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Buddhist understanding and skilful means: Adding depth and meaning to K-12 teachers’ practice of mindfulness

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
With the documented benefits of Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBIs) such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, training in mindfulness has become increasingly popular in North America. Recently, MBIs have been developed to advance K-12 teachers’ social and emotional competence, and to support them in dealing with work related issues such as stress and burnout. These interventions are consistent with the relational approach to Social and Emotional Education, where students’ social and emotional competence is augmented by teachers’ personal advancement, and their increased capacity to cultivate caring relationships. MBIs for teachers typically focus on a few elements of Buddhist theory – primarily mindfulness, as well as kindness and compassion training. These foci are to the exclusion of the broader theoretical framework of the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, in which the practice of mindfulness originated. When the practice of mindfulness is divorced from the Buddhist teachings of which it is part, what is arguably lost is a deeper understanding of the conditions that lead to human suffering, and a more substantive means to addressing it – leaving mindfulness at risk for being misunderstood and misused. Within the current thesis, I argue that there are other elements of Buddhist theory (i.e., wisdom and ethics), that are secular in nature, and important to ensuring K-12 teachers receive, and sustain, maximal benefit from mindfulness-based practices. These include teachers having access to (1) trainings included in the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, and (2) ongoing support. Such knowledge and support can enrich educators’ understanding and embodiment of mindfulness-based practices, which will be of benefit not only to their personal wellbeing, but will also help them in their efforts to create caring classroom environments, enhance teacher-student relationships, and support student wellbeing.
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This thesis may be printed or downloaded for non-commercial research and scholarly purposes.
Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Le Mare, Lucy
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