Recently I've been asked, "How does your Inner Strength school mindfulness program help prevent gun violence?"
When you are being asked that in a city that has one of the fastest rising rates of gun violence per capita in the United States, that's a serious question. In the last 4 weeks, we've seen 4 shootings at schools, with multiple youth killed.
This has led to some serious soul searching. How does a focus on conscious awareness impact such a specific soul-wrenching external event?
Join Amy Edelstein for this impassioned and thoughtful exploration of Mindfulness as a foundation for social transformation and violence reduction
Today I'm going to talk about mindfulness and its power to effect change, even if it may not be able to be traced to the stemming of extreme social ills in a direct and immediate way. It's easy to conflate the two. The bulk of my work with Inner Strength Education, the organization I founded in 2014, is in the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia has the unfortunate and tragic reputation right now of having risen to the second most violent city per capita in the United States. I experienced that on a weekly basis in our schools and in my neighborhood. It's no joke.
And I get asked on a regular basis by individuals in positions of authority who are looking for solutions to the rise in gun violence, to the randomness of aggression and attacks of the prevalent. Lack of safety of violence without motive spurred on by social media, I get asked, can your program, or how does your program solve the problems of gun violence in Philadelphia?
I've thought long and hard about. It's an issue that has me awake at two in the morning. And it was, those questions have been questions that have caused me to question the foundation of my organization and the life-changing work it's been doing for the last seven and a half years. Empowering more than 15,000 teens and transforming lives and outcomes before my very eyes.
But those questions, how does your program solve the scourge of gun violence had me reevaluate.
The fundamental basis of my program. So what's interesting is after going through deep soul searching and warranted frustration and anger at the lack of suitable response, that is, is not preventing. So many individuals and use from being harmed. I've come back to my foundational purpose. The purpose of introducing students to life, altering perspectives through systems, thinking through evolutionary theory about the 300 million year.
Of the development of the human brain and the evolutionary reasons for our triggers and responses is extraordinary. That kind of life-changing perspective puts the power of wisdom in young people's hands. It helps them think about wide ranging con. About large scale systems and about ways to tweak upstream.
So that downstream consequences are positive and where the flowering of our higher human potentials is visible and extraordinary.
The mindfulness practice itself. Connects us with our deepest sense of who we are, our deepest sense of being alive and our most profound experience of oneness of non-separation when we experience for ourselves. That intimacy with ourselves, with our deepest selves. It's an experience that can't be erased.
And that experience is one of deep strength. Open-hearted love, stability, confidence, vision, passion perspective, grace generosity. Lightness of being, is the solution to our alienation from ourselves, not any particular method or methodology, but that experience of connection with our deepest. However we get to it. I'm not proposing a single exercise path process to that, but after some deep soul searching in the face of so many tragedies that have affected our schools and our youth in my.
I do still profoundly believe that our ability to access innate human goodness, that sense of wholeness without fear, and that sense of love without limit holds the ultimate answer. For any number of good programs, good responses, positive social action, political reform, structural change, all of the things that environmental conscience, all of the things that are needed in our world when we can free the best of our teens and their teachers.
And create a feeling of safety that comes from within not from building fences without then we're releasing unknown, creative potential. We're releasing the kind of creativity, freedom of thinking, outrageous aspiration, vision of the possible. That can really bring about some extraordinary change. It's not that any one person is going to create that change. It's not that any one person is going to be able to take in all of the ills facing our world and in a single swoop, come up with a solution.
Our way forward is to ignite the passion for the possible, in the hearts of his many people as we can, young and old. But I happen to work with youth and their teachers. The more creative potential we liberate that's founded in wholeness. That's founded in. Complexity of thinking and simplicity of response.
That's founded in a sense of deep peace and care, the better off we're going to be.
So when city officials ask. Or have me fill out on my grant request forms. How does my mindfulness and systems thinking program in Philadelphia high schools minimize or reduce or eradicate gun violence? I say to them, it does. Because we're changing hearts and minds.
Any of you who are involved with your own mindfulness practice or with another contemplative practice, I urge you to give it everything at this time. Whether you have three hours a day, or whether you have 10 minutes after your cup of morning coffee, cherish that time, love that time. Give your heart to it.
Give your passion to it. Allow your immersion in the unlimited field of conscious, aware. To lift you up with inspiration, with a sense of connectedness, with positivity, with healing, with growth with discovery, really allow your own intention to spend time.
In intimacy with your own heart, with the human heart, with the heart of the cosmos, to bring about a trust and confidence in your own care in your own love in your own resilience.
And your own goodness, allow that to inform the way you move forward and have faith.
Let's do a short guided practice.
Around our own wellbeing around the bolstering of our own face. And let yourself really give to these moments of practice. Have no limitation on how far you might go. Have no limitation on the extraordinary reaches of love. And freedom. You can experience,
bring yourself into an attentive and alert posture, setting down your phone and setting down your coffee cup, closing your email,
notice your breath as it goes in. And your breath, as it goes out,
notice where you're holding it, where it's stiff, where it's stuck.
Notice your torso in your chest, cavity in your stomach.
Is there clenching? Is there tight knit? Are you protected against the world,
take a long inhalation and a longer exhalation and on your exhalation extend love to your whole being and especially to those areas that are.
That are protected that are hurting.
Take a deep breath in and as an N on your long slow exhalation
send love to your whole book.
That yourself be. If your hands are curled or tight, let them be curled in tight. Love them as they are. Take another inhalation with a long slow exhalation, allowing your body to be. Allowing yourself to be
now picture your whole self, your physical body, your emotional body, your energetic body.
Correct. Like an infant
and imagine being held in the center of the most beautiful flower
and that flower being held in a boat of leaves woven together.
And surround that image
with golden light, warm, comfortable, easy restored. Happy fun
as you breathe out, let yourself loosen a little bit. The reigns of control.
Blurring the edges of the one creating the image and the one experiencing the image, allowing yourself to absorb all of the light and energy that animates the whole cosmos. That is the fabric of conscious, aware.
Allow the edges of yourself to blur in the edges of that life. Giving presence of consciousness to permeate one to another flow of the individual, to the. And the whole to the individual
be easy for a few more.
The following your breath to be natural as it wants to be, bring your attention to your hands and your toys.
Allow any tension or tightness to loosen just a little bit more.
Notice the difference. Notice the subtlety.
Notice the immediately.
breathe in and nourish your heart, feeling it, strengthening it, loving it,
breathe out, letting your body with that.
And now we can bring this guided visualization to eclipse.
Look around your surroundings, reorienting yourself.
Maybe you want to stretch. Maybe you just want to be still
and allow this experience of expansiveness. Goodness, wholeness and immediate. To imprint in your being so that this becomes your foundation for the day, becomes your foundation for moving forward. And it becomes your foundation for interacting with the world around you and for doing your own work to bring the sparks of goodness.
Thank you for listening to the conscious classroom. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein. Please check out the show notes on inner strength, foundation.net for links and more information. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and pass the law. See you next time.