I am so excited to be involved in such an amazing program. As a former student of the TIYAMA program (Therapeutically Integrated Yoga And Mindfulness Approach), I learned so many amazing tools that I use both personally and professionally. This program has added another layer to the services that I can provide my younger clients and I am honoured to join Tina as a Faculty member.
We completed the first month of 2021…how has it been for you so far? On a positive note, the Covid-19 vaccinations have been rolled out, the second lockdown is ALMOST behind us, and winter is more than halfway finished. For those who committed to New Year’s resolutions, you are probably still motivated to do what you planned to do…if so, GOOD FOR YOU! And, before the month is finished, Happy Black History Month!
February is also the month that hosts the day of love and affection – Valentine’s Day. For some, this day symbolizes the celebration of the emotional, intellectual and physical connections that we have with our significant others – our partners, our children, our dearest friends. For others, this day can be more challenging – a day to remind us of the “love” that may not be present in our lives, or the relationships that are no longer here, leading us to experience feelings of grief, loss, and loneliness. Some of us don’t acknowledge this day and view it as a commercialized event characterized by an influx of jewelry, clothing and car commercials that identify these material items as observable measures of just how much you are cared for.
To complicate things further, we are in the midst of a second lockdown in Ontario, which means more restrictions on social contact, closures of venues that would be the site of some celebrations, limits to social gatherings and, in some areas, stay at home orders. This makes things difficult every day, not just on February 14th, but nonetheless, it exacerbates the isolation during a day that focuses on the human need for social connection.
Self-compassion is so important during this time because we are always in the presence of one person who is capable of showing ourselves love and affection. Hint: I am referring to yourself.
Let me be clear: this article is not just for those who are struggling through this time. Self-compassion is one of those no-need-to-explain practices that can be used by everyone.
The jury is split among the clients I have been seeing. The holiday season is either cancelled or it’s going to be celebrated in an excessive and overly abundant manner. One thing is common though: it is definitely going to be a holiday season that will be different from all holiday seasons. This pandemic has taken a lot from many of us and our hopes that a sense of normalcy would return before the end of the year have come and gone with little progress. Many of us have returned to “lockdown” and most of us still face restrictions limiting interactions with people outside of our family home. And being with family, friends and loved ones is something so important to some of us during this time of the year, right?
So, in response to the onset of a pandemic holiday, I put my planning hat on and started to think of other creative ways to enjoy this season with my family. I thought I would share these ideas with you.
I’ve used my Yoga Bear to help today! He can do pretty much any pose, which helps me when I have to show a pose that I can’t physically do myself. This week, we used the bear to show the steps needed to get into our pose, rather than moving our body parts all at once. After I had the boys try putting the bear into pose, they attempted to do it themselves.
So this week we are practicing the Half Squat Pose, Elephant breathing, and reminding ourselves that we can do anything we set our minds to.
Half Squat Pose
Start by standing with feet wide apart, toes facing forward. Place your hands on your hips. Bend forward, placing fingertips or hands on the floor. Bend right leg, placing knee above the ankle. (Toes should still face forward) Straighten the left leg (for an added stretch, point left toes up). Relax your neck. And don’t forget to BREATHE. Do the same movements using the opposite leg.
Elephant Breath (or woodchopper)
Stand straight and place your hands in front of you and interlace your fingers (this is your trunk!) Take a long breath in while raising your hands above your head. Exhale through your mouth while forcefully swinging your hands down between your legs. For added fun, exhale and make a sound like an elephant !
Repeat a couple of times.
“I can do anything” – Positive Affirmation
What is something that you want to learn to do?
How can you learn to do this?
What support do I need to do this?
Hope this helps you start the week as well 🙂 Have a wonderful week!
With all the uncertainty in the world, our children require as much structure and predictability as possible. They also need positivity and peace. I’ve made the difficult decision to keep my son’s home for at least the first part of the school year and I understand that this can be stressful for them – they won’t be seeing their friends, they won’t be familiar with the new learning environment and format, etc.
In my ongoing training in mindfulness (for adults and children), I thought that I would implement some of these strategies with my boys to start their day on the right foot. This activity should not take more than 10 minutes, the first day being the most difficult as they will be learning different techniques and may need some more support and instruction.
Through this pandemic, I’ve learned a few things about myself. First, there is always time to do the things I want, even though it seems like there is not enough time in the day. Second, in difficult times, it’s important to find “silver linings”. And if there doesn’t seem to be any, make them for yourself.
So, while my children return to the virtual classroom this Fall, I have decided to join them! I have just enrolled in two certificate programs to help me learn more about myself, as well as, help meet the needs of my clients. I am super excited about this new venture because, for all of those who know me, I love learning new things.
I am holding myself accountable with this entry, but putting it out there in the universe and committing myself to follow through and achieve my goal. So hopefully by Spring of 2021, I will be certified in “Children’s Grief and Bereavement” through Sick Kids Hospital and Hincks-Dellcrest and “Foundations of Applied Mindfulness Meditation” through the University of Toronto. Let’s do this…
One of the common themes of my sessions these days seem to be the difficult decision ahead of many parents of young children and youth: Should I send my child(ren) back to school or keep him/her/them home in the Fall? For some, it is not really a difficult decision at all – we have work to return to and a need for normalcy for our little ones. For others, it’s a waxing and waning back and forth between one and the other.
There seems to be an ongoing script going on in our minds consisting of thoughts like:
I worry about my child’s mental health if he or she stays home. My child needs social interactions and misses his or her friends. I don’t trust that other parents will send their children to school healthy. Will there be a second wave and will I have to take time off work again? Can my child stay safe without my supervision and in a classroom with large sizes? I won’t be able to get any work done if my child is home and needs help.
And now many parents are facing an upcoming deadline to make this decision…
One of the common themes of my most recent sessions with clients has surrounded the topic of “systemic racism”. There are so many reminders in our local and international communities that have been present in our newsfeeds. It seems that everywhere we turn, whether or not it’s in the news or on all social media platforms, people are talking about the tragedy of race-based violence, particularly the lives of the black community in the United States. What happened to George Floyd was horrific. And he is one person among SO MANY. He has become a symbol and representation of a systemic problem that has been present for longer than a few months or years.
I have talked to clients of different races and ethnicities about how this issue has impacted them and their worldviews. I continue to talk to my two boys, who are both beautiful children of colour about privilege, racism and discrimination. I have talked to friends and family members about this issue, at great length. And throughout all of these discussions, one thing has stayed constant. People are angry. And uncomfortable.
So what wonderful words of wisdom and life-altering advice have I given my clients during this time?
The honest answer is this: “Feel angry. Feel uncomfortable. Feel whatever emotions surface because of what is happening in the world.”
You don’t have to a person of colour (POC) to have a moral compass that dictates that we treat people humanely and without undeserved hatred. Here is my confession: I have not always been this passionate about this topic. Sure, I grew up as a POC and experienced comments and looks from others that were a reflection of the stereotyped thoughts that they had about people of my racial background. But I never looked at it past my own experiences or those of my peers and family. It was only within the last decade of my life that I acknowledged that this is not fair – the fact that people of colour all over the world are subject to differential treatment, expectations, and rights through the inheritance of a system that marginalizes them. So I educated myself and continue to educate myself. I learned to empathize and not sympathize. I recognized my own privilege. And here I am, ready to talk to anyone who wants to talk about this issue – for however long they want to. This is my penance for my years of disregard and avoidance.
Here are few things I’ve learned through my own personal and professional journey:
Knowledge is Power. Educate yourself about the history of the movements that you hear about and see on television and social media. They weren’t formed a few months ago. There is a rich history behind advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter. A history that is tragic and disturbing. But necessary to know about in order to understand where the anger and frustration is stemming from. (I recommend the 13th and Time: The Kalief Browder Story on Netflix.
Embrace the discomfort. If you feel angry, feel angry. If you feel uncomfortable, feel uncomfortable. The atrocities that have happened in the past and continue to occur now should not give you the “warm and fuzzies”. If we avoid these feelings when they are present, we are ignoring the issue. We are saying to ourselves and to others that it does not concern me and therefore does not require my attention. But it should be concerning because it’s unfair and inhumane.
Recognize your own privilege. Part of the process is to recognize where you sit on the spectrum of privilege. I may be a POC, but I am educated, employed, heterosexual and married. I have a house to live in and healthy children. I have family and friends and a supportive community. Acknowledging my privilege acknowledges my responsibility to those who may not be as privileged to speak for them when necessary. If I deny my privilege, I deny the fact that there are people in the world who work as hard as they can but are still not afforded the same rights and opportunities as I have. I deny the systems put in place that may help me but not help others.
Curb the defensiveness. It is very easy to feel like people’s responses are personal attacks to your privilege. But that it not what it happening. It doesn’t have to be about you. It’s about a flawed and unjust system that you are part of. Defensiveness is adding the “but” to your statement of alliance. As in, “Yes, it’s totally unfair, but…” Drop the “but”. Leave it as “It’s totally fair”. No need for further elaboration. Just let people know that you are hearing their frustrations. Don’t change the narrative.
Practice empathy not sympathy. I am not black and I would NEVER attempt to believe that I understand fully the experience of systemic racism, particularly against the black community. But I can imagine that it’s terrible to live a life, knowing that because of the colour of my skin, I will be treated unfairly or seen in a negative light regardless of who I am as a person. A fellow human being. But I can also respect that the black community would not want me feeling sorry for them. I hope they they would appreciate me feeling angry for them. When I have spoken to some of my white clients, I hear their fears of being labelled “racist”, just because they are white. But I am also confident enough to draw the parallels to their feelings and those who are labelled “criminal” or “violent” just because they are black. That’s what empathy is – recognizing how someone feels, seeing the world through their eyes.
Continue the discussion. To not talk about it means to avoid it. And avoiding it means that we are not giving the topic enough respect to acknowledge it. Keep talking about it. Contribute to the dialogue by talking about it with others about how change is needed. Reach out to your black friends and family to let them know that you stand with them. Listen to and learn from their experiences and feelings. Challenge those who may not be aware of the history, of their privilege or don’t want to sit with their own discomfort.
I know that these lessons are probably self-explanatory and, maybe even, obvious. I am fully aware that my journey is ongoing. And I also know that the more I continue on my journey, the more I will be able to use my voice and my privilege with confidence, passion and conviction to stand up for change.
Let’s rewind a couple of months for a moment: You may recall you and your partner in a different type of routine. Work may have been outside of the house for most of the day. Kids (if any) were in school for most of the day. Then, at some point in the evening, you all get together, say hello, maybe eat dinner together, talk about your day and hopefully spend some quality time together before you pass out for the night. Only to repeat the same routine the next day. Sound somewhat familiar? The point is that before this pandemic, we all seemed to have our own time and space for some part of the day. Now, let’s fast forward to present day: You and your partner (and kids, if any) are with each other all the time. Every day. For the rest of eternity, it seems. Remember any of those nature documentaries about wild animals living in captivity? You know the ones where we see these poor, trapped creatures wanting to scratch and break their way out of the cage. Hamsters are known to gnaw off their own hands, for crying out loud. Even Mother Nature tells us that we don’t like being isolated and contained.