: Bantam, 2002.
  • Salzberg, Sharon. Loving Kindness.  Shambala Classics, 2002
  • Salzbeg, Sharon. Real Happiness at Work, New York:  Workman Publishing, 2014
  • Santorelli, Saki. Heal Thy Self. New York: Bell Tower, 1999.
  • Siegel, Daniel. Mindsight, New York: Bantum, 2011.
  • Tan, Chade-Meng. Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace) HarperOne, 2012
  • Thich Nhat Hanh. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Boston: Beacon, 1976.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh. Peace is Every Step. New York: Bantam, 1991.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh. The Blooming of a Lotus. Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Please refer to the online appendices in The Mindful School Leader:  Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School for a comprehensive list of resources.

Named one of the best courageous books of 2014 by the Center for Courage & Renewal, this book is for educational leaders who feel overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted, and offers explicit practices to help readers avoid burnout and become the mindful, poised, effective leaders they were meant to be. Loaded with real-time encouragement with portraits of educational leaders who are incorporating mindfulness practices, like attentive breathing, mindful walking about the school building, or calming pauses in the office throughout the school day, this book is a must-have guide.

Valerie Brown and Kirsten Olson. Corwin, December 2014. 344 pages.

The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel.

Not your average travel guidebook, this book explores some of the world’s great pilgrimages, destinations, and the author’s reflections on the lessons she learned from them. Read this book to discover how travel can be transformational, how to be more mindful while traveling and every day, the adventures of traveling alone, the delights of encountering new people and places, ancient pilgrimage journeys and sacred travel worldwide.

Valerie Brown. QuakerBridge Media, 2012, 152 pages. Also available from QuakerBooks.

Heartfulness: Renewing Heart, Mind, and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond Valerie

Valerie Brown guides readers toward renewal of mind, heart, and spirit by encouraging them to take time away from the busyness of their lives through retreat. Drawing on her experience as a retreatant and retreat leader, she introduces readers to opportunities for personal restoration within a variety of focused retreats. She wonders how Friends experience of expectant waiting influences the retreat process and how retreats influence expectant waiting. She encourages the “big questions”—What has meaning and purpose in my life? What am I avoiding? What brings me most alive?—and offers specific practices for retreatants to cultivate in everyday life.

Valerie Brown. Pendle Hill Pamphlet #421.

Quakers are advised to begin worship by “centering down.” This is the first step in a Friend’s intention to wait in “holy expectancy,” to be drawn by the Light into communion with God. Centering prayer is also a practice used by Christian mystics to prepare for contemplation, and “centering” describes the meditation of a Buddhist in pursuit of that deep awareness called “mindfulness.” Valerie Brown is an explorer and teacher of centering practices, a Buddhist, and an active Friend. Drawing upon her own experiences and wide studies, she describes for Friends how these various traditions can offer us a better understanding and preparedness for our precious, elusive, mysterious, and simple practice of centering into worship. Discussion questions included.

Valerie Brown, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #407. 2014.