Musings on mindfulness and refugees
Each step of the way with iACT has been a full body yes for me. This little powerhouse of an organization has been on my distant radar for a few years now, but just recently we managed to finally cross paths and link missions.
I was invited to travel to eastern Chad to share mindfulness practices with preschool teachers, cooks, and soccer coaches. A long-time dream was about to come true.
The 28 teachers and cooks we spent three days with came together from two of the northern camps to do their third and final Little Ripples training together.
They had been exposed to mindfulness practices in their previous trainings, and have been regularly incorporating it into their preschool curriculum daily.
On the second day of training, we spent about an hour and a half practicing together, discussing, and sharing. We would do a short sit (or stand, or walk) and then debrief. Some I led, and some the teachers led. I was unsure what to expect. I didn’t know how well it would translate and what would be meaningful and useful to folks in a refugee camp. To say this time together was one of the highlights of my life is an understatement. With each practice we shared, layers fell away and we found ourselves relating more and more deeply and easily. Our experiences of practice were so similar. Our collective willingness to be together with open hearts and minds showed as our eyes became brighter, smiles and laughter came more easily, and there was so much snapping in the circle, signifying agreement and a desire to share from the experience.
I am further awed at the simple power of sitting quietly, paying attention to breath and body.
Today we decided to offer a short sit to the parents of some of the Little Ripples preschool children as a way to share what their children are experiencing at school. They were a bit skeptical at first but willing. They dropped right in, children in one circle, parents and some teachers in another, soccer coaches behind – all of us sitting quietly together, breathing. The room became still as we each had our own experience of internal connection.
As we came out, the parents were bright and said they were happy to have a new tool. The children were settled and calm, and a soccer coach shared with the parents some of the reasons he has taken to his own practice. These experiences have been a natural doorway to deep connections that transcend language, race, culture and life experience.
I am humbled and so thankful.
These programs are entirely community-led. They made every decision from which day to run the program to what hours and to who will be on the teaching team each day. The teams are diverse and yet they have committed to working together.
Trust in the process. Trust in the modeling before the explanation. Trust in the people. Trust in the children, and they will trust you.
If there is anything that can foster community between people and across cultures, it is sharing a meal and a cup of tea. While we do that, we will also be sure to sprinkle in some early childhood development, mindfulness, and games!