Lauren Taub Cohen
M.S.Ed. in Childhood General Education from Bank Street
B.A. in English Literature from Boston University
Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher
by Jack Kornfield & Tara Brach
Kane School Pilates Mat Certified Instructor
Prajna Yoga Certified Instructor
YogaEd Certified Instructor
How can I foster risk-taking and resilience in my classroom? That was the question I already had in mind when I left 60 Minutes to become an educator. A colleague of mine at Riverdale Country School serendipitously introduced me to Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets at a time when I was immersed in my graduate school studies at Bank Street. I began to deepen my inquiry by wondering how one could develop a growth mindset. Let me rephrase that, I began to wonder if I could develop a growth mindset.
Growing up, I always preferred to stay within the boundaries of my comfort zone and panicked if I was ever pushed to step beyond it. As a student, I felt that mistakes, let alone failures, were to be avoided at all costs. On the tennis court I excelled at sprints and drills but lacked the mental toughness in the midst of tight matches. The growth mindset was clearly a healthier alternative, but how could I get there?
Be careful what you wish for! An inexplicable injury in 2006 left me feeling frustrated and hopeless. I had been meditating in the Zen tradition since 2001, but by chance I stumbled across an ad for an insight meditation workshop. This course focused specifically on how to work with addictions and challenging emotional states. That piqued my attention and, during the workshop, I realized developing a mindfulness meditation practice could be my bridge from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I define mindfulness as bringing a kind, curious and non-judgmental attention to our moment-to-moment experiences. When I began observing my mind, I was unnerved by the incessant stream of self-criticism, judgment and assumptions. Up until that moment, I had never learned how to observe my thoughts in an embodied way. Instead, I unfortunately interpreted my thoughts as definitive truths. It has taken years of dedicated effort and practice to untangle habits, shift perspectives, and foster resilience. This is a lifelong practice, and I currently have a blog where I share my thoughts as an educator, meditator, poet and photographer.
In 2015, Friends Seminary awarded me the Art of Teaching Award. I feel my strength as an educator and mindfulness teacher is my ability to help individuals develop an awareness of how habits, thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions can interfere with our growth and cloud our perceptions. Each time we turn toward our challenges, rather than shy away from them, we develop greater clarity and grit.