(a note to my regular reader: you may have noticed that I am doing something kinda gimmicky with the blog as of late. For the past few weeks, all of my posts have begun with the word “My”. It’s similar to the sitcom Scrubs. I figured I would forego any pretense that this blog is not a vanity project, produced due by insecurity and maintained by narcissism. Enjoy!)
This weekend, I and 17 others sat at the feet of two amazing women to learn about the Lineage Project‘s classroom model. The Lineage Project’s stated purpose is to bring mindfulness-based practices to at risk youth, with a particular focus on the incarcerated and those in various levels of the criminal justice system. From the moment we did introductions, I wrestled with imposter syndrome. My classmates were yoga instructors, educators, social workers and seasoned meditators. Being only months into my own mindfulness practice, I felt totally out of my element. But the theme for our first day was cultivating “beginner’s mind”, that fresh sense of wonder and curiosity one has when they are learning a new skill, so I was able to come into the training imagining that I was on a level playing field with my classmates.
The day was set up so that we would start each session doing a model class. Then we would have a lecture. After lunch, we would take time to prepare and then, in pairs or small groups, we would teach part of Lineage’s model to the rest of the class. This was how the class was set up… on paper. Did I mention that I attended this training in New York City while NYC was in the midst of a historic snowstorm? While most of the elements of the class were intact, we had to be a bit flexible at times. We ended early on Saturday and started late on Sunday, but this, as anyone who has taught knows, is the kind of thing that happens in a classroom, and even more so when that classroom is a part of the criminal justice system.
We talked very little about the theories of mindfulness nor the mechanics of yoga. We spent much more of our time thinking about how to cater such things, often reserved for white, middle to upper middle class sensibilities, to people of color who have experienced extreme traumas. We talked about race, privilege, trauma, and resiliency. We talked about doing classroom management in the heart of the prison system. We talked about our own self care in the midst of working in hard environments. The whole class seemed like an acknowledgement that what we were doing was hard, counter-intuitive, counter-cultural, and risky in the way that all worthwhile things are. In many ways, this was less a training about how to do mindfulness in hard places and more a training of how to do mindfulness in hard places.
The fact that I don’t necessarily feel anymore prepared to do this work than I did before the training has less to do with the training itself and more to do with the fact that, in some ways, I am stepping into a new world. One of my fellow students referred to me as part of the “mindfulness community” and I was taken aback. I was unaware that I was taking a step into being a part of a new community. All I knew was that mindfulness has been a key element of facing, dealing with, and healing from the traumas of my past and I want to bring those skills to places that don’t have access to them. But it is a shift. A shift of mindset, a shift of community, a shift in ways of being in the world and like or not, I just got baptized into a new family.
I have a lot more to process from this weekend. Please reach out to me if you’d like to help me process or if you’re just curious about what I learned. This feels to me like the beginning of a new journey. It is terrifying. It is exhilarating. It is… unknown.
Yet, I’m trying to maintain my beginner’s mind; curious, filled with wonder, and open to the possibilities of what the future may have in store…