"What we can do with all of the worries and stress people are having is reframe it, and think about how this might be a chance to re-envision how we do a lot of things."
These are tough times. It's understandable that we would feel tested while we just try to make it through each day. Thankfully Lisa Lucas has some ideas and techniques we can use right away to help reframe our thinking and become more responsive than reactive.
We discuss reframing our thinking, Lisa shares her 4 C’s and leads Nate in the Presence Pause, a simple and effective technique to ground and transition yourself and your students. Do it with us!
Read the transcript
Nate Butler: 00:00 Hey Lisa, thank you for joining us today.
Lisa Lucas: 00:04 I'm happy to be here. How are you, Nate?
Nate Butler: 00:05 I'm doing okay. I'm probably eating more carbs than I need to, but concerning the situation, it's fine. It's good. Looking forward to eventually coming back to, I don't know if normal's the right word, but restarting, reopening. I think the conversation seems to have moved a little bit from those first couple of weeks of, "Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?" to having adapted to it a bit. It's now become a bit of a routine. We know what to do, what not to do, and now a lot of the discussion seems to be about re-entry. How about yourself?
Lisa Lucas: 00:45 Yeah, I know. As I listened to you and as I listen to most people, I'm really conscious and trying to use the words myself, and think about how words can really create our worlds. When we use words like lockdown, just let's like let that settle in. That's a feeling of unease. My work, as you know through Stenhouse, is about being present. I think a great deal of what all of us can be doing at this time is reframing the words we use and the thoughts we think about what's happening in our current reality.
Lisa Lucas: 01:31 So many people I have talked to are so stressed out, and are so feeling just out of sorts, and just a general unease and anxiousness. I think that's normal. I think that's the first thing. But I also would challenge all of us to really question when we talk about things like stress, and unease, and anxiety, well you can't really hold it, you can't hold stress. It's our reaction to a situation. So, being very intentional about how we react, and maybe pivoting and responding to the situation instead, can help frame it in a different way.
Lisa Lucas: 02:20 I'll go back to that word lockdown. I've been writing a lot of blogs about this, and rather than a lockdown, really it's a home retreat we're in. The word, quarantine, well maybe it's a chance to pause and to slow down. Educators, before all of this, when I was in schools, when I would ask teachers how you're doing, if they didn't give me the cursory, "Good, okay, doing just fine, making it through, surviving." Most of them, when we got into it, would say, "I'm just overwhelmed. There's just too much."
Lisa Lucas: 02:57 Well, right now, we've been given an opportunity. I keep thinking, how can we leave this current situation, look back, and when we talk about it, how were we in the situation? Who were we? How did we respond? I just think it's so interesting how have we started? Like how you doing? I think there's a lot of the very small things we can do in the course of our routine of the day that can truly reframe the situation, and that maybe it isn't so stressful. I think a lot of stress, don't you feel like this when you don't know what's coming, when it's the unknown, when you don't know when it's going to be over, when there's conflicting reports?
Lisa Lucas: 03:48 Well, the unknown, that stress, because we like to know what's going on. But the only moment we really can respond to is the present. It's right now. Who are we in this present moment? Because I think we're directing this conversation to educators, and most educators, I would really, really hope aren't firsthand experiencing the effects of the illness. That's a whole different conversation. But I think we're really focusing on the educators that are trying to keep things going for students, and that are quarantined in their homes, and hopefully not suffering an illness, or have anyone close. So, that's a different conversation. I never want to make light of that because that is a different type of stress.
Nate Butler: 04:47 Some things I hear about are consistent with the lines between maybe the different roles that we're playing or the different roles we have, whether that is teacher, spouse, parent, child, all those lines seem to have been a bit blurred by this. Should you be drawing those lines anymore? How do you keep yourself together during this time?
Lisa Lucas: 05:15 I think that has to do with boundaries. One of the ways that I've tried to frame this when I've been talking, and coaching, and writing about it is I've thought in a way to organize our conversation, I thought of like the four Cs, and I'm going to go over them. The first is conscious choices. Those conscious choices we make have a lot to do with the routines we've put in place that help normalize our day. Being an advocate of how you need to do your work, when you need to do your work, where you need to do a work, with the people that you're sharing that space with. In other words, the living room is no longer a place where we just watch TV and do board games. The living room for many teachers is a place where they're teaching online.
Lisa Lucas: 06:07 Really setting up those boundaries, and remembering. I think all of this comes back to us. You know, when I wrote the book Practicing Presence, it focused on the adult. Because I spent a long time really doing a lot of different things with children, and I realized if I wanted to have a greater effect, if I wanted to affect more students and children, it really needs to begin with the adults. Because we need to be the adults in the room that set the social, emotional kind of level. As educators, if you're a parent, if you're a spouse, however you are, how you show up matters. It's going to matter if you're doing Zoom meetings with your class. It's going to matter to your own children who might be in the next room, who want your constant attention, but you need to set boundaries. It's going to matter with your partners or spouses.
Lisa Lucas: 06:59 Putting in some very conscious choices. Like for example, like so many people, like I'm someone who has to exercise. I worry about this because without the gym I'm thinking, "Oh, there's a game changer." But it's amazing what I've discovered that I can do without a gym. It's also a time to reinvent and reimagine how you can do, whether it's your cardio, or whether it's weightlifting, or whether it's yoga. Thinking about what are the things that keep you fueled? What are the things that keep you going that bring balance, and boundaries, and really a feeling of equanimity? Making sure you're very intentionally instilling those in your day.
Lisa Lucas: 07:52 I haven't started a day without some type of movement. I just know better. Actually, I missed one day, and I was a mess, and I realized I need this. This morning it was cold, but I got up and I rode my bike, or going outside and taking a walk. Those are just the normal things that people know to do. But maybe when we get a game changer like this, we don't put into place those routines.
Lisa Lucas: 08:16 Then consciously, I continually ask myself all throughout the day, "Is this serving me? Is this supporting me?" So when I get up in the morning, am I going to turn on the news? Nope, I'm going to get the news. I'm a huge advocate and I need to know what's going on. But when I listen to the continuous, the tolls of how many died... I think I heard the other day that every seven minutes someone was dying in New York City. I mean, that stays with you. That isn't what I'm going to put into my mind first thing in the morning. I'm going to think about, and very intentionally choose things that are going to fuel me, and make me start from a place of possibly gratitude.
Lisa Lucas: 09:04 I think you and I in that first podcast talked about this, and I'm still doing this. I won't put my feet on the floor in the morning until I think of five things that I could be grateful for. In the midst of things that have changed, looking for the little things that we still have makes you realize how very much if we aren't suffering, we do have to be grateful for. There are just so many things that we take for granted and now we realize.
Lisa Lucas: 09:33 When I closed out my class last night, the university was one of my classes, and I asked them to, I said, "What's one thing that you're looking forward to?" And do you know, almost all of them said something to do with like a connection, touching, giving someone a hug, hugging my mom again, getting to hold my niece or nephew. We're missing that connection. How do we create that in the midst of all this. So, I think so that's the first is really being conscious and that goes back to being present and being in the present moment.
Lisa Lucas: 10:11 I started, this might be a good time. This might be uncomfortable for you or for listeners, but it's the way I continue to start my classes. So I'm going to give it a whirl. My students, when we closed it out last night, I said, "Tell me something you liked about this course." All of them said that whether we were face to face or when we transitioned to online learning, you still continue to do what you call a present moment pause. They said, "I don't know what you do, but that kind of works." How about it, Nate? Do you want to start? Well not start, but how would you feel about it a two minute presence pause? Are you game?
Nate Butler: 10:48 Okay. I'm shifting in my chair.
Lisa Lucas: 10:51 I'm going to invite you to close your eyes, and I'm going to close my eyes too. So, just take a moment and you already shifted. But wherever you are, unless of course you're driving when you're listening to this, take a moment, and just take your feet and place them flat on the floor. Set up just a little bit straighter, just a little bit. Now just notice your breath. You're not breathing in a specific way, you're just noticing it. As you notice it, tune in to any areas in your body where you may feel a little bit of tension, a little bit of stress, especially if you've never done something like this. Usually it's the shoulders. See if you can breathe a little bit deeper into the area. For me, it's my lower back.
Lisa Lucas: 11:52 Now I'm going to do what's called the heart coherence technique. I'm going to invite you in your mind to envision a person, a place, or a thing that brings you joy. See if you can envision. As you continue to visualize that person, place, or thing, just continue to breathe. In a moment when I ring the chime, you're simply going to open your eyes when you no longer hear the vibration of the chime, as you continue to envision that person, place, or thing. Well, how bad was it?
Nate Butler: 13:03 No, it's really nice. It was like the two minute meditation.
Lisa Lucas: 13:08 I call it a presence pause. It's a nice transition. I do it in transition between different things that I'm doing throughout the day. You can do it in less time. But what that actually does, and so there's a lot of research to it. It's called neuro-cardiac coupling. What you're really doing is you're tuning into your breath. You're envisioning, and so you're going into your heart space. For that particular moment, one of the struggles people have with a typical meditation is what do you do with your mind? What do you do with your brain?
Lisa Lucas: 13:41 Because you're supposed to continually be bringing yourself back to the present moment, which when you start to practice that, and you notice your mind, you realize what a crazy place your mind is. It's like a bad neighborhood you shouldn't be in yourself, which is crazy. But when you do something like this, you're giving your mind a focus. As you give your mind a focus, you're bringing to mind something, I call it a smile moment or something that brings joy. I usually expand this for a little bit and we go into breathing into the heart and things like that. But I wanted to keep it short.
Lisa Lucas: 14:14 But so just something like that. There's no prescription to do it. There's no certain way to do it. But what if we paused more throughout the day, and re-centered, and transitioned in a way to make ourselves more present as we transition between activities? Are you comfortable sharing what you thought of? You don't have to.
Nate Butler: 14:35 Oh yeah, yeah, no, I thought about one of my dogs.
Lisa Lucas: 14:39 Yeah, there you go. You know pets, I know I often think of my cat, Elsa, or I have a memory of when my children were little we'd be swinging on a swing. I can actually hear them making that sound, that screech that young children make. What I tell my people that do workshops and students, come up with like three or four stories, memories, put them in your storehouse, put them in your wheelhouse. Then just pause and think about that throughout the day. It can be a nice way to reset.
Lisa Lucas: 15:12 Because if we're continually surrounding ourselves by the fearful things that everyone's talking about, the news. I'm sitting here next to my open window and I can hear people as they walk by, and I swear every conversation's about the coronavirus. That's all you hear. That's what we're talking about. There's actually research that talks about it. It's psychoneuroimmunology. It talks about how all of that fear actually suppresses your immune system. If you're always afraid and you're always scared, we're compromising our immune system. When, in fact, one of the best things that we can be doing is keeping ourselves really healthy. Which I why I say, "Okay, start with some movement. Do a little bit of a mindful pause. Do the things that you know will help boost your immune system." Make sense?
Nate Butler: 16:06 Yeah, oh absolutely. As you're talking about this, I'm wondering how could this work in a classroom, the idea of providing movements with this quiet thinking, and deliberate slowing down of your mind?
Lisa Lucas: 16:25 It works in the classroom as it just worked. As I said, when I transitioned to online learning, I tried to continue to do some of that. We talked about the presence pause. I'm a big advocate of social emotional learning. So, I always do a check in and I would have them give me an emoji for how they're feeling. Then I actually incorporated... Because these students now are sitting... They're doing what I don't feel is quite developmentally appropriate, and that's sitting all day to get their instructions in front of a screen.
Lisa Lucas: 16:58 What I've done is I've found some slides and I can guide myself, some just mindful movement stretches. I'll put those slides up. One stretch is to put your feet flat on the floor, and take your hands over your head, and reach to the sky. Then as you reach, and then exhale as you bring your arms down. There's a few. So, just that, and then bringing your shoulders up to your ears, and releasing it down your back. Just stopping in the midst of teaching to do a few of these things is a reset for your body as well. That's a stress reducer for the teacher as well as the students. So whether you're face to face, or whether you're on Zoom, we can take everything that we know it's good practice and make it work.
Nate Butler: 17:48 Nice.
Lisa Lucas: 17:50 We already talked about we weren't going to get into the weeds with those that are really suffering, but the other day I heard an ambulance and I thought of this. I just want to share this with everybody. So, I heard an ambulance and who knows why that ambulance was loud and going by. It made me think, "Well, a lot of what we need to do is practice compassion." So, that's my next C, so compassion. I think a lot of us when we hear an ambulance, we have different reactions. Usually, I think about the patient in that ambulance. Like maybe I'll say, "May they be healthy, may they be at ease."
Lisa Lucas: 18:28 Then I start thinking, what about all those caregivers? What about the guy driving the ambulance? What about the nurse waiting? What about all of the people in the midst surrounding whoever's in that ambulance? I thought, "You know what? That's something I can do too." So, by practicing compassion for all of the caregivers, and so when I hear something that upsets me or makes me realize there is a whole lot of stressful things happening out there, having a strategy for that, just taking a moment, and just sending thoughts of, "May every hand that touches whoever's in that ambulance be a healing hand. May they be surrounded by people that are caring for them, and compassionate, and able to be present for them." Even though it feels like there's nothing we can do for some of that huge trauma, there is. Make sense too?
Nate Butler: 19:25 Yeah. It goes back to the idea of a presence pause, but rather than perhaps the chime, it's also like the siren.
Lisa Lucas: 19:35 It's the trigger, exactly. As I've said for years, "Every bell that rings in school." Can you imagine, think of all the bells, especially in middle school and high school. What if instead of, because what usually happens is [inaudible 00:19:48] Remember when the bell rang, what happened?
Nate Butler: 19:56 Right, everybody just drop what you're doing and listen.
Lisa Lucas: 19:57 En masse, right? There's the bell, and everybody packing, and the teacher's trying to give last directions, it's not our quality moments. But what if from the get-go a bell meant to do a presence pause? Just pause. Can you imagine what a game changer that would be? I did do that back when I was a teacher and it worked. First four or five times, it's still kind of crazy. But after a while the bell rings and they would just take their hands, and place them in their laps, and take a few moments, and tune into their breath. Then when the bell rang, then they knew I was going to give directions. Like simple things like that. So, the ambulance is a trigger. So, all day long we're having triggers. That's what I call them. It's a cue and response, and those cues can be an opportunity to respond rather than react all throughout the day.
Nate Butler: 20:50 That's so important to be able to rather than just start packing up all of your books, so to speak, to be able to think through how you're going to move forward. What I really like about this is that when I think about it, throughout the day, there are many, many, many triggers. It's not always a siren or a chime. Sometimes it's conversation. Sometimes it's those cues, for example, like you said, getting up in the morning, turning on the TV. It's interesting because I think it's also like your reaction when you get up is to turn on the TV. Instead, you're choosing to respond by not turning it on.
Lisa Lucas: 21:34 You're making a conscious choice. You're being present enough to think about how does it serve you and what works? And especially as I said, the conversations you hear. The research is still pretty solid that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. That's 60,000, but here's the kicker. That 90% of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday. So, if your thoughts and your mental chatter is a constant feedback loop of, "Oh no, when's this going to be over? How's this going to affect? What's going to happen?" And that is what everybody's loop seems to be right now. That, again, isn't supporting our immune system, and that isn't supporting our brains.
Lisa Lucas: 22:21 What we want to do is be thinking in a way that, "Okay, if I've got 60,000 thoughts, how can I make more of those thoughts positive and possibility thinking, and not revisiting the same old same and changing my habits?" Our habits, at least 40% of them are unconscious. You wake up in the morning, you go to the bathroom, you go downstairs, you put on the news, you make your coffee. You can just start examining what you do on a daily basis.
Lisa Lucas: 22:51 Well, it only takes just a little bit of time to pivot and think, "Okay, how could I change that? How can I do it different? How can I open my eyes? Think some thoughts of gratitude. Head downstairs, hit the coffee on. Go outside for a moment, look up, look at the sky. Look to see what's bloomed. What birds do I hear? What's in my physical space that's a sign of spring, which is a sign of hope? Okay, coffee's brewing. Take my coffee. Let's not turn on the news? I want to put on some music, some music, and think about how I'm going to start my day."
Lisa Lucas: 23:25 All of those simple things, you look at your calendar, and you either get overwhelmed thinking, "Okay, I've got a nine o'clock, I've got a 10 o'clock, got two o'clock." But in the space of that, where can you put some presence pauses? Where can you do some things that are going to really mean... From working from home, I continue to dive out the door and loop around the neighborhood in a walk. It's wonderful. Because we have some breaks, think of all the things that we can be doing now that we possibly couldn't have if we were in the same old same.
Nate Butler: 23:57 As unusual as it may sound, I do look at right now there's an opportunity for us to examine the way we've been doing things up to this point, and maybe consciously work toward changing those parts that maybe don't serve us well.
Lisa Lucas: 24:19 We've been thrown into the present moment. I keep saying, "If now not when, when will we learn to really be more intentional that the choices we make? If now, when?" That present moment holds a lot of opportunity for us to think about how we're going to spend, because we are spending our time. How are we going to do that, and how are we doing some of the things? Everyone keeps saying they can't wait till it's going to be normal again. I think there's going to be a new normal. I think that we're going to find some things from this that will change how we do things and maybe for the better.
Lisa Lucas: 25:02 I think, so again, going back to what teachers would say about being overwhelmed, one of the things that I often heard from them was around spring time, that's when we did a lot of our standardized testing. Well, guess what? We're not doing any testing. We're not doing any testing. Then also, those poor teachers that had more of a scripted curriculum, that's gone too. So, what do we have here? We have opportunity. We have an opportunity. One of the things that makes me saddest is when I hear that schools are making packets of, I used to call them dittos, but my daughter who's a teacher's like, "What's a ditto?" But making worksheets.
Lisa Lucas: 25:48 Well, let's reimagine how we're doing some things. Let's think, rather than let's get some of these Stenhouse authors, and let's ask them if they'll Zoom into some of the Zoom conference calls and talk about writing. Talk about how they get their best thoughts, and have the students share some of those things. Let's be innovative. Let's take this as an opportunity. I know that there's teachers all over doing some really neat things.
Lisa Lucas: 26:18 I keep thinking, and I wrote about this, what if these are the children that come out ahead? Everyone keeps saying, "Well, these poor students. They're never going to make up for this. When are they going to get the gains back from all of their instruction?" You know what? What if these are the children that have more empathy? What if these are the children that learn they like books because they get to pick what they read? What if these are the children learn that they can just go sit in their backyard, and watch a bug, and look at the flower that changed from yesterday? Maybe they noticed the rain where they didn't before because they're so bored.
Lisa Lucas: 26:55 What if this is the generation that learns to cook. And they realize that with their parents they're going to do some of that? Maybe they'll have more appreciation for some of the workers that are invisible, like the cashiers, and the people that deliver the packages. Like those invisible people that just made life hum along. What if among all these children, because they've had the space to get quiet and have to use your imagination, if we're really creating leaders of the future because they had to figure out how to do things in different way?
Lisa Lucas: 27:33 I think it's, again, it's a reframe. A lot of what we can do with all of the worries that people are having and the stress is reframe it and think about this might be a chance to re envision how we do a lot of things.
Nate Butler: 27:47 Beautiful.
Lisa Lucas: 27:48 Yeah. I've seen more children outside my window. I'm going to close my window. Hold on. I can hear people. Seeing more children than I ever have. They're riding bikes. They're outside. But so as adults, let's go back to that. We need to be developing habits for healthy minds. So that we're in a space that we're providing a household, that even though we are all together... and that can get old, I know... but that we're helping guide them by setting an example. Because our children don't listen to us as much as they watch us. They watch how we respond rather than hopefully react. I think that's really important that we are the grownups in the room that have risen to the occasion.
Lisa Lucas: 28:38 Didn't you always think this? I always think it's during the challenges that the best of us comes often out. My writing Practicing Presence, and my being authentic in that book, even though I was a little bit afraid to put myself out there, was because I've been so overwhelmed, and stressed, and had to find a new way to navigate how I went about my daily life. Otherwise, I was going to be living in a constant state of overwhelm. That allows me to better respond and be able to hear how people are struggling because I've been there too.
Lisa Lucas: 29:18 I'll close this up a little bit here and thinking about another C, and that is the connections that we make. Loneliness is a huge detriment to our health. Those of us that have households that we're trying to make a sense of peace among all the people where we're navigating work and life that's been blurred as you said. Well, when you're grateful, think about the person that's all alone that has no contact with anyone. During this time, maybe that's something you commit to, that you're going to reach out to two people a day. Maybe you're going to call someone that you know that lives alone. Maybe you're going to write a letter.
Lisa Lucas: 30:05 Getting out of your own head and thinking about others that might be struggling, and encouraging your students to do this too takes the pressure off your own mind of just consistently thinking about how this affects you. Think about who's got it worse and how it affects them. Then again, that last C is the challenge, the challenge of thinking about how we can support others, and how we can look back at this time and think, "I was my best self, and I embraced this time, and did the best I can. When people remember me as a teacher, or they remember me as a parent, or as a friend, they're going to remember that I was compassionate, and caring, and perhaps was there when they needed me most." That's what they'll remember. That's what they'll remember, hopefully more so than the stressful continuous loop of coronavirus.
Nate Butler: 31:04 Thank you again for doing this podcast with us, Lisa. If listeners want to learn more about you, where can they find out about you?
Lisa Lucas: 31:11 I have a website. It's practicingpresence.life, all one word, when you do practicing presence. If they go there, there's a blog they can subscribe to. I send a weekly blog out, and I offer retreats and workshops. I've actually taken the eight chapters of the book that I wrote for Stenhouse, Practicing Presence, and I've put them in an online format with modules that they could be standalone workshops or a continuous course. I have an author study, where we could look at the book and do some discussions. Really, any way I can support educators at this time would make me happy. So thanks for asking about the website.
Nate Butler: 31:52 Great. Thanks again. I'll talk to you soon.
Lisa Lucas: 31:54 Take care.
Nate Butler: 31:55 All right.