By Alan Delery
In my previous post, I talked about the value of mindful breathing. This was the result of consideration of what I wanted to say to my readers, as our country has stopped to deal with COVID-19. Many around the country have been told to stay at home and limit our face-to-face contact with others in our communities. We have been advised to practice “social distancing.” This can cause many to become stir-crazy and others to become depressed..
I want us to take advantage of this time and practice personal mental and emotional hygiene so that we are able to recover from stress and trauma and not be so “foul” to those around us. (Yes. Many of you are offensive to others by your attitude and actions.)
As I want to keep this post as short as possible, let me jump into today’s main thought.
In the late 90’s I was trained to be a trainer in conflict resolution in schools. We trained teachers to work with their students on social and emotional learning, in particular, how they could resolve conflicts creatively. We wanted schools to begin to develop skills, in their students, that could help them with their relationships. Out of the hundreds of teachers trained, few actually implemented this program because there were so many competing school initiatives and academic requirements being placed on them. While the school district’s intent was admirable, it fell short at making real social and emotional changes.
Twenty years later, I was still working with schools to help them with implementing conflict resolution and ways to repair relationships when harm had occurred. I helped schools implement what is called restorative justice. In this approach, we ask people to come together with those who they were in conflict with to reflect on what happened and repair harm that may have been created by their actions.
What I discovered when I asked young people to reflect on what happened in the conflict, they were not prepared to do so. Either they weren’t aware of their thoughts and feelings during the escalation of a conflict or they didn’t know how to communicate them. Sometimes they just weren’t willing to do so. This proved to be problematic when trying to resolve conflicts and repair harm.
The interesting thing and the reason for today’s post was that when I was asked to facilitate similar “restorative conversations” between adults, they often were not any further along than students, in their ability to deal with conflicts. Often, their ability and/or willingness to sit down and productively talk with the other person was more challenging than that of the young people I worked with.
As I looked around, I observed all kinds of conflicts that were not being resolved peacefully. Harm was not being repaired and people were walking around stressed with unmet needs. As a result, it appeared to me that society was getting more divided and violent. People were walking around with unmanaged stress and trauma. Many simply did not know how to take care of themselves.
As I considered how to move people to a place where they could be more self aware and able talk about their thoughts and feelings, I was introduced to Dynamic Mindfulness. Dynamic Mindfulness is a type of mindfulness practice that helps with stress resilience, self awareness and emotion regulation.
While I first got into dynamic mindfulness to help others, I discovered that I needed to develop these skills in myself. In 2016 I received training in mindfulness and started this journey of transformation.
I was a Christian and understood the importance of meditating on the scripture to renew my mind but I was ignorant on how to manage stress using movement and focused breathing. I wasn’t aware of how I was carrying stress in my body. I wasn’t aware of how stress was impacting my brain. I wasn’t aware that not only could my mind be renewed by the Word of God but my actual brain could be rewired through a regular mindfulness practice. I am still learning but since I have started practicing mindfulness, I have noticed a difference in how I react to stress and want to invite others to learn more for themselves.
During this Coronavirus crisis, I will continue to post about what I have been learning over the past couple of years. I believe if we took the time to develop a regular mindfulness practice, we would be more equipped to deal with the stressors of life. Now that we have gotten off of the hamster wheel of our stressful routines, we can focus on taking care of ourselves.
Thank you and please continue to share these posts with your friends and family.
In the meantime, re-read Matthew 11:28-29 as you keep God’s Word as your primary focus.