Are you giving your gifts…Or getting in your own way?

Last spring, I experienced what it was like to get in my own way – and it was my students who lost out.

At the start of that quarter, I had made a decision to bring my mindfulness teaching into my university classroom. While I’ve been teaching at the college level for nearly a decade, and teaching meditation for two years now, never had I brought those two roles together.

Either I was wearing my “professor” hat and clicking through PowerPoint slides, or I was wearing my “meditator” hat and guiding people to focus on their breath and their heart. But I was keenly aware of the benefits of meditation, and I resolved to start sharing it with my students.

On the first day of class, I led a lecture hall of 200 students through a short mindfulness exercise: bringing their attention to the sounds in the room, the weight of their bodies against the chairs, and the gentle movement of the breath. It was about 2 minutes total.

No big deal, right?

Wrong. I was terrified. I could hear my voice shake – something that never happens when I teach meditation. I became supremely self-conscious: What will these millennials think about me doing mindfulness with them in the classroom? Will they think it is dumb, or a waste of time? Will they think I am imposing my own beliefs and practices on them?

I never did it again that quarter.

Then on the very last day of class, a student in the front row raised his hand and asked: “Are you going to do any more of those ‘mind exercises’ with us? Helping us clear our minds?”

Later, one of my TAs told me that a different student asked if I could lead them in a moment of mindfulness before their final exam. I happily did so.

All along, my students were wanting me to teach them mindfulness. I put my own fears above offering them a gift that could’ve helped them stay more focused in class, relieve their daily stress, and even study better for their exams. I got in my own way – and theirs.

I once heard author Michael Beckwith say: “Your gifts don't belong to you, anyway. They belong to the world.”

How about you? Are you offering your gifts to the world? And if not, what’s getting in your way? Tell me in a comment!

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