We can meet the needs of our time through the practice of mindfulness.
Insights with iBme’s Mindfulness Teacher Training graduate, Franny McColgan
iBme offers a year-long Mindfulness Teacher Training (TT) program, designed and taught by iBme expert teaching faculty, to bring mindfulness to young people. Our Teacher Training gives educators and youth-serving professionals a high-standard curriculum for teaching mindfulness in their communities.
Franny McColgan, graduate of the 2021-2022 TT class, shares the wisdom she gained from her year-long experience.
What is mindfulness to you?
When I am noticing my thoughts, my feelings, or really tasting what I am drinking, or feeling what I am touching, for example, I feel mindful. It is a deeper paying of attention, an objective awareness, like a third party relaying my thoughts to my conscious mind. I am especially aware when I am absent of mindfulness, when I am hurriedly running down the hallway, greeting a student without making eye contact, half-listening to one of my kids, or talking a mile a minute, then mid-way realize that I have not been present during that time. When I’ve lost connection with myself or the person I am in contact with, I sometimes have the awareness that I was living in my head.
How did you come to mindfulness and meditation?
What felt to me to be a very difficult period in my life led me to the cushion. And when I began to sit with my thoughts and my emotions, I began to uncover many feelings and ‘truths’ I had been ignoring for a long time. After months/years of simply allowing myself to sit with the discomfort, I began to have more clarity about their origins and a deeper understanding of myself began to emerge. When I started to notice that my relationship to myself and to my family and friends had began to change, I knew that mindfulness was deeply impacting my life.
“After months/years of simply allowing myself to sit with the discomfort, I began to have more clarity about their origins and a deeper understanding of myself began to emerge.”
What have been its effects in your life?
So many things have come from my stillness practice: greater self-awareness, trust in myself, patience, acceptance, perspective, gratitude, peace, joy. For a long time, I lived in a state with a lot of unregulated nervous energy. Meditation helps me to calm my nervous system and to recognize when I am moving back into old patterns of being and when some of my needs aren’t being met.
Sitting has allowed me to both pay attention to my body and to honor its wisdom. I remember the first time I did a body scan and I couldn’t feel any parts of my body. Now the emotions/feelings that arise in my body are my primary source of information that I trust. Sitting, dancing, yoga, humming and other embodiment practices are some of the ways that I’ve tapped into my wiser self, the physical part of me that holds some of my pain, fears, dreams and freedom.
“Practice often gives me perspective; the reminder that what is coming up for me is both temporary and often not as ‘challenging’ as it first appears.”
Sitting has cultivated an awareness of when I am hitting my edge of patience and allows me to pause and to make choices that cause less harm to myself and others. Practice often gives me perspective; the reminder that what is coming up for me is both temporary and often not as ‘challenging’ as it first appears. Small disappointments, unexpected outcomes, a discrepancy in the reality I may have envisioned and the actual reality, produce an unpleasant shift in my body. Yet noticing that shift gives me pause to zoom out and see that what caused the change in emotions is a small part of a bigger experience of life/living.
Experiencing moments of gratitude has been a natural result of my practice. Even if I felt grateful for many things before practicing, there is so much more embodied gratitude that I didn’t experience before. I might be out for a walk, and noticing the way the light hits the leaves, my heart fills with a love and appreciation for our earth that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt, or a tender hug with one of my kids reminds me of our health and our love for each other, and just that moment together.
What made you want to teach young people mindfulness?
I wanted to learn more tools to help our youth face the challenges and uncertainties of our time and their future. As a teacher, I witness the struggle some of my students contend with academically, socially, racially and with their identity and their families. I wanted to share mindfulness techniques for them to better handle their feelings, and to plant the seed that one can courageously face uncomfortable emotions and that by moving towards them, freedom can arise. I also wanted to learn how to create spaces where students feel comfortable to explore their thoughts and feelings, and to model what it means to practice connecting with one’s own voice and inner self, using mindfulness as a starting point.
What has been your greatest takeaways from iBme’s Teacher Training program? And how will your learnings impact your work?
It is hard to choose one takeaway. iBme’s TT covers a lot of different units, and each subject area/unit could be a life-time’s worth of learning and work. What I love about the breadth of the training though, is to appreciate the interconnectedness of all the units – mindfulness, trauma, the workings of the brain, nature, psychology, play, NVC, community, and livelihood are each linked in some way to the other. For me, mindfulness is the pillar that deepens the work in all of the areas we covered. Built on this solid foundation is the interplay of humanity, science, the arts/creativity, and the reverence for ourselves, each other and our earth, all which are interwoven throughout the program.
How do you see mindfulness playing a role in our shared worlds / meeting the needs of our time?
For me, mindfulness is the source of strength and the origin of clarity for meeting the needs of our time. I believe that clarity can bring about a shift in consciousness. My experience has shown me that the clarity that arises from sitting helps me to see the injustices, the hate, the harm and the pain, and to see my role in the suffering I cause myself, others and our earth. The reminder that everything is interconnected. Clear-seeing offers me a path of healing through self-love, the love of others and the love for our beautiful planet.
“My experience has shown me that the clarity that arises from sitting helps me to see the injustices, the hate, the harm and the pain, and to see my role in the suffering I cause myself, others and our earth. The reminder that everything is interconnected.”
It is from this place of clarity that I find the strength to take action and to find creative solutions to change our world. James Baldwin said “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” I imagine a world where we all have the courage to face our own pain with compassion and from that place bring our love and acceptance to others, and a desire to care for our earth.
Franny McColgan is a devoted mom, aspiring teacher of life and language, and inquisitive student. Her stillness practice, which began in 2016, enhanced by spiritual books and podcasts, cultivates her inner peace and gratitude. Time with her family, her pups, her students, nature, local farms, music and dance sustain her energy and fuel her creativity.