What's Possible: A Transformative Week With Teens at iBme

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by Maggie Steele
Mental Health Coordinator for the 2019 Oregon Teen Retreat with
Inward Bound Mindfulness Education and Adult Programs Coordinator & Mindfulness Teacher for Peace in Schools

It’s the first hour on the first day of retreat. As teens are being dropped off and are starting to check in, I can’t help but feel excited by the possibility of what is to come. Many have never been here before and yet something drew them to the retreat. Some form of courage assisted them in getting here. Others have experienced the magic of this precious week and their faces seem to glow with a sense of relief to be here. 

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Here. In community. This beautiful community that each person’s unique presence contributes to. A community of care. Of kindness. A community that accepts all of the various identities you hold and all of the emotions you may or may not express. 

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We are here to practice accepting one another as we are, and we are here to practice accepting ourselves as we are. Not always an easy practice but an honorable one that this community deeply values.

For many, this idea is foreign and may even illicit a feeling of suspicion. Of course! How many times have we thought we would be accepted only to find out that we were deeply wrong. The protective armor and survival strategies have been there for a reason and have likely served a powerful purpose in keeping us alive. This community can hold that suspicion, however, and eventually even the most skeptical will begin to recognize that they too are accepted as they are. When this happens, the collective heart of the community grows even bigger. 

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For me, our retreats give me hope. What’s possible when we are part of a community that loves us and accepts us as we are? What happens when we are willing to look ourselves in the mirror and practice loving and accepting our reflection regardless of what we’ve said or done? What might the world look like if we cultivated care for ourselves, for each other, and for the earth we inhabit? What then? 

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Maggie Steele is a licensed school social worker, board certified life coach, and serves as the Adult Program Coordinator for Peace in Schools. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work for children, youth and families. Maggie has served as the mental health coordinator for Inward Bound Mindfulness Education adolescent retreats since 2014, and currently teaches mindful studies at Alliance at Meek High School in Portland, Oregon.

Learn more about iBme’s amazing work with young people and adults.

Announcing an Exciting New Partnership with Lewis & Clark College!

We are delighted to announce that we are partnering with the Center for Community Engagement at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling to offer CEUs, PDUs and graduate credits for our trainings for youth-serving professionals!

We are honored to be working with such a highly respected institution to offer further options for professional development and continuing education to our community.

Matsya Siosal, the Director of Lewis & Clark's Center for Community Engagement, says about the partnership:

"Programming offered through the Center for Community Engagement recognizes that truly enriching and transformative professional development must also engage learners on a personal level, and we see this beautifully integrated into the approach Peace in Schools takes in their trainings. We're excited to deepen our collaboration with Peace in Schools to make their trainings for youth-serving professionals more widely accessible."

To learn more about the credits available for each course, please visit our adult courses page.

A Conversation on Mindfulness, Youth and Justice

A Conversation on Mindfulness, Youth and Justice—with Dr. Sará King, Jahlisa Forcheney and Barnaby Willett

We're excited to share this insightful and inspiring video conversation featuring two special guests, Dr. Sará King and Jahlisa Forcheney. It's part of Peace in Schools efforts to integrate social justice into our organizational conversation and practice. 

Dr. Sará King, Founder of Mindheart Consulting, is a UCLA-trained political and learning scientist, neuroscientist, entrepreneur, public speaker, and yoga and meditation instructor. She specializes in researching and teaching about the relationship between mindfulness, community healing, and social justice.

Jahlisa Forcheney is a youth leader in mindfulness. She is a student at St. Joseph's college majoring in psychology and minoring in mindfulness studies. She is also a member of The Awake Youth Project at the Brooklyn Zen Center, where she uses the tools of mindfulness to help with everyday challenges.

In May 2019, Caverly Morgan and Barnaby Willett of Peace in Schools had the honor to participate — along with Dr. Sará King, Jahlisa Forcheney, and other mindfulness educators — in a convening "Mindfulness, Youth, and Justice" hosted by the The Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in New York City. As described by the organizers:

This is a national convening of organizations and educators who teach mindfulness to youth and who are committed to equity and justice. The purpose of the convening is to build stronger relationships among us, to learn from each other, and grow our capacity as equitable educators and organizations. We seek to strengthen the movement of bringing mindfulness to youth by deepening our awareness of and skills related to accessibility, equity, and justice.

The convening was an incredible opportunity innovation in five thematic areas: social justice, equity, funding, best practices, and secularity. We left feeling incredibly inspired and energized by the power of the collective collaboration that took place. 

We share this video with you as a way to bring you into the conversation that took place at the convening — and to inspire more folks to take part. We invite you to continue the conversation with us on July 22nd in Portland at a special event, "Mindfulness, Youth, and Social Justice", featuring Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Sará King, Caverly Morgan, Gia Naranjo-Rivera, and youth alumni from Peace in Schools.

Much gratitude to our special guests for participating in this video. Major thanks to the Ford Foundation, to the Steering Committee and Facilitators, and to our friends at iBme for their central role in organizing the convening.

Riding the Waves: Finding My Path to Mindfulness

by Pam Harmon, Teacher at The Madeleine School, Portland, OR

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I am one of those people that doesn’t like to stop and just be still or breathe, I go and go. Yes, because I’m busy but also because slowing down gives me time to think about my life and this can be quite painful. I know better, but sometimes it feels easier to avoid than to deal with what’s in my heart. I also feel that if I go too deep into looking at myself, it may take too long to come out of the pain.

I wanted more happiness and peace in my life. I realized that I needed to do something but I still didn’t know how to begin. I had been hearing and reading about mindfulness, kind of skirting the edges of it. I was ready to wade in a bit further and the Peace in Schools Mindfulness for Youth-Serving Professionals workshop looked like it might be a good opportunity to go a bit deeper.

The two-day workshop turned out to be very inspirational for me and the experience really helped me to take the first steps in my journey. I started incorporating mindfulness into my life the day I came home from the workshop. I decided that I wanted to meditate and having to do this as homework for the workshop was a great motivator. I began to search for some comfy pillows that would allow me to sit in a mindful pose. I downloaded a couple of mindfulness apps so I could listen to background sounds and try to tune out everyday noises. I thought in having a little ritual, it would be easier for me to commit to a routine. Then I began to think of the time of day that would be best. I thought that if I could do it at the same time each day then I could be more consistent.

I am one of those people that doesn’t like to stop and just be still or breathe, I go and go. Yes, because I’m busy but also because slowing down gives me time to think about my life and this can be quite painful.

Of course this was easier to think about than to actually carry out. I had figured that I could meditate during my daughter’s nap and that worked out for a couple of days. The first day my cat decided to try it with me and crawled onto my lap. I was able to keep bringing my attention back to my breathing even as she was crawling over my legs. I had figured this might be part of my routine with two cats and two dogs. My cat finally settled in and it felt so relaxing to have her be peaceful with me for just a few minutes. The third day my daughter would not settle down and I was too distracted since I watch her on a video monitor for health reasons.

Then our caregiver gave her notice and that sent me into panic mode. It has never been an easy process to find care for my daughter. She has disabilities and this poses an additional problem in finding someone to care for her. I had to give myself a couple days break from meditating. I was just way too distracted, even though that’s probably what I needed most. My mind was racing and I couldn’t think of anything else.

I did notice that even though I wasn’t meditating, I was using some of the other techniques we learned in the workshop for what to do when faced with emotions. I tried not to instantly react. I was purposefully trying to disconnect from emotions as they rose within me. It came much easier than I had anticipated. I noticed it, then named it and purposefully used the words “anger is here,” or “frustration is here,” or “abandonment is here.” These were all very familiar emotions, but it felt a little different to see them as separate from me.

By using mindfulness I was able to respond rather than react...my emotions didn’t bring me down so far. I didn’t feel crushed by them.

I was so glad my co-teacher had also attended the workshop, so that I had someone to practice with. When visiting with her in her classroom, a frustrating work issue came up. I remembered to take a moment. I looked away and said, “irritation is here.” She got it and I felt so much more comfortable knowing that she knew what I was doing. I don’t think I would have done that with someone else.

Another incident with my ex-husband brought out a very emotional reaction in me. I was struggling to try to breathe through my tears. Then I was just trying to steady my breath. I probably would have reacted and lashed out with angry words if I hadn’t been so focused on my breathing. I also gave myself some physical space to calm my breathing before I spoke. I realize that I sometimes react in anger with my ex rather than show the hurt feeling and tears. Who wants their ex to see them cry? But I realized that by being more mindful and breathing and stepping away, the anger was less, but also the hurt was less. By using mindfulness I was able to respond rather than react. I also named some of the things he was doing with less emotional labels and that helped a great deal as well. My emotions didn’t bring me down so far. I didn’t feel crushed by them.

At this point, I feel like I have much more knowledge about mindfulness and some good tools in my kit. I would like to get into a consistent routine and am still working to make that happen. My main goal for bringing mindfulness into my life is to enjoy life more. Enjoy the little things, noticing more that is going on outside of myself and even noticing myself more. I don’t want to continue to, “live immersed in a world of constant doing,” as author and meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it. I want to feel less pressed for time, less rushed and less anxious. A good reminder that I will take from Jon Kabat-Zinn and will work to put into practice is, “Moments of mindfulness are moments of peace and stillness, even in the midst of activity.”

At this point, my mindfulness practice is happening. It has begun, even if it’s just moments at a time.

Learn more about our upcoming courses for youth-serving professionals.

Reflections on Returning

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by Bella Penberthy, Peace in Schools Intern and Mindful Studies Graduate

Earlier this week, I returned to my old high school to spend the day observing the Peace in Schools’ mindfulness classes. I took the class for three semesters while at Cleveland, I graduated, and now am working as an intern for Peace in Schools. A year, six months, even three months ago I couldn’t have imagined my life going in this direction – I wasn’t even supposed to be in Portland this semester, but life is unpredictable and the loss of control ended up better than I could have imagined. I emailed Barnaby Willett, the mindfulness teacher from Cleveland. And now here I was, back in high school, helping Barnaby unroll yoga mats in preparation for the students about to arrive.

Returning to Cleveland to observe the class was a multilayered experience. It was both surreal and way too real to be back in my old high school, tracing routes I’d walked every school day for four years like I’d never left. It made me anxious, old stories about my social anxiety resurfacing and making my hands shake. With the return of school came the return of old sticky and disorienting self-talk, a snake trying to force itself back into old skin. As I sat through the class, I thought back to my sophomore self who had sat down for her first day of mindfulness three years ago, listening to this exact lesson. I felt like an entirely different person compared to her and it was strange to have that version of myself come back and remind me of where this started.

It was both surreal and way too real to be back in my old high school, tracing routes I’d walked every school day for four years like I’d never left. It made me anxious, old stories about my social anxiety resurfacing and making my hands shake.

Returning to places we have left for good is often disorienting. In Joseph Campbell’s model of the Hero’s Journey, the stages of returning are often thought of as some of the most tricky; after you’ve changed throughout the “journey” it’s hard to return to the sameness of where you started. Integrating your new self into the old, ordinary world is not easy. I knew some of my friends and I shared this feeling coming home from college for the first time. It doesn’t always appear dramatic, but throughout the day I became aware of past stories and fears that I thought I’d worked through trying to creep back. Recognizing the story instead of believing it to be a true, inseparable part of myself was the key difference between myself now and myself three years ago – not that I’m “over” them, but years of mindfulness training had given me clearer perspective and awareness of the narratives.

In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes about returning to the beginning. “We find ourselves then back at the start, filled with listening and saying our own words, new poems, new ways of seeing, new ways of acting and thinking… Instead of resisting or dreading our chosen work, we move into it fluidly; alive with new notions and curious to see what happens next.” All these returns – going back to Cleveland after graduating, coming home to Portland from college, revisiting the mindfulness class and my sophomore self, the completion of all the micro-Hero’s Journey cycles – showed how far I’d come since the beginning as well as the new ways of thinking and acting I could now choose instead of old patterns. At school I could differentiate anxiety from reality and calm myself using reassurances, choosing to act from a place of truth. This is just one example of the many practices learned from the class that now extend deeply to all areas of my life. I can choose to move into the next cycle fluidly and determined, curious to see what will come.

Mindful Studies students at Cleveland High School with teacher Barnaby Willett.

Mindful Studies students at Cleveland High School with teacher Barnaby Willett.

Recognizing the story instead of believing it to be a true, inseparable part of myself was the key difference between myself now and myself three years ago – not that I’m “over” them, but years of mindfulness training had given me clearer perspective and awareness of the narratives.

The first mindfulness class was small and calm. Barnaby was assured in his role as teacher and I noticed the clever seeds he planted throughout the class in words, concepts, and paying full attention to students when they talked, something that’s usually missing in student-teacher interactions. Returning to the class, I was reminded of how powerful it can be, even on the first day. I’ve experienced firsthand how it can transform lives and heard this echoed in countless other students.

Mindfulness education feels like it should be a universal right, but only a privileged few get it, and even less get it for free in their high schools. We should always place wellbeing first – this class saves lives, and it’s not being prioritized in the school system. Now more than ever we need greater empathy and awareness in the world. Who better to bring it forward than the high schoolers who are already creating the future?

At the end of the first class sophomore year, Barnaby told us with emotion in his voice how much it meant to him to be able to teach mindfulness to teens. He rang the bell and invited us to close our eyes. Sitting there as a fifteen year old, I felt a deeper understanding that I wasn’t able to vocalize; I had no idea where this class would take me, no idea how it would transform my life, through three years of summer teen retreats and eventually to the internship I hold now. Something was building, not only in me but a movement, a thousand candles being lit.

Mindfulness education feels like it should be a universal right, but only a privileged few get it, and even less get it for free in their high schools. We should always place wellbeing first – this class saves lives, and it’s not being prioritized in the school system. Now more than ever we need greater empathy and awareness in the world. Who better to bring it forward than the high schoolers who are already creating the future?

Barnaby rang the bell to end class and invited us to close our eyes. Since sophomore year my thinking had completely changed because of mindfulness practices; I’m able to integrate my returned past lives and selves with my life today thanks to these tools. I returned to the class, I work with Peace in Schools closely and I’m incredibly grateful to have these opportunities.

I thought about the Peace in Schools’ classes spread throughout ten Portland Public high schools. Five years ago, there had only been one; the first for-credit mindfulness class in the country. How many schools will there be five years from now? Fifteen years? I felt the same sense of movement, the resistance, the inextinguishable fire spreading through the circle of students. A sense of the change that is coming and happening already, that I get to be a part of, that is so much bigger than me.

The bell rang again, and I opened my eyes.

We Are Not Our Thoughts: An Educator Reflects on the Power of Mindfulness Practice

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by Becky Straight, 7th grade Language Arts & 8th-Grade AVID Teacher at Gordon Russell Middle School, Gresham, Oregon

Two years ago, when I first heard Peace in Schools’ founder Caverly Morgan say that we are not our thoughts, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. I had never heard anything even close to that. I knew what she was saying was profound, but I had no prior knowledge or experience to link it to.

Since that time, I have grown. I have begun my own sitting meditation practice, I have read a few recommended books on mindfulness, and I participate regularly in a mindfulness practice group led by my school’s counselor. So when I recently took Peace in Schools’ Mindfulness for Youth-Serving Professionals course, a few things came together. I am starting to see that I am not my thoughts, and that my thoughts are not reality. I am gaining a little space to see.

Taking this course has helped me make the time for daily sitting meditation, which has been both challenging and rewarding. I feel like I’m befriending myself, and caring for myself with my own attention. I have been practicing noting my thoughts and feelings in sitting meditation, which has brought way more awareness to them in my everyday life.

All my thoughts and feelings change so quickly, they come and go, sometimes in an instant, but I, my essence, remain constant. When I return to presence, I return to myself.  
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In this past training, we did an exercise where we sat for three minutes with a partner in the role of a compassionate witness and named what arose during that time. For me, that was one of the most stretching exercises we did. I felt myself really struggle to participate. I felt uncomfortable just naming what I was feeling moment to moment without telling my partner a story connected to each feeling, in order to justify or interpret my emotions. Once I made it through the three minutes, I just shoved that experience to the side.

But it turned out to be one of the most impactful activities we did over the weekend for me. In the days following this, I kept returning to this exercise and relied it on for naming what arose in me without getting lost in my story about it. It’s like I finally got it: all my thoughts and feelings change so quickly, they come and go, sometimes in an instant, but I, my essence, remain constant. When I return to presence, I return to myself.  

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In the midst of this growth, I had a remarkable encounter with the power of this practice. I was reading an assignment from a student, but he hadn’t written about the topic assigned; instead, it was a rant against how I was scoring it, which was inaccurate, and the emotion conveyed was aggressive. Instantly I was caught up in imagining my confrontation with him. I was indignant, insulted, frustrated, and angry. I put the paper down, closed my eyes and breathed. I noticed. I named. I allowed. I breathed some more. I returned to presence. I offered myself compassion: this is a moment of suffering, this is a part of being human, may I hold my pain with tenderness, may I offer myself the compassion I need. As I opened my eyes again, I focused on the student who had written this paper, and I offered him compassion.

I believe that Peace in Schools’ educator trainings have profoundly impacted my life.

Two days later, I had an opportunity to talk to him privately. When he saw his paper on my desk, his shoulders stiffened. I began the conversation in a way that was kinder and more compassionate than the first wave of my imagining had been. In a few minutes, he was in tears, sharing about the hardship he and his family were facing. Honestly, who really cares about that one assignment? The connection and trust gained through handling this interaction with curiosity and compassion were incredible. I am so grateful for this moment of awareness. The pause before the reaction.

I believe that Peace in Schools’ educator trainings have profoundly impacted my life. This one story is not the only I could share. My classes readily participate in a mindful minute every period, and my daughters and I do guided meditations for kids most nights. I am engaging in my life with more kindness towards myself and others. I am eager to keep growing and hopefully continuing to learn from Peace in Schools.

Learn more about Peace in Schools’ mindfulness courses for youth-serving professionals here.

Being Real: Our Newest Teen Mindfulness Program

By Barnaby Willett, Director of Innovation & Partnerships, and Lead Teacher

What if all teens were taught mindfulness in their first year of high school? This year, we're doing just that, piloting new programming in several of our high schools — a mindfulness workshop series for every 9th-grader called Being Real.

9th grade is a challenging transition year for adolescents. Our intention with these workshops is for teens to learn the basics of mindfulness in a fun and engaging way. The goals are to:

  • Provide mindfulness-based social-emotional learning skills to all 9th graders 

  • Increase the accessibility and exposure of mindfulness skills to students school-wide

  • Increase awareness of our mindfulness elective class as a key mental health support

  • Provide 9th-grade teachers basic mindfulness skills and resources

Integrating mindfulness education more deeply within schools is also intended to support career and college readiness, dropout prevention strategies, and greater student engagement and achievement.

The Being Real curriculum is a 4-workshop arc of trauma-informed, equitable, mindfulness education. It’s a relational-based approach that explores mindfulness from the individual, community, liberative and justice-based perspectives.

We're feeling great about the initial rollout and reception of these workshops with 9th graders. We're particularly grateful for the Portland Public School administrators and teachers who have supported this new programming. One administrator shared this week that they've heard great feedback from students, teachers, and parents.

Also a big shout out to the Peace in Schools team members who have collaborated on program creation and facilitation: Archer, Barnaby, Caverly, Janice, Madeline, Maggie, Michael, Sarah, and Sam.

Cooking as Meditation: An Interview with Kusuma Rao

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Cooking as Meditation: An Interview with Kusuma Rao

By Rebecca Jamieson, Communication Coordinator

We're delighted that Kusuma Rao of Ruchikala will be lending her talents to create gorgeous dishes for our annual gala on September 8th! Get tickets here

Kusuma Rao is the owner and chef of Ruchikala, where she specializes in creating beautiful Indian-Mexican fusion cuisine. In Sanskrit, ruchi means delicious, and kala means art, which Rao combined to create ruchikala, or "the art of taste." 

Rao developed her passion for food and her unique approach to cooking growing up in Tucson, Arizona. Her parents are from Southern India, and she grew up eating both Indian and Mexican food, experimenting with a wide array of spices in her parents' kitchen. 

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It’s meditative for me to spend intentional time with food. It’s a way to feel connected to something. It’s an interesting lens to get to know yourself.

Rao started Ruchikala after working at a job she hated. As a way to unwind after work, she started throwing elaborate dinner parties for friends, and soon discovered a passion. She was especially drawn to time-intensive, traditional Indian dishes. She realized that creating long, slow dishes gave her time to reflect and connect both with herself and the people she cooked for.

"It's meditative for me to spend intentional time with food," she says. "There's a lot of time to really think about who I am and what I'm doing. It's a mindfulness experience. It slows everything down so much that you have the ability to pay attention to these details that you wouldn't see otherwise. You have to stay engaged through every part of the process - you have to watch the heat because you could burn the spices, but you have to toast them enough so that the internal oils get extracted - there's something that happens in that process that's very soothing. It's a way to feel connected to something. It's an interesting lens to get to know yourself." 

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I’m privileged in what I get to do. It’s a beautiful, nourishing experience.

Because she relishes the meditative process of cooking, Rao primarily does pop-ups, dinner parties and catering, allowing her to avoid the fast-paced, cutthroat atmosphere of traditional restaurant kitchens.

"I'm privileged in what I get to do," Rao reflects. "It's a beautiful, nourishing experience." 

Cooking is also a way for Rao to connect to those she's making food for. She loves to get to know the people she's cooking for and nurture them beyond the experience of just eating. Rao says she aims to "provide a sense of place and holding space" for the people she cooks for, and creating that connection is an integral part of her process. 

As a mindfulness and yoga practitioner herself, Rao is especially excited about cooking for the Peace in Schools Gala because of her appreciation for the work we do.

Some of the unique dishes she's creating for us include a chaat tostada - a toasted corn tortilla spread with a yellow pea curry and layers of different chutneys, topped with pico de gallo. She's also making a polenta thadka loaf featuring a host of flavorful Indian spices - one of her slow-food marvels that ferments for 30 hours before it bakes. 

We hope you'll join us for this spectacular meal, created with so much love! We won't have formal seating, so you'll be free to mingle, enjoy small-plate courses bistro style, and take in the breathtaking city views.

The Gala will also include local libations, music with a fabulous DJ, as well as moving appearances from the teens we serve. 

Tickets are selling fast - get yours now!

The Reluctant Retreat Participant: Ken's Story

Ken at our Mindful Educator retreat.

Ken at our Mindful Educator retreat.

By Ken Weinberg, high school teacher

A mindfulness retreat was the last thing on my mind heading into the summer break. I
told myself, just go and try to have an open mind and choke down the vegetarian meals. Yes,
take one for the team, you can do this. I had a lot of self talk and denial as I drove to the retreat.
Walking into the meeting area my conditioned mind was on overload.

I told myself, just go and try to have an open mind and choke down the vegetarian meals. Yes, take one for the team, you can do this.

But within the first 30 minutes, my authentic self came running and screaming from the
deepest recesses of my brain, a place where I had repressed it away for far too long. From that
moment, I knew that the community I was in was a safe and welcoming space. The trust was
reinforced with every activity that we completed.

Ken engages in an exercise at the Mindful Educator Retreat. 

Ken engages in an exercise at the Mindful Educator Retreat. 

For me as a person, the retreat changed my life, my vision, my teaching, my relationship with my family and my students. Instead of reacting to situations, I was listening and understanding the issues. I was able to not personalize or feel I was being attacked, but rather calmly be a part of the solution.

The retreat changed my life, my vision, my teaching, my relationship with my family and my students.

The mindfulness retreat helped me to get past my judgement of ME and allowed me
to practice mindfulness in my teaching. It has helped me to understand and notice when self
talk takes over and how to identify that it’s self talk and how I can move towards being centered.

Because of this retreat, I truly enjoy teaching once again.

Regulating stress now involves meditation, counting my breath, visualization, and
journaling. Practicing mindfulness using the tools learned at the retreat has impacted me
personally and professionally. It's impacted how I am at home around my family and how I teach, the calmness and understanding that I am able to access, and my sense of who I am and why I do what I do, as well as the ability to tell myself that “it’s okay." Because of this retreat, I truly enjoy teaching once again.

 

Join us for our 2018 Mindful Educator retreat July 12-15! 

the 2017 Gala & Fundraiser

We cannot say thank you enough for the most incredible and successful fundraising event for Peace in Schools to date. The night was not only inspiring for others, but also brought our team back to the core of why we are passionate about bringing mindfulness to teens. Hearing powerful personal stories from young people and adults alike, we were truly touched and reminded of our community at large. We can so often get swept away in the day to day tasks at hand, and having a night to celebrate and honor those who support us brings us back to what matters most. 
Thank you all for making Peace in Schools possible!

We hope to see you again next year.


to see the full post, click here.

Addressing Anxiety with Tools from Mindful Studies – An Interview with a School Counselor

Heidi Tolentino is a school counselor at Cleveland high school. She believes mindfulness should be something all schools offer.

Heidi Tolentino is a school counselor at Cleveland high school. She believes mindfulness should be something all schools offer.

Heidi Tolentino is a school counselor at Cleveland high school. Interview by Rebecca Jamieson.
 
Q: What are the challenges that the teens you see are up against?
 
A: I definitely think there’s been a shift over the past few years. I see a real increase in the amount of anxiety, in terms of numbers of kids, and also the extent of the anxiety. I think there are lots of factors that affect that, but that’s one of the biggest things that we see.

I think this anxiety leads to a multitude of things: drug use and abuse, suicidal ideation, cutting and just a lot of different ways that kids are trying to deal with the levels of stress and anxiety they have.
 
Q: So you’re seeing this increase?
 
A: Absolutely. I definitely think that the counseling team at Cleveland, as well as across the district, has seen an increase in the number of kids who experience anxiety. We also see a lot more intensity along with that anxiety, which often goes along with depression as well. 
 
Q: Have you seen any impact from teens being in our Mindful Studies class?
 
A. Kids who have had a hard time opening up to me as a counselor, they’re just really guarded, have, within the class, opened up a lot. They've shared with other students, with the leaders in the class, and have been able to shift the way that they communicate about their anxiety. Also kids that have more severe, diagnosed anxiety, those kids have a chance to feel a little bit more in control of their anxiety. When they’re in the classroom and their anxiety starts to explode, when their anxiety keeps them from coming to school, they have tools to work through it. 
 
I think once kids have the opportunity to see what the mindfulness class can do, and when they open up to it, it’s pretty life-changing for a lot of kids. It’s an experience that many of them have not had ever, in having ways to work through anxiety. For kids who have had anxiety their whole lives, for some of them this is the first time they’ve ever been able to feel like they have some control over it. It’s really amazing. It’s mind-boggling.
 
For this to be in a school is amazing. A lot of our kids have to go outside of school to be able to find ways to deal with their anxiety, whether it’s outside therapy or whatever else they’re doing. But to have it as a class that they have every other day, and to be able to work through the anxiety they have at school, while they’re at school, is pretty amazing. 
 
Q. What tools do you see Mindful Studies giving your students?
 
A. The ability to communicate about what they’re feeling. Just to be able to say “I’m anxious,” just being able to say it aloud and asking for help is a really big deal. They’re not shutting it down. They’re aware of it, and then they can work through it. 
 
The class teaches such a wide variety of skills. It’s really important for kids to learn and practice skills when they aren’t anxious. The classroom is so peaceful. Learning it when they’re not anxious allows them to practice it later when they are feeling anxious. 
 
Q. Do you think mindfulness provides something that is currently lacking in our schools?
 
A. I think school in general, but especially high school, is really stressful. There’s a lot of pressure on kids – everything from getting good grades, thinking about college, being involved in activities, trying to make social dynamics work, struggling with bullying and everything else that happens at school. A lot of the anxiety I hear about is school-related. For kids to feel like there’s a place in their day where they can go into a space that’s comforting and calming and teaches them how to deal with the rest of their day at school is really something that I don’t think we as counselors can give them. It’s much bigger than what we can do in our office, because just talking one-on-one with an adult is not the same as being able to talk with peers about what’s happening, in the space where it’s happening. 
 
Adults don’t understand kids in the same way that kids understand kids. For them to be talking about it with each other is something that we as adults – no matter how gifted we are – can’t do for them. I don’t think there’s another way that we provide that in public schools. I’ve been both a teacher and a counselor and I’ve never seen kids have that same opportunity to really begin to self-assess, look at themselves in a different way, share the intensity of their feelings with their peers, and then learn how to deal with that and feel like they have control over how they manage that. I’ve never seen kids get that kind of experience within a school setting. 
 
Q. Should mindfulness in education be funded?
 
A. There really isn’t anything better that we could provide them than what is offered in this class – to communicate what’s happening for them, share the stress and worry that they have, and to learn that it is ok to feel that way, that it’s normal, that it’s common, and that they have the power to control and work through what’s happening with them, the choices they make, and that there are positive ways that they can deal with it and a positive place for them to be. 
 
That’s the number one thing – we are educating the whole person. If we are not looking at their mental health, if we are not helping them work through their struggles and feel as though they have power over what happens to them, that there is hope, if we don’t focus on that mental health component, we are doing kids a disservice. That’s what mindfulness brings is hope for kids. We should have this mindfulness class for every high school student.  

Johns Hopkins Researcher Partnering with Peace in Schools!

Gia Naranjo-Rivera is a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University and is conducting research on our Mindful Studies program. She's pictured here working with children in Uganda.

Gia Naranjo-Rivera is a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University and is conducting research on our Mindful Studies program. She's pictured here working with children in Uganda.

We're delighted to announce that Gia Naranjo-Rivera will be doing her dissertation (or thesis research) on our mindfulness courses! Gia is a Cuban-American yoga and mindfulness instructor, youth program leader, and doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Gia says that personal, academic and professional experiences have impassioned her to improve the health and quality of life for vulnerable, low-income, and minority youth, families, and communities.

As a Brown Community Health Scholar at Johns Hopkins, her studies focus on adolescent health and development, specializing in vulnerable youth and mixed methods research – which involves integrating quantitative (e.g., experiments, surveys) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups) information. Gia’s dissertation will assess how mindfulness-based interventions improve health outcomes among youth with past or present adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse, neglect, or dysfunctional home lives. 

Gia is excited to partner with Peace in Schools to assess the changes in health and wellness seen in students who participate in our Mindful Studies courses, and advance our understanding of who these classes benefit and why. She will administer and analyze the data from evaluations that students complete assessing their health and wellbeing at the beginning and end of the class, and conduct focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders to gather additional information. She will examine changes in student health outcomes across all students and by subgroups, such as by gender, age, race/ethnicity, and the level of exposure to adverse experiences or traumas. 

Gia is excited to partner with Peace in Schools to assess the changes in health and wellness seen in students who participate in our Mindful Studies courses, and advance our understanding of who these classes benefit and why.

Gia says that personal, academic and professional experiences have impassioned her to improve the health and quality of life for vulnerable, low-income, and minority youth, families, and communities. She received Master of Public Administration and in International Relations degrees from the Syracuse University in 2011 and a BA in Political Science from Columbia University in 2008. She has conducted research for organizations including the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, and MacArthur Foundation.

Putting her knowledge into practice, Gia has also managed youth programs from the Oregon coast to New York City, served as a Public Health Analyst at the National Cancer Institute, and worked on human rights initiatives with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and Human Rights Watch. Through these experiences, she discovered her passion for working with vulnerable adolescents, and their families and communities, and the need to develop effective, affordable, evidenced-based programs to improve youth outcomes.

We couldn't be happier to have Gia lend her talents to study our program and help further the body of research on mindfulness in education!

The Gift of Full Attention

Cindy (center) and two of her colleagues, all of whom participated in our recent Mindfulness for Educators weekend at the Still Meadow Retreat Center.

Cindy (center) and two of her colleagues, all of whom participated in our recent Mindfulness for Educators weekend at the Still Meadow Retreat Center.

Cindy Ewers is a Special Education teacher who participated in our recent Mindfulness for Educators weekend. Here's her beautiful reflection about the experience.

The Mindfulness for Educators workshop provided an opportunity for me to deepen my personal mindfulness practice so that I can be more grounded and present in my work with middle school students.

It is so important for us to slow down and give each other the gift of our full attention, even if it’s only for brief moments. Two of the skills we used, compassionate listening and reflective listening, have increased my ability to effectively communicate in my personal and professional life. When the focus is on listening fully, my busy mind doesn’t need to become distracted with formulating my response, making the conversation about me, or coming up with unsolicited advice. Focusing on what the other person is trying to convey has allowed me to become less emotionally reactive in stressful situations. I’ve come to understand that I don’t need to take others’ behavior or struggles personally, even when it’s directed at me.

It is so important for us to slow down and give each other the gift of our full attention, even if it’s only for brief moments.

The workshop was the perfect blend of introducing and practicing mindfulness skills ourselves so that we can bring more mindfulness to our students.

As exemplified by the instructors, our own mindful presence can be the most powerful tool in teaching mindfulness, or in fact any content. The instructors’ embodiment and modeling of vulnerability and authenticity allowed us to experience firsthand the possibility of creating deep connection with our youth.

Having a personal mindfulness practice can reduce the stress that so many educators endure and it has helped me to experience more joy with my students.

I am grateful that I was able to attend with two of my colleagues so that we can create momentum in sharing mindfulness in our school (with students and staff). They are both newer to mindfulness and the workshop allowed them to personally experience how powerful it can be to practice mindfulness as it increases our capacity to connect with others, be more present in our daily lives, and as self-care. 

I am hopeful and optimistic about the change that is possible when we are able to bring mindfulness into our lives and classrooms in this way.

Want to bring mindfulness into your life and classroom? There's still time to register for our 8-week Mindful Teaching course! 

What it Truly Means to Win

Janice teaches our Mindful Studies class at Lincoln High School. She shared this amazing story about one of the teens in her class.

One day after class Molly (not her real name) approached me and handed me a beautiful gold medal with a blue ribbon. She smiled at me and said, "This is for you." I was a bit surprised, but thanked her and asked her to tell me more.

I never thought being kind to myself mattered until taking this class.

Molly practices fencing competitively and has for all her life. Recently she’d been seriously injured, and after a long and hard recovery, she was back at it, but her fencing just wasn't the same. She was constantly plagued by doubt and negative thoughts about herself. Her performance suffered, and she hadn’t won any medals in a long time.

The previous weekend, she was at a big competition, facing off with a life-long opponent. Her chances of winning seemed impossible, and she felt the familiar tide of doubt and self-criticism rising. But as she walked out onto the floor for her match, an amazing thing happened.

The last class in Mindful Studies had focused on self-compassion, including examining the negative ways that students talked to themselves and developing reassurances based on unconditional love. Molly had always been skeptical of self-compassion, but as she faced her competitor that day, it suddenly struck her that she had nothing to lose. She took a deep breath, and instead of the critical things she’d been saying to herself, she started saying things to herself like, "You're ok just the way you are," "It doesn't matter if you win or lose,” and "I'm here with you."

Every time there was a pause in the match, Molly would take more deep breaths and keep offering herself compassionate reassurances: "I love you no matter what," reminding herself that her self-worth was so much more than the outcome of this match.

But Molly didn’t lose. She won the match.

It isn’t the fact that Molly won the match that’s important. What’s important is that Molly’s story is a beautiful example of the power our thoughts have to shape our reality.

When she told me her incredible story, with tears in her eyes, she said, "I never thought that being kind to myself mattered until taking this class." Molly qualified for a state-wide competition, and she reported that self-compassion is now a mandatory part of her pre-match preparation.

It isn’t the fact that Molly won the match that’s important. What’s important is that Molly’s story is a beautiful example of the power our thoughts have to shape our reality. She redirected her attention, and it changed how she felt and therefore how she acted.

If even one teen has an experience like this, we’ve been successful.

Janice holds the fencing medal given to her by her student.

Janice holds the fencing medal given to her by her student.

Advocating for Mindfulness in Education

Gwen meets with Oregon Governor Kate Brown on a trip to the state capitol to advocate for mindfulness in education. Gwen is a student in our Mindful Studies class at Cleveland High School. 

Gwen meets with Oregon Governor Kate Brown on a trip to the state capitol to advocate for mindfulness in education. Gwen is a student in our Mindful Studies class at Cleveland High School. 

By Gwen Kaliszewski

On December 12th, 2016, I went on a trip to Salem and visited the capitol building with the Oregon Association of Student Councils Capitol Ambassador Program. This trip was so we could get a feel for the legislative process, and while we were there we had the opportunity to meet with legislative assistants, legislators, the mayor elect of Salem, and the Department of Education. 

During our meeting with the Department of Education, we had a discussion time, and one of the questions we talked about was along the lines of “what do you enjoy/appreciate about education?” After a few people got the ball rolling, a student from Wilson High School raised his hand and started talking about the Mindful Studies program, how he personally had not taken it but that he had seen how impactful it was on the lives of his peers. 

The education system is inherently stressful and taxing, both mentally and physically, and to have a space where we can calm our minds and our bodies is vital to our success and happiness.     

Dr. Salam Noor, the Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of Oregon, and the rest of the adults in the room were pleasantly surprised to hear about Mindful Studies. I excitedly raised my hand and started talking about my experience in the class and how incredible and beneficial it was. Right after I finished speaking, a girl from a school outside Portland mentioned that they had something similar that they were slowly implementing. Students all around the room were nodding and smiling, and whispering “that’s so cool!” 

I guess I had just taken it for granted, because that was when I first realized how amazing Mindful Studies is, and how lucky I was to have the opportunity to take it. As we continued our discussion, other students chimed in about how it must be so nice to have a relaxing class during a busy day, and to learn strategies on how to combat stress. 

School is a pressure cooker, for me especially. The pressure from our teachers to maintain good grades. The pressure from myself to always get an A, because god forbid I get anything less. The constant comparing to my classmates, the pressure to do better than my peers, or at least add up. The pressure of being a teenager, of running in the right social circles, of saying the right thing, of dressing the right way. The pressure of college looming in the distance, of resumes and test scores. The education system is inherently stressful and taxing, both mentally and physically, and to have a space where we can calm our minds and our bodies is vital to our success and happiness.     

In the current climate of America, empathy and compassion are vital. Through this class I have seen the effects of it, and how much it can transform a community. 

Mindful Studies has had an incredible impact on my life. Often I take small setbacks or worries and mull them over so much that I spiral into feeling overwhelmed. I am constantly stressing about everything I have to get done. Mindful Studies has helped me immensely in reducing this. The first day of class we started off with a short sitting meditation, and the entire time all I thought about was all of the math homework I had to get done. By the end of the semester, I was able to quiet my mind much more and breathe into the moment. This has been extraordinarily helpful in my life, but I would say that the two biggest skills and knowledge I took away from the class was reflective listening and the importance of empathy and compassion. I am a very talkative person, and I often dominate conversations. Reflective listening is a way for me to step back and allow other people more space to speak, but still show I am engaged. Finally, in the current climate of America, empathy and compassion are vital. Through this class I have seen the effects of it, and how much it can transform a community. 

I truly believe that Mindful Studies is a key to educational success, and that it is important for it to be slid into mainstream education, and made available at all schools.

Dr. Noor told us he rarely has high school students come speak with them, something that is so shocking to me. When strategizing on how to improve education, having student voices at the table is vital. Dr. Noor would not have known about Mindful Studies had we not spoken up. The seed has been sown, but the only way for it to grow is for students to continue to voice how crucial mindfulness in schools is. I truly believe that Mindful Studies is a key to educational success, and that it is important for it to be slid into mainstream education, and made available at all schools. The only way to do this is for students to advocate, to talk to their administrators, principals, teachers, and even legislators. As Dr. Noor said, they welcome our ideas.

Resources for students to get involved:

Department of Education:
503-947-5600
ode.frontdesk@ode.state.or.us

Find who represents you in the Oregon state legislature: www.oregonlegislature.gov/findyourlegislator/leg-districts.html
 

A Flame of Hope: A Letter from Our Executive Director

During a time in which many struggle with a sense of hopelessness, I feel honored to share with you a deep optimism. This is not an optimism based on a fairytale or blind faith. It is rooted in experience. Our current generation of teenagers is learning how to pave the way for a more conscious and compassionate world. I see it and feel it daily.

We end our semester-long mindfulness course with a final project that invites teens to spend four hours in silence and solitude utilizing the tools that they’ve learned in the class. This is their opportunity to practice befriending themselves and resting in that which is most authentic within. In preparation, teens are asked to create an intention for the project.

I could tell you about countless beautiful intentions from teens who have been deeply engaged in the class I teach at Madison High School. Instead, I pause to share what two teens who have struggled deeply in life had to say:

“I hope to be more fully with me on this retreat. To be able to see the world and the conditioned mind differently. To see it all clearly.”

“My intention for this retreat is to connect with a real part of me that I haven’t. I know this part of me exists now.”

 

This is huge. These are marginalized students, with lives affected by intense inter-generational trauma, violence, substance abuse, and poverty. It is huge that the teens who have the most obstacles are seeing new possibility. They are having a direct experience of knowing how to find peace.

As cliché as it might sound, these teens truly are our future. For me, this is a flame of hope. Every day I witness teens learning to experience a deep connection with others, feel their own adequacy and inherent worth, and love unconditionally. Every day I see teens learning to embody an experience of presence and love. Every day.

Thank you – not only for the way that you support Peace in Schools but for the way you value creating the possibility of a more conscious and compassionate world. During such times of turbulence and divisiveness, it is, indeed, a powerful thing that we have ways to embody the alternative.

Peace in Schools is building a model that manifests the alternative. It is a model of love and of connection. We are so deeply grateful that you are part of this. Thank you for feeding this flame.

—Caverly Morgan, Founder and Executive Director

"This Program Could Benefit the Entire World"

"This Program Could Benefit the Entire World"

Keiona is a student in our Mindful Studies class at Cleveland High School, and we were incredibly fortunate to have her as a featured speaker at our annual gala.

Here is some of what she shared:

I used to get extremely anxious and flustered and tear up about school problems I couldn't figure out. My physical body suffered as well due to this anxiety. Insomnia and eating problems began to be more and more common for me. All of this together made it hard for me to even want to get out of bed in the morning.

Through mindfulness, I’ve received the gift of recognizing my own strengths.

Before I had this program, I felt utterly lost. Inside, I felt I had no control over my mind. I searched for problems to worry about, and often found myself hiding or covering up to fit in. Without self-love and other tools I learned in this class, I was starting to go down a detrimental path in my life.

Through mindfulness, I've received the gift of recognizing my own strengths. This powerful recognition has helped me battle against anxiety, fears, and depression. Mindfulness has helped me alleviate feelings of hopelessness and given me a newfound confidence, like a breath of fresh air, patiently waiting for me to take it. I have the choice. 

Through the option of choice, I can now choose compassion for myself. This has opened doors for me I hadn't even imagined. It has given me the strength to love myself wholly, and the strength to empathize with others on a deeper level. Just like a hug from the heart and a smile from the soul, compassion is a lovely tool that I have full access to. 

This program has truly changed my life. I'm so grateful to have this experience accessible to me at school. The class environment feels as if it's a paradise or sanctuary for me and many others.

I'm now excited to wake up and face the day. I genuinely wish everyone had this experience and class accessible to them. I feel like this program could potentially benefit and change the entire world.

Click here to see photos from our 2016 gala.

The Love Squad: Reflections from a Teen Mindfulness Retreat

The Love Squad: Reflections from a Teen Mindfulness Retreat

Barnaby Willett is the Director of Program Development at Peace in Schools and also teaches our Mindful Studies class at Cleveland High School. He and many other Peace in Schools teachers served as staff on Inward Bound Mindfulness Education's (iBme) Pacific Northwest teen retreat in early August. Here is a short essay he wrote about his experience:

It’s day two of retreat.
 
I’m sitting in the male dorm as our teens prepare for sleep. We’re brushing our teeth, using the bathroom, reading, and writing in journals.
 
There’s a deep sense of peace.
 
In this same lounge an hour ago, my small group met. We posed the question, “What do you daydream about?” One shared her dream that an iBme retreat could last all summer. Another expressed the wish that it would last a lifetime. Heads nodded around the room.
 
So many of these teens have only known each other twenty-four hours. Already the depth of vulnerability and connection is beyond words. So is the care, and the respect, and the love.

What would the world be like if everyone lived in this way?

What happens when humans really get to know each other? Does everything fall apart? That’s the message we sometimes get.

 “I love you’s” are being exchanged. And wonderful hugs. We asked our small group, “What should we be called?” It took about five seconds to decide on The Love Squad.

What happens when humans really get to know each other? Does everything fall apart? That’s the message we sometimes get.

It's not true. When we come together in trust, in love, in openness, in kindness, we are a model for a new world.
 
Listen to these teens. They are opening their hearts. They give each other and us hope in a sometimes broken world. If you were here with me, you would know. Hope is alive. Love is here.

Photos by Darby Gillis, a Mindful Studies student at Portland's Cleveland High School. Additional photos by Jess Jarris and Barnaby Willett. 

Teen Essay: Cultivating My Own Happiness

Teen Essay: Cultivating My Own Happiness

Every day at Peace in Schools, we are privileged to hear inspiring and heartwarming stories from our teens. As part of their final project, we asked the students to reflect on their experience in Mindful Studies class. One teen shared this. 

Growing up I came to understand one thing to be true: I was a weirdo. I didn’t talk as much as other kids, and when I did, it was usually to tell a joke that nobody understood or to say something about fairies or dragons which made for good times as a youngling, but other kids grew out of it before I did. I didn’t like to play with kids growing up. I preferred to tag along with my mom, galavanting about the city, discussing local fairy habitats and aliens. I got along better with adults anyways. I grew up thinking I was weird and I suppose that belief stuck with me. I grew up thinking I was weird, so for years and years, as interacting with people my own age grew more important to me, I tried not to be. I became the most convincing chameleon. This uncanny knack for shapeshifting has been handy these past 16 years. However, one of the many things I’ve learned because of this class and the space you provide is that I don’t need to be like everyone else in order to be loved.

Our class has meant more to me than words can describe but I will try. Sometimes in class we talk about how rare it is to walk into a classroom and feel connected with everyone in it; not often do we walk into a classroom authentic and eager. For me, as the year has gone on and my love for the class has deepened, I find myself taking that attitude with me to every class. 

 

Our class has given me the power to not only get through life, but to enjoy it.

Of course I’m not always so optimistic, I still complain out of habit. But our class has also taught me that acceptance and growth are what I should strive for, not perfection. The fact that I’m saying this and believing it is kind of a miracle. I have long since been labeled as a perfectionist and my own worst critic. When I started high school, it didn’t take long to pick up on what others expected of me and what I expected of myself.

Another truth I have come to know: in high school, the frame of thought is that if you get through this miserable time and do your best, you’ll get into college. If you get into college and get your degree, then you’ll get a good job. Somewhere along the road after you get a job and make lots of money you’ll finally be happy. We are taught that if we do all these things we can earn our happiness. But our right to happiness is granted to us the second we come into this world. Before our class, I didn’t know that I was allowed to cultivate my own happiness whenever I wanted to. My peace does not have to depend on any factor outside of myself.

I have learned so much from you; I have learned so much from this class. I genuinely love every single person in it. I’m still working on knowing these lessons to be true in my heart and in my head on a daily basis, but this class has given me a place to start the work. Here in this class, because of you, I have truly commenced a lifelong practice that will help me cultivate a life I enjoy living. And for that, I will forever be thankful. Thank you so much for the year and the life ahead that you two have given me. 

Teen Essay: How Mindfulness Helped My Eating Disorder

Teen Essay: How Mindfulness Helped My Eating Disorder

A 17-year-old from one of our high schools shared this inspiring essay about how our Mindful Studies class helped her eating disorder and changed her life.

I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am for this class. Before coming into this class I struggled every day with inner battles that I felt I could never win. This has changed though. With the help of this class I now have a more positive look at life and take things moment by moment.

Before this class I struggled with high anxiety, depression, and poor body image. Unfortunately all of these aspects combined caused me to develop an eating disorder. I felt as though I needed one aspect in my life that I could control and that became eating. In the beginning I always struggled with the [mindfulness exercises] because I found myself constantly worrying about what I was eating or going to eat.

Throughout the course of this year, I slowly was able to move my mind to the present moment and get some moments of silence from these distressing thoughts. With this class, I also started to pay attention and listen to my body more. Beforehand I would only eat foods that I had deemed as safe and never actually listened to what my body wanted. As I became more in touch with my body, I learned to trust it and give it what it was wanting. This class was a big aspect in my recovering from my eating disorder and has helped me deal with the intense feelings that come on when I am anxious or depressed.

I truly believe this class helped save my life.

Along with my mental health, the quality of my social life has become more positive. For as long as I can remember I hardly ever told people how I truly felt because I was scared I would scare them away if they knew how emotional I could be. Because of this, I would find myself miserable without anyone knowing, with everyone thinking I was fine and okay. This class taught me about unconditional love and made me more open to telling people how I felt. I learned that many people out there will love me no matter how I am feeling. I also learned that one of my coping mechanisms is to withdraw myself from people to just stop feeling. Once I was able to notice this I started to challenge myself to stick around those who cared about me and tell them how I felt instead of just hiding away. This has strengthened my connection with my parents and now has made it easier for me to share with them.

Lastly this class has helped me tremendously with my racing and competing. At the beginning of the year, I would get so worked up and stressed about my races that I would either cry before, during, or after my race. All I wanted was to live up to the expectations of my parents and be as good as my sister was. I put so much pressure on myself to perform well that it was in turn hurting me. All through my race negative self-talk would scream in my head. I always felt as though I had done terribly. After I started to disidentify and give myself unconditional love, I stopped crying during and after my races. Now after a race that I feel I didn’t do well on instead of putting myself down I tell myself that I tried my hardest that day and there will always be another race. This has made racing so much more enjoyable.

Honestly, I feel like I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having taken this class. I now have so much more love for myself and less negative self-talk. I have learned to take refuge from my anxiety-ridden mind by becoming present to the present moment. I am so thankful for how supportive you were within this class. I found myself opening up about stuff I had never told anyone because you made the environment feel so safe and caring. You have helped me become comfortable in sharing with others and become so aware of all that goes on in my mind. I truly believe this class helped save my life. Thank you.