The power of “Meditative Story”

How can teachers use the podcast?

I´m crazy about podcasts. How about you? I love putting on my comfy shoes, my headphones and head off for a mindful walk while listening to an inspiring podcast.

So when about a month ago one of the newsletters from Thrive Global announced a brand-new podcast called Meditative Story, SOMETHING we´d NEVER experienced before, my ears pricked up and my curiosity was stirred. Combining two of my favourite activities- meditating and listening to stories seemed very appealing.

I remember clearly the time when I listened to the first episode “My funny, feisty, thoughtful, brave girl” told by LUCY KALANITHI- a powerful story about life after death, being strong and free. I was out in a park not too far away from my house…alone and tears streaming down my cheeks. The story had touched a few chords in my soul. I was reminded again how precious life is and how important it is to spend enough quality time with the people we love. Suddenly I got the feeling to turn back and never did I suspect what a treat the Universe had installed for me.

Breath-taking sunset and a hot-air balloon

So I paused and gave thanks for this kind reminder that life should be celebrated. It is these special moments which take our breath away and make our days memorable.

The following two episodes of Meditative Story did deliver magnificent stories, too so not only was I hooked on the podcast but was also wondering how I could introduce it to my advanced students.

As an educator, I believe that this podcast could be beneficial in a myriad of ways:

  •  practise mindfulness;
  • empower our students with other people’s stories;
  • improve their English vocabulary;
  • enhance their listening comprehension;
  • develop their critical-thinking skills;
  • enrich their creativity

Additionally, we can find the script and the audio for each episode from the website, which is quite handy for any teacher.

Last week I was talking to a 16-year-old student of mine who´d just returned from a two-week summer course at the University of Boston. She was telling me about a boy she had met there who was dreaming of studying at one of the top 5 universities in the world but did not make the grade… She was admiring his ambition and could not believe how certain he was that this would happen. And it was at this very moment when it clicked… Arianna Huffington´s story “Life and love and the moment” (episode 3) would be the perfect example of belief, dreams come true and visualisation. I knew I had the perfect opportunity to use the podcast.

This is what I did during the lesson:

Pre-listening activity:

I asked my students what they know about the University of Cambridge. Then we talked about what they need to do if they want to study there. What obstacles they might encounter.

While listening

I had prepared the following questions which the students had to answer while listening to the episode.

  1.  How did Arianna’s mother make their tiny apartment look “grand”?
  2. Why does Arianna mention the different smells that greeted her and her sister when going back home from school?
  3. What impact has the photo of the University of Cambridge had on the narrator?
  4. What does “learning” mean for Arianna Huffington?
  5. Why was Arianna stunned by her mother’s positive reaction when she told her she wanted to study at the University of Cambridge?
  6. Why does the narrator mention the phrase “insulating barrier”?
  7. What did Arianna’s mother turn into a big adventure?
  8. What kept Arianna going in the process of making her dream come true?
  9. Why do you think Arianna describes “the rainy day” in Great Britain as “lush and sultry and green”?
  10. How did Arianna feel when she was walking around Cambridge for the first time? Why?
  11. How did Arianna experience “in-person visualisation” while walking around Cambridge?
  12. Why wasn’t Arianna anxious while waiting for her exam results?
  13. What helped Arianna reach that what seemed to be “an unattainable goal”? 

I have to say that my students were really impressed with the power of Arianna Huffington’s story. I heard comments like “encouraging”, “wonderful” and “empowering”.  They are used to me using meditations and visualisations in class so “Meditative story” added another level of their mindful experience.

After listening

The students worked in groups and discussed the questions that the host Rohan asked in the episode:

  1. From your own childhood, is there a dish or type of food that particularly evokes good memories?
  2. Can you imagine young Arianna walking around Cambridge on that rainy day?
  3. How does the idea of an in-person visualisation sound to you? What would your in-person visualisation look like?

Then I asked my students about the topics the narrator covers in the story. Which one do they think stands out? They mentioned themes such as “following your dreams”, “mother’s love and support”, “seeing life as an adventure”. I handed out a blank piece of paper and told the pupils to create a word map choosing what they thought was the predominant topic. They had to use vocabulary from the podcast and also words related to their own experience.

For homework, I assigned to write a diary entry inspired by their word map. They could write about their own experience or come up with a fictional character.

I look forward to reading their entries next time.

How would you use this episode with your students?

Meditative story will definitely be part of my future lessons.

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