As part of SoulSpark’s dedication to supporting the well-being of students and educators, each day this December we will share one of our practices for creating peace within our selves and our communities.
Since transitions in our nation’s political climate over the past year, we have noticed children and educators are reporting feeling more on edge. In some ways, progress is being made as some of society’s dark history is being brought to light. At the same time, there are highly visible leaders who continue abusive and injurious behaviors seemingly without understanding of the impact of their actions on others or worse, knowingly and without remorse. This challenges each of us to maintain disciplined focus on creating peace. This sounds simple, but is not easy.
When we are in a toxic environment surrounded by individuals engaging in oppressive practices, the natural reaction is often to invest energy in that direction, into preparing for the fight. Yet, as Einstein eloquently states above, when we do, it is contrary to the goal of creating more harmonious communities.
Likewise, when an organization or community has become accustomed to suffering, well-being can feel unfamiliar and abnormal. Even with a shift to a clear intention for creating a nurturing environment, it is easy to inadvertently return to the stunting status quo. We honor the complexity of each individual and context and understand health is a privilege that comes with responsibilities. Recent current events remind us that without ongoing practice, it is easy to regress. To that end, we begin a month of sharing some of the practices that create feelings of peace in the educators and students we serve with wishes they have the same effect within you.
PRACTICE #1: The Kundalini Frog Pose 12.1.17
Practicing the Kundalini Frog pose can help when you are feeling gunky or stuck; some yoga practitioners state it aligns your heart, body and spirit. Others claim it increases self-esteem and creativity and that the pose aids in releasing fears.
We challenge you to spend 2 minutes practicing the kundalini frog pose today. If you have never tried it before, here is an INTRODUCTORY VIDEO to explain how.
Taking a few minutes to do the frog pose when when we are exposed to violence or suffering helps maintain a calm environment conducive to growth and learning. Stay tuned for more over the course of the next 30 days.
PRACTICE #2: Smile 12.2.17
This one is easy. When I was a young girl, my grandfather encouraged me to engage in simple social experiments. If I practiced smiling more, what impact would it have on my mood? On my relationships? On my ability to get work done?
Since then, neuroscience has taught us more about the relationship between our thoughts, emotions and the physical sensations in our body. Amy Cuddy’s popular, Ted Talk, Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are, provided a small window into how.
Try it yourself. What impact does the practice of smiling have on you?
PRACTICE #3: Get Outside 12.3.17
Literally, all you have to do is get outside and voila, you will feel the benefits of nature. There is a reason we crave time outdoors. Whether you are called to the forest, river, garden or natural sunlight, there are both physical and psychological benefits to being outside. Some call this eco-therapy.
Reported positive benefits range from lower stress levels, improved sleep quality, increased fitness (if exercising) and feelings of connection. The Japanese practice of forest bathing, spending time in the forest, has been shown to benefit the nervous system and boost immune system functioning.
Today’s challenge is to spend at least 30 minutes outside. Better yet, can you commit to getting outdoors every single day for the rest of 2017? Knowing the feelings of peace this practice creates has us on our way out the door.
PRACTICE #4 Watch a Sunrise (or Sunset) or Gaze at the Moon 12.4.17
All it took was one glance at last night’s supermoon to remind us of the feelings of peace the sun and moon create. Witnessing the sun make her first or last appearance of the day is awe-inspiring. Don’t have access to a skyline? Looking at images can have a similar effect. At night, turn your eyes towards the sky and bath in the moon’s glow.
PRACTICE #5: Feel Pain 12.5.17
It is easy to numb ourselves to both our own pain and the pain of others: the pain of hungry children, of victims of abuse or neglect, of people who have lost their homes to fires, hurricanes or floods or worse; the list goes on and on. Society is replete with pain avoidance tools: alcohol, tv, pot (easily accessible here in Colorado), social media, overeating and more. We are often taught to stuff the pain down, place it on hold or sweep it under the rug. It is easy for pain to go unrecognized, lingering undercover like a fox watching a hen house. When unexamined and unfelt, pain can prey on us and those we love.
Suppression of pain leads to prolonged suffering. If we are brave enough to feel it, pain moves through us more quickly.
What does your emotional pain feel like? I have experienced pain as tightness in my chest, literally in my heart. I have also felt pain like hands around my throat making it difficult to breathe or speak. Pain has moved through me in the form of a waterfall of cleansing tears, sweat, the soothing vibrations of Tibetan singing bowls, comforting sips of tea, cleansing salt baths, writing poetry and through meditation. Each of us has a unique process. Cry, dance, bake or paint – do whatever you need to in order to let pain out and create more space for peace within.