Archive for September, 2013

Being Present With It All

This post was written by JG Larochette of Mindful Life Project

Mindful Life Project Boy MeditatingWhen has it been most difficult to stay with the present moment? Was it with emotional or physical pain? Or with trauma? Was it when something life changing happened? For many of us, it is extremely difficult to be present during hard times. Far too often, we get in patterns of avoidance, depression, anxiety, or become disconnected from ourselves and the world around us.

As a teacher in an extremely underserved, violent and poverty stricken community in Richmond, California, I witnessed how students dealt with trauma, violence, abuse, neglect, and many other painful life experiences. Students would get in negative patterns of behavior as a result of what their “fight or flight” response guided them to do. They would constantly be in aggressive mode, reacting to things that for some would seem insignificant. Our community, like many inner city underserved communities, has dealt with high levels of generational violence and poverty. Our students experience this in many ways, either directly within their families or by living in a community where shootings and violence can be a regular occurrence.

In my classroom I saw students make big improvements. Yes, teaching academics, and building class community, and creating strong relationships was important, but I wasn’t able to reach the students in the most meaningful ways. This all changed when I started a Mindful Schools fundamentals course. I was learning a transformational skill that was improving my life and I immediately wanted to share it with my 3rd graders. We started practicing mindfulness daily, and the students started to show compassion, kindness, respect and love for each other and their community.

I piloted Mindful Life Project modalities in the winter of 2012 with our 3rd graders. I taught mindfulness, and had guests teach yoga, therapeutic art, and performing arts. Immediately, I witnessed a decrease in classroom disruptions, and an increase in students showing self-regulation, and confidence. This offered approximately 40 more minutes of teachable time a day due to not having to put out “fires” of students behavior.  I knew that I wanted to spread this to as many kids in Richmond as possible!

In the spring of 2012 I founded Mindful Life Project, a nonprofit that works with five South Richmond elementary schools. We offer three programs: “Rise-Up” is our regular school day intervention program. In “Rise-Up,” Mindful Life Project teaches one-hour pull out sessions twice per week to “at-risk” students in groups of six to eight students in each grade level. During the year students are taught in eight-week rotations of therapeutic art, yoga, and performing arts. All sessions include mindfulness instruction which is taught on its own and also woven into each modality. We also have a regular school day program called “Mindful Community” where instructors teach mindfulness once a week to each classroom at the school site. We also host parent mindfulness nights, and support teachers in implementing mindfulness in their classroom. Our After School Program component is “Take Flight” where we focus on local middle schools, so that we can provide our students with long-term support and guidance through their transition into their teenage years.

Our journey in working with the students and their families in this life changing way has been such an honor. We had a significant impact in our partner schools in our first year, and our team is full of inspirational and motivated instructors that continue to strive to have the deepest impact on the families, students, and community!

To learn more about our project visit