Educator burnout and compassion fatigue is real. In fact, the role of an educator is becoming increasingly more stressful. Daily demands have placed a heavy burden on educators, largely resulting in stressed responses. Among educators, stress has been associated with poor psychological and physical health. It is causing us to be less effective, miss more work, and its impacting our relationships with the students we serve as well as our loved ones. Further, stress is the primary cause that a large percent of our educators are leaving the profession in their first five years. The stress that educators are experiencing is a serious concern. And I am making it my mission to promote educator well being.
This weekend I organized a group of young women to experience their first sound bath. And I was a first timer too! A sound bath is song meditation with Himalayan singing bowls. The experience is made up of sounds and vibrations to support the meditative experience. In this blog, I share a bit about my own journey with sound bath meditation- which really began yesterday.
I have been interested in meditation largely since my first experience with vicarious trauma. For those who do now know the term, vicarious trauma is when you experience symptoms associated with trauma simply because you are hearing a traumatic story from someone else. This is a common experience for those in the social services and helping professions like me but obviously it can happen to anyone.
During my Phd, I took some time to understand ways in which people can deal with symptoms of trauma and stress. I even largely researched mindfulness, specifically focusing on mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) by Jon Kabat-Zinn as a way to overcome the stress that exists in education. He was really one of the gurus in bringing this eastern concept into the western world. And I fell in love with the idea of mindfulness for educators in that moment. But not long into my research I realized that no amount of jargon and literature searches would make me mindful. If I wanted to cope with stress, prevent burnout, and be a healthy human being I would need to practice mindfulness not just read about it. I would need to learn to be in the present moment, the here and now, and not worry about the past or the future.
The sound bath started by sitting in a circle with our instructor Kim Parker from Kim Parker Yoga and learning about the importance of meditation for clarity of mind and stress-reduction. A sound bath is unique because the focus on vibrations and sounds are a form of cleansing. I loved Kim’s analogy about life. Its like a river where a log gets stuck and everything gets backed up. We need meditation to get the logs and debrief and junk unstuck. Yes Kim. You are spot on.
During this time we were welcomed to tea, introductions, and a the opportunity to ask any questions.
Prepare to Meditate
The next part of the sound bath was simple- get a relaxing position. Kim prepared us for the sound bath a head of time by telling us to bring in our favorite blanket and our favorite pillow. Each person was also provided a small blanket, yoga mat, eye cover and a cloth with lavender on it. Lavender helps create restfulness and can be good for anxiety, insomnia or depression. More on essential oils in another post. My first time using essential oils was at my current gym Studio 3 and I am currently working through my first Doterra starter kit. Im in love. After our meeting, we were told to lay down with our heads toward the center of the circle in order to experience the sound vibrations. And cozy up with our blanket. We also had access to yoga blocks and large pillows for support under our lower back for under out feet. There were a few pregnant people in the group so there was some instruction on how to get comfortable with a baby inside of you.
The sound bath began with a guided meditation where we focused on deep breaths, preparing ourselves for relaxation. Not long after the first Himalayan singing bowl began to send a vibration throughout the room. If you have never heard a Himalayan singing bowl it is like a gong. The sound extends for some time. I have heard before that everyone hears the sound for different increments of time. And it is beautiful. It is such a treat. It is nothing like I had experienced before.
The challenge with meditation is to be in the moment, to focus on the sounds and vibrations and your breath. Often times my mind will wander. At this point it is important not to pass judgment on the thought to the wandering mind but simply just to refocus your attention to the moment…even if the shift takes place throughout the meditation. Just make note and shift your attention back to the present moment.
Being open minded during meditation is also an important component. At one point and time, the Himalayan singing bowl was placed on my belly and vibrations were sent throughout my body. It was such an amazing and exhilarating moment. I felt so connected to my body in that moment. And it was a feeling I never expected.
There were many times when I felt restless or fidgety and there were times when my body was still and my mind was calm. It is not often that I am separated from my phone and people and society. This experience reminded me of the importance in unplugging and digesting only my breath.
The sound bath experience ended with another guided meditation much like a body scan where we awakened each part of ourselves including our minds and our hearts. The highlight for me was the last breath where we joined our instructor Kim in making an exhale chanting noise. It was a powerful moment!
The goal for me and mindfulness is to replace negative states such as stress, anxiety, fear, and pain with more desirable states such as peace and calmness. And the Sound Bath experience at Kim Parker Yoga accomplished this task. I felt like my mind was more clear, I was present, and I felt empowered and reenergized. What a great way for educators and non-educators to find a renewed sense of energy.
It was an enjoyable experience for all of us. My group even wants to book again next month!
If you are in the Pacific Northwest check out Kim Parkers home studio https://www.kimparkeryoga.com/. She is passionate about helping stressed out, hardworking people get their groove back. She has a lot of experience working with educators, providing sound bath, meditation, and yoga experiences for educators in the PNW.