“How We Learn” Book Review and Mindfulness

This week has already started off to be very full in terms of personal and professional development.  This morning, during a trip to gentle yoga class at my local health center, an elderly gentleman informed the class of his exploration into the “new” topic of mindfulness.  This led me to further explore how brain-based learning and mindfulness can coexist and beneficially impact one another.

First, though, I wanted to update you with a review of the nonfiction book, “How We Learn:  The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens,” by Benedict Carey.  Carey offers several insights on the process of learning that is specifically brain-based.  Interesting information that I found in his book included how memories are stored and retrieved by the brain, the ideas behind the beneficial practice of pre-testing and immediate review, brain breaks for a “bob and weave” style of lecturing, and the importance of exploring a topic in-depth.  In addition, this title explores the history of learning in the brain-based learning community, and, rather than date it back twenty-or-so years, makes a convincing argument that the field does, in fact, date back more than 100 years.  Altogether an interesting read heavily laced with medical studies information, Carey’s book is food for thought for a brain-based learning practitioner.

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Next, I want to further highlight the synergistic relationship between the benefits of brain-based learning through the lenses of mindfulness.  Mindfulness, a practice of being totally mentally aware of the presence through breathing, meditation, and thought exercises, relates to brain-based learning, because brain-based learning primarily focuses on the how and why of learning.  How is our attention focused so that we may be more present in our studies, which in turn help us build better neural connections in our brains?  Mindfulness can be taught through the practices of yoga, meditative breathing, and other silent, calm activities such as meditation rocks in the classroom.  Rather than silence for silence purpose, or relaxing background music, mindfulness would call into practice a calm time of respecting space and stillness and using one’s mind to focus on the immediate awareness, not response to, emotions and thoughts the student is currently experiencing.  As I begin to read Daniel J. Siegel’s book, “The Mindful Brain,” I hope to be able to bring more expert strategies into my own research and practices.

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For a brief, approachable look at the topic of mindfulness, please view an informative glimpse into Anderson Cooper’s piece for “60 Minutes:”  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-newly-mindful-anderson-cooper/