Blog by Hilary Sherlock with message and formatting by Leslie Wan
Hilary Sherlock writes...............“Can we do it again, I hope when school starts we can do it, I know I come late
so I only catch one time, but I really like it.”
Coming from our most skeptical and critical member of staff, this comment took all of us by surprise, especially as the” it” she was referring to was a group meditation exercise. During the second week of our summer program, Sister Tram had led us, children and adults together, through basic guided meditation. Now at the end of our summer school we were reflecting on our experiences, on the weeks activities, on what new knowledge we had gained, and on what dormant skills had been refreshed. A small group of us had been planning this two week camp for what seemed a very long time. Through the intervention of Farnoosh Droodgar of LEAD Outreach Initiatives ,(Leadership, Empowerment, Action, and Development) a Canadian based N.G.O that spends so much time and effort helping good things happen in needy places, and Sr. Gene Poore from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, we hosted a two week summer program for our younger students. As part of our outreach partnership with The Hope Valley Experimental School in Kingston, a few of their students were invited to participate. Occupational and physio therapists, Sr. Mary and Sr. Tram agreed to come.
|Learning new physical therapy skills from the sisters!|
This was to be a learning time not only for the children, but also for us adults. It also proved a good bonding experience to be learning together. The inclusion of meditation as part of the program is not as unusual as it may first appear. I had observed its effective use by Zahra (our creative arts therapist) in her work with our children, and by how her students gained control of their breathing and restless bodies. I had also been reading of its effects in helping children control their behavior. So perhaps this was the time for all of us to try it, adults and children together – and YES, we are definitely now building it in to our regular schedule. So, for two weeks in July we did have fun, we did refresh old dormant skills, we did enjoy the more relaxed pace AND getting to know our visitors. Our visiting students and their parents brought new energy and it was lovely to see the affinity our volunteer Olivia (a Wolmers High School student) developed with the children, especially her favorite little man.
What do we take with us into the new school year, a re-commitment to change and growth, a new look at how we are using our space functionally, and perhaps, most significant, the importance of planning and preparation in all we do. We further explored how we can continue to build our staff as a team. As we cleaned and prepared for the new school year we were making sure to include daily group meditation periods. Now, some weeks into our new school year we begin each day with a ten minute all school meditation. We sit in a circle and go through simple breathing exercises and calmly centre ourselves for the day ahead. Very quickly it has become an important part of our school routine, as the peaceful silence is powerful.
Leslie Wan writes.......
You would probably find the new found practice of meditation in children with special needs to be surprising, considering the issues some of our children face. But, in point of fact sometimes they crave a moment of quiet peace in a day that can be loud and hectic and always full of people and other children. In an unusual way, it becomes their own personal time which happens so rarely in any given day. The goal is not to make sure they stay closed eyed and still, because that may be a task too tough for them, but to make them aware that personal space and single contemplation as best they can, is something to be celebrated and a goal worth doing. Truth is, don't we all need some time of quiet moments, which we seldom take the time to do? It was also well received by the staff because they learned it from our visitors who practice it often, and whom had won them over with their quiet energy and lovely attention. We have always known the power of engagement, but rarely had the direction to focus on disengagement.. Starting the meditation early in the morning, means the children and staff come out of the morning hustle and bustle and find their focus by just being as still as they can, and understanding that being individuals even in a crowd, is quite rewarding. I can not stress enough how the power of disengagement can be such an important element for all of us and something I am trying to practice more of in my life just as we are encouraging the children. Being peaceful and being still I realize now, are far different goals.
Special thanks to
1. LEAD Outreach Initiatives (Leadership Empowerment Action Development) and Farnoosh Droodgar
2. Dominican Sisters of Peace
3. Shalom Fund
4. Sister Mary and Sister Tram (of Dominican Sisters of Peace)