New year, new beginnings?
Yes, we all want that… But it is easier said than done.
New year resolutions?
As if we don’t have enough on our plates already.
Maybe this year instead of adding things to our to-do list we should try and reduce them?
How does less pressure, and more time to enjoy more the little things and what we already have sound like?
We live in a culture of more more more. It took me over 40 years and some life-changing events to learn that less is more and I still sometimes fall into the belief that more is more.
Life is not about quantity, it is about quality.
And what hinders us from experiencing quality is all the baggage we are carrying with us from the past.
So here’s the skill I’m offering to you all in this first class of the year - Getting over things.
We are so weighed down by trauma, and children and teens are more vulnerable to being traumatized by accidents, pandemics, violent crime, or other disasters. But with the right support, they’re also able to recover faster.
How can we be light again?
We are on an automated pilot responding with anger and frustration and hopelessness because we are stuck in past patterns of disappointment and failure and hurt… How do we reset and face the world again with hope and joy?
I definitely don’t have all of the answers, but this class is a good start.
Bring: Paper and pens, a magic wand or a stick
Have everyone in the circle share their biggest challenge from 2023 and what did they learn from it or how are they wiser or a better person because of it?
Discuss how traumas can weigh us down and that maybe taking the wisdom and lessons forward with us but leaving the pain and hurt behind is the best way to give us a better chance in this new year.
So this class is just about that, letting go of whatever is weighing us down or holding us back and moving forward in a way that serves us best.
Breath Sigh & Move
The instructions here are simple, while moving in a Human Mandala or Follow My Body if COVID restrictions still apply, with each movement take a deep breath and sigh aloud when exhaling.
In Judaism (my roots) we sigh a lot… It helps us let go of whatever is weighing us down. In addition, the legend goes that whenever anyone sighs an angel is born. So it pays off to sigh and let go!
Shake It Off
A lot of animals naturally release trauma or pain and any discomfort by literally shaking it off. They shake their body and they are over it. Maybe you have seen a dog doing it.
Humans have complicated themselves. We overthink everything. But we still have the ability to shake it off.
Start by standing tall in the circle. Shake one leg, then the other. Shake your arms. Shake your head. Try yes’s and no’s. Then shake your whole body.
Try shaking while moving through different yoga poses, such as shaking everything off while moving from extended mountain pose to standing forward fold.
Try shaking it off in a downward-facing dog!
Have students suggest different poses to shake it off in.
Bad stuff happens to everyone, our power is in how we respond to it.
Sometimes we even fail to respond to some situations in a way that we can be proud of ourselves, but this is where we can learn and do it better next time. We leave the embarrassment behind and we are no wiser for it; we are a better person because of it.
In this yoga exercise, students will suggest different situations and different ways to respond to them.
The whole group will create a Yoga Landscape of the situation and its surroundings by assuming yoga poses that symbolize or look similar to people and objects in the event described.
Then we will act out alternative endings to this situation resetting the scene in between each.
If this is a tight group that knows each other well, students can suggest events from their own lives and especially from the last year. If not, you can come up with imaginary scenarios or pick up a couple from here:
Love happens and breakups too. And it goes without saying, breakups are heartbreaking. When all those feelings of love suddenly turn into something vile, it becomes painful to handle.
What’s there to be done after breakups? Accept that it happened for the best of reasons, keep your mind busy doing something productive and know that love happens again. The pain subsides like it always does. Turn the pain into motivation to bring a positive change in your life (join a gym, perhaps, and sweat it all out).
- Changing friendship
Being social beings, we seek love and friendship. These are undoubtedly the most important aspects of having an overall healthy life. We simply cannot do without friends because we aren’t made to survive alone. We seek and keep friends to help us grow. So a changing friendship can be a difficult thing to deal with. Letting go of friends and adapting to new faces as you leave behind what you had come to love can be challenging.
But people come and go. This is yet another inevitable truth about life. We’ve all read those cheeky lines on the internet like “Those who want to stay in your life will find ways to do so” and they’re true. Don’t be afraid to accept and let go of people and welcome new people into your life.
Failures are difficult times, of course. They are difficult on many levels. Not meeting goals you’ve worked so hard for, the sense of worthlessness, all the negativity failures bring along- these are hard to put up with.
But then again, we’ve heard and read many stories of success after failures, stories of what patience and perseverance can deliver. So we know the best thing to do during these times is to find inspiration and
- Getting injured, falling sick
Accidents happen and sickness might find us, no matter how many precautions we take. However, this should not dissuade us from being cautious and trying to live healthily. Recovering from injuries is one of the hardest times one could experience and potentially learning to live with changes to your body and abilities can be a major adjustment physically and emotionally.
Again, keeping the right attitude towards life is the key to dealing with it. The seemingly long journey of recovery could be made less stressful by engaging in other activities that the ailments don’t prevent. There is usually always something that you can find to do if you’re willing. For example, there have been people with cancer who have written great novels from their hospital beds.
- Death of a loved one
Death is the ultimate truth in life. It could come to anyone at any time. The sorrow it casts is always tough to handle. Losing loved ones, having to live life without them is the most awful kind of change one could experience in life.
The grief and loss model has five stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance but it doesn’t necessarily occur in the same way for everyone. Some of us might take a very long time to reach the stage of acceptance.
Death demands grief so grieving is the right thing to do but the best thing we can do to honour the dead is to accept the fact and move on when we are able to do so. To commemorate the importance of this person’s passing we could also plant a tree, perhaps.
This is a technique that I learned from my beautiful and wise wife Angel and we often use it with our children as well. It is most effective on the smaller annoying daily life events but it is important to use because if we don’t get over the little things they accumulate and the anger and resentment may build up inside of us and manifest in not the kindest or healthiest ways.
The technique is simple: Immediately after any irritating event with a loved one, a friend, a family member or anyone, instead of holding on to it, swoosh your arm in front of you like a windshield wiper to wipe that poop off, let it all go and regain your centre.
Try it now - It’s not so hard!
Practice it a few times with the group.
Then ask each person to share a feeling they are carrying with them unnecessarily now and have everyone swoosh it off with their windshield wiper.
By the way, movement is also well-proven to help reset the nervous system and the mind, so if you want to go deeper you can also try this full-body windshield wiper:
Begin by standing with your knees slightly bent and your arm raised. Then jump and bring your knees and arms in opposite directions. Keep jumping, switching the direction of your arms and legs with every jump.
One of the long-term effects of trauma or unresolved events and feelings is that they leave behind a false set of beliefs about ourselves.
Help your students identify things they tell themselves about life or their personal identity.
Beliefs children often have when hurt tend to be very personalized; beliefs such as, “I am unlovable,” “The world is not safe,” or “I will never be happy again.”
Any type of negative, devaluing belief can be ingrained in a person’s head for years, decades, or even a lifetime. It is beneficial to identify these beliefs early on and replace them with more encouraging ones.
Have each child in the group write down a list of unhealthy beliefs. Some include thoughts such as, “If I were a better child, my parents would still be together,” “If I were thinner, my friend would not have rejected me,” or “I need to be a perfect student to have a good life.”
Walk around the space and help each child identify unhealthy beliefs.
Once these unhealthy thoughts have been identified, ask each child to make a list of helpful, healing beliefs to replace the unhealthy thoughts. Again, walk around and help them.
After this, remind the children to replace the unhealthy beliefs with the healthy beliefs whenever those come into their heads. Make sure they understand this process is building an essential inner recovery “muscle” and will require practice to develop.
Pooping Bubbles Meditation
Let’s work one last time today on our skill of letting go and resetting ourselves.
When we hold on to stuff, to thoughts and feelings and hurts and stresses, it weighs us down. Letting go and moving on may help us feel lighter and freer.
Sit or lie down, take a few more deep breaths…
Now observe your thoughts and imagine each thought as a soap bubble. They can be of different sizes and colours… But you also have this magic little pin, and with each bubble that floats into your mind you can easily pop it and all those thoughts and worries just poof away.
Try not to get carried away by the bubbles and float in all directions with them. The exercise here is to be able to gently pop the bubbles, be free of the thoughts and rest for a bit.
See if after popping a few dozen bubbles, and disengaging from your thoughts, maybe they will be willing to slow down and even stop for a bit.
Enjoy this little break and let it recharge you so that you are stronger and more centred, calmer, and more resilient as you come to face the world again.
Now that we have cleaned up last year’s mess, we can more easily and freely plan this year.
Intentions are magic! If we set our mind on something, anything is possible!
Each student can hold a real or imaginary magic wand and in their turn express 3 things they would like to manifest this year if they had (which they do) a magic wand.
Demonstrate and encourage the children to flick the wand gently as they cast their intentions!