Posted in wellness

Open the Classroom to Abundance

Hey teachers, let’s get real: our jobs are terrifying. Student success falls (partially) on our shoulders, and often we don’t have the tools to 100% make sure that happens. Fostering loving, literate, critical minds is an experiment that never concludes. Education industry and legislature increase tomfoolery on a daily basis, and often we struggle to take care of our own needs during the academic year. *So much* can weigh us down.

However, we have the extremely unique opportunity to witness and interact with unspeakable abundance on a daily basis. Ultimately it is up to us to either live curiously in abundance or stifled with fear in our profession. We have the power to transform distress into eustress before it hammers our bodies and minds with detriment. Avoid backing yourself into a corner by considering how you can shift the way your view your profession, and begin teaching from abundance.

B2705976-7DBD-4A80-9C49-A7A19665B1D6
Students were determined to create more spaces and opportunity everyone to experience calmness on campus. Based solely on their ideas, principal, and counselor input, we won a grant to build them a mindful campus this year!

 

1. Shift the Language with which you describe students. Instead of “limited English proficiency,” describe them as bilingual. Instead of “dyslexic,” view them as problem solving. Instead of “attention-seeking,” consider “connection-seeking.” Though their paperwork isn’t likely to change soon, the way we treat them and describe them in our spheres of control can.

2. Open Yourself to the Possibility of students knowing how to best show their voice. Open yourself to receive the unique ways in which they can show mastery of a task. Do you want them to understand a large concept like justice? Can they show you they understand that concept in ways other than an essay? Awesome. Accept it.

Furthermore, give them time to talk. The most important lessons I learn in life come from the kids. They have incredible things to say, and aren’t fully aware yet of the restrictions society throws our way. Without these limiting beliefs, they see worlds of endless possibility. For them, it’s possible for them to change the school, the community, and the world to work in their favor. Open yourself to their verdant possibility, clear obstacles for them, and see where their work can go.

3. Question Structure we see as traditional or normal. Does it make sense to have a late work policy? Does it make sense to assign homework? Does it make sense to restrict bathroom use? Do kids have to sit in a desk to learn? Imagine a world where everything is negotiable. What would you cut out?

4. Clarify the Classroom to make way for prosperity. This year, I removed everything from my walls that didn’t serve a specific, obvious, and worthwhile purpose. I try to remove filler language from my speech (ie: we are going to…take a moment to…) and embrace silence as an answer to a question proposed. Teach with intention and care, and students will respond in kind.

 

Posted in wellness, yoga

The Gift of Being a Perpetual Beginner

Had you asked me in high school what it was like to not specialize in an activity, I would have told you I felt like an untalented outsider. Watching my friends excel in their area of interest was often difficult for me: I wanted to try it all, but wasn’t very good at much. From C-team MVP to JV co-captain, I was the best of the worst, solely because I was hungry to discover my talent. I made mistakes loudly. My confidence earned me space.

In adulthood, that ability and eagerness to remain a beginner has opened more doors for me than I would imagine in youth. To an outsider, it may appear my resume is scattered, I make erratic purchases, or that I’m physically dangerous. In reality, I’m just curious. To me, an inherent need to explore and join new communities helps me live curiously and practice balance between effort and released attachment. Where my high school self was an ashamed beginner, I touch base with my novice identity daily.

readingatFLATTRACK
May 2019: My first time reading poetry to an audience was equal parts exhilarating and nerve racking. However, the crowd laughed, applauded, and invited me back. That night I made several dear friends who continue to inspire me daily. Try something new in an open community. Open yourself to others who are open, and you’re bound to walk away with something beautiful.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, effort, non-attachment, and surrender ideally exist in perfect balance. However, in today’s world, most of us tend to lean into one of those categories much more than the other. Let’s rewind again to who I was in high school: an affluent high-achiever with a chip on her shoulder who wanted to succeed to prove people wrong. Unfortunately, effort wasn’t high on my to-do list. I was deeply, deeply attached to outcomes, and through this became manipulative and unsteady instead of putting the real work in. My lack of the aforementioned specialization was a product of dissatisfaction with failure. If I tested the waters and wasn’t “naturally good” at something, I was unwilling to put in the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual effort to explore it. As a teenager, I leaned into unhealthy attachment to results: I wanted to be the best without living like the best. I could not surrender with contentment to the results the universe gave or put in the effort to manifest an ideal path.

Most adults still operate in this heavily unbalanced space, finding comfort in pushing (or not pushing) in one of those areas throughout life. Perhaps they give too much effort and deplete themselves, or perhaps they participate in unhealthy “surrender to the universe” to displace accountability. Sadly, many careers and an entire ecosystem of consumerism voraciously feeds on this imbalance, plunging us deeper into discord. To break this cycle, start living like the beginner you are.

The perpetual beginner understands our world is in flux always, and surfs on that wave. Sometimes it overtakes us, but we hop back on the board instead of burning up outside of the water. Whether you choose to try a new mindset or try a new sport, I invite you to be a beginner at something this week.

Surrender to the vulnerabilities of newness. Give effort to understand. Unclench your fist from outcome. The perpetual beginner softens.

Posted in Travel

Solo Travel and Being Your Best Self

I’m a lucky one: I have the time and means to travel abroad by myself at least once a year. As someone who didn’t board a plane on their own until they were 22, or get a passport until 26, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!

A week ago I returned from a solo vacay to Colombia, visiting Bogotá, Medellín, Santa Marta, and Minca. Previously, I fell in love with Latin America on a trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca, and was fortunate enough to spend the past Spring Break exploring Kenya.

 

 

 

What I find most intriguing about traveling alone isn’t what I expected when I branched out years ago. While immersing in a new culture and acquiring knowledge is interesting and useful, I find solo travel an amazing experience in practicing mindfulness, awareness, and being your best self.

A land as abundant as Colombia requires your complete attention: streets bustle with millions of people, color screams from the biodiversity and art, and there’s overwhelmingly lush flora everywhere. Letting your attention slide for even a moment means you miss the toucan in the tree or the small panadería where the locals go. No place has grabbed my complete, undivided attention the way Colombia has, and I feel that’s why I was my best person when I was there.

Because Spanish is my second language, I constantly listened and spoke mindfully. Because no one accompanied me, I had freedom to eat, drink, and move in a way that felt best in my body. Because I could budget time for reflection, I could fully absorb each piece of the experience. Everything was an unknown: I sat with that. I approached everything with blossoming and welcoming curiosity, because I literally had no choice other than to express joy and fondness for the unknown that traveling solo brings.

For me, I am my best self when I travel alone. Many wish me caution as a solo female traveler, which I mostly appreciate, but I hope to share that fear is not in the equation for me or many other solo travelers when we embark on a new journey. We want to practice navigating the unknown, not fear it, and embrace it on our own terms before experiencing it without our permission.

Solo travel can be powerful and transformative when we create and allow that experience. The next time a dear friend shares with you their travel plans, instead of sharing your (often valid worries), I challenge you to instead help them manifest a beautiful journey! Help them cultivate the curiosity and joy they’ll need for a good trip, and leave the worrying to their mothers 😉

As always, sending love and light.

-Lauren

Posted in wellness

Breathe for Change and SEL*F Reflection

A week ago I finished the Breathe for Change Summer Intensive in Austin, Texas. B4C’s mission is to change the world one teacher at a time: a bold goal! From their marketing, I thought the claims were too good to be true. Change the world? Nah. Transformative? Nah. This is just another SEL training that conveniently has a 200-hr yoga teacher certification attached, I thought. Little did I know that when I walked into the gym of Lanier High School on Day 1, that it’d be the last day of being my old self.

My wellness brand, Glow & Grow Wellness for so long operated under the mission that teachers need to help students be more mindful. I provided workshops on SEL, equity, culturally responsive teaching (and still do!), but wasn’t doing anything to heal those delivering instruction. At Breathe for Change, my largest take-away is that really, we must take better care of our teachers. If teachers haven’t found their well-being, who are we to try and give it to students? We must not only be models of well-being, but include that energy in our classrooms and relationships with students. Here is where changing the world begins. B4C calls this SEL*F, or Social-Emotional Learning and Facilitation. The facilitation aspect of SEL means we must be well ourselves to facilitate well-being for others.

At Breathe for Change I transformed myself and am starting to see my world transformed as well.

The past two years have been a whirlwind: illness and loss plagued our family, I fell in love but he fell out of love, and both a dear college friend and important former students of mine passed away. I fell ill more than usual, missed more work than usual, and wrote far too many referrals. I kept wondering why this was happening to me, and kept showing up at work trying to show students how to make dreams come true when I wasn’t living in a dream of my own.

I had a disease: the victim mindset. Things kept happening to me and I kept letting them beat me up.

How many teachers do you know living this way? Often in the hallways I hear complaints about the state of teaching, relationships with administrators, low-quality PD, and irritating students. I am absolutely guilty as charged. For years, I deemed myself cursed with it!

I write this now from a bamboo house in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Minca, Magdalena, Colombia. I saw two types of toucan this morning as I ate breakfast. Yesterday I practiced yoga in a waterfall pool I had to myself for more than an hour. I launched the small literary press of my dreams, signed up for a half-triathlon, and had the courage to ask for a new position at work, with positive response (no position change, work friends! I’m just pleased with the response ☺️). Being in true harmony with my world made this happen. I thought I was doing all the right things before by going to yoga once a week, seeing a therapist, and reading a bunch of self-help books. Those things helped, but Breathe for Change had me visualize who I wanted to be when I was on the mat, and transform into her off the mat.

Attending Breathe for Change set me on a new course. From Day 1 we dove head-first into a multi-day curricular segment called Transformation of Self. Many in the room, myself include, showed up ready to talk about SEL or social justice: topics we are passionate about. The B4C curriculum made us pause, however, and first start healing our own lives. We spent a week here.

Without that week of (sometimes painful) self-reflection, I would not have been as receptive or prepared to implement other information in the training. On Day 4, I felt my old self passing, shedding light on a refreshed, clear-headed, and non-violent heart I didn’t know I had. For years, I and others near me labeled me as having “big emotions,” and I sought out the pathology of an anxiety disorder to justify it. I thought I was in a fixed, miserable state. At B4C, I realized I largely created that mess for myself, and was manifesting a negative life with negative thoughts and emotions. I learned that change is possible, and began my journey living free.

My well-being intention from the training is to live my own truth. Others have intentions like “love radically,” “practice self-care,” or “know I’m loveable.” How incredible it is to have 60 more teachers in the world committed to well-being in these ways!

Now healing, I feel so much more capable of teaching others how to live happily themselves. Now understanding the importance of healed teachers, I am completely stoked to say my own business, Glow & Grow Wellness, now offers yoga and self-care classes for teachers in addition to professional development.

I can’t wait to see the effects the training has on our students and the world around us. Sixty educators graduated from our Austin program, and about 3,000 from B4C as a whole. Each of us works with dozens of colleagues, students, and families every year, and will send as much positive energy into those worlds as we can. Breathe for Change is right: we can change the world, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that revolution.

Namaste, y’all. Always sending love and light.

Lauren 🌸

Posted in yoga

Unity: A Yoga Flow Playlist

playlist_ unity flow

A community of new yogis (the self-proclaimed Unified Yoga Unicorns, of course) came together to make a 45-minute heart-opening flow this week for our first group-led yoga class. We believe finding peace with yourself is the way to find peace and unity with the world.

I invite you to follow our playlist for your personal practice. We invite you to practice heart openers and grounding poses, and take the full seven minutes in the first and final songs for intentional warm up and savasana, respectively.

Namaste <3

Posted in wellness

Wellness Apps You’ll Actually Use

Insight Timer is a no-nonsense, truly free meditation app with a library of nearly 20,000 guided meditations. From a quick visualization to start your day, to longer yoga nidra meditations, Insight Timer’s variety and multitude work in its favor. As with any overwhelmingly robust resource, it does take some time to find the right sessions at first. While nothing is of poor quality, some of the guides just won’t work for you, and I found that to be my biggest (and only) frustration. I love tracking and sharing the sessions that really resonated with me, and I love tracking my meditation. Insight Timer is a must-have for me!

download (1)

Clue, a menstrual tracking app, took a while for me to see its worth. I highly recommending upgrading to Clue Plus to use

 it to its full potential. After a few cycles, the period tracker is pretty darn accurate. It notifies me of probable food cravings, upcoming PMS, my fertility window, and myriad other things related to my cycle. Tracking my activities daily increases my emotional and physical attunement, and the predictive notifications help me control behaviors I want to avoid. If your sisterhood is strong or if you want to share your cycle with a partner, you can do that too!

unnamed (2)

Sleep Cycle makes waking up pleasant. For a teacher with a 5:00 start, that’s a pretty big accomplishment! Sleep Cycle very sensitively tracks sound as you sleep, and when it senses you’re awake or antsy, a gentle alarm helps you rise. To snooze, you simply lift the phone and to end the alarm, you swipe up. Easy peasy! If you don’t have an outlet near your bed to keep it charged, that could be a problem. Otherwise, I recommend this awesome alarm and sleep tracker for everyone!

 

Posted in Books

Body Reclamation in YA Books

Bodies. Wowza. What a gift and a burden, am I right? Most people I know struggle forming a compassionate connection with their bodies. We see ourselves as too much or too little; have suffered unspeakable traumas and relentless microaggressions; and vary in physical ability. Everyone has their own story to tell regarding their body.

As we grow older, we learn to better appreciate our body for its gifts. Unfortunately, body trauma and misinformation barrages adolescents, causing a lack of connection and few positive models to look toward. Reclaiming one’s body is radical act: taking it back from patriarchal structures, people who claim it as theirs, or even taking it back from painful parts of ourselves is not only difficult, but against the grain of nearly everything Western society teaches us.

Young adult authors rock at tackling this topic: if you or someone you love (even an adult) needs some help reclaiming their body, here are some places you might start. Of course, all of these warrant a trigger warning. But, if you’re ready to approach these topics, dive right in. You won’t be disappointed.

Fiction

Image result for itza rios de la luz

This debut novella from El Paso author Rios de la Luz flips white supremacy on its back, defeating rapists, racists, and border wall supporters. Using magical realism, de la Luz chronicles the stories of generations of water witches traversing rites of passage, trauma, and conflicting definitions of home.

Image result for speak laurie halse anderson

No list of YA books about consent or body reclamation would be complete without Speak.  Laurie Halse Anderson’s landmark novel about a teenager who called the police to break up a party because she was assaulted created waves in schools across America when it was published in 1999. Because the girl called the police, other students isolated and bullied her, though they never understood her motive for doing so. This book illustrates relatable moments of strength and vulnerability, as well as the complex pressures of sharing (or not sharing) one’s trauma.

Image result for moxie book

I’m a Texan and a zine-lover, so naturally I adore this book about Vivian, an enraged young feminist who’s tired of being harassed by the jocks at her school. By publishing and distributing her own zine in secret, she fights toxic masculinity, finds power in her own body, and defeats sexist policy (like the dress code) and biases on campus.

Image result for dreadnought book

Yes. Y-E-S, YES! That’s most of what I have to say about Dreadnought, April Daniel’s debut where ability diversity and  gender realization are portrayed as super powers. Daniel’s transgender protagonist (Danny) inherits the ability to inhabit her ideal body. Though Danny faces bigotry, she overcomes the hate. In the way The Hate U Give approaches racism and social justice through vivid depictions of realistic micro and macroaggressions, Dreadnought does this regarding the transgender experience. Nuanced characterization and a compelling superhero plot make Dreadnought a must-read.

Non Fiction

Image result for intuitive eating for teens

Intuitive eating changed my life. As an athlete and young woman who’s struggled with weight most of my life, I was trapped in the diet cycle. I believed to be attractive and pursue athletics, I had to eat a certain way. I counted calories, carbs, sugar, electrolytes, points, meals, and anything else I possibly could. The original Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole examines how tuning in to our body and emotions should dictate how we eat, not a diet plan. Years later, Resch released this workbook that puts those concepts and practices into a digestible (pun intended) and specific format for teens.

Image result for we should all be feminists book

If you are here, you’re probably a feminist. When I first read this book, I was underwhelmed because, like her other books, I expected a tough and detailed narrative to take slowly and ponder. We Should All Be Feminists, and the TED Talk of the same name, instead shares clear, illustrative stories from Adichie’s own life that act as a primer or affirmation for budding feminists. Her stories clearly portray women’s issues from around the world: depictions young people need to observe.

Image result for hello cruel world

Kate Bornstein rocks and rocks and rocks and keeps rocking. Heads up: if you couldn’t tell from the title, profanity and candid discussion of difficult topics doesn’t just pepper the pages, but dominates them. Bornstein bluntly (and hilariously) shares stories of her transition from a young Jewish boy into the woman and activist she is today, and the depression, anxiety, and body issues that came with it. As a cis woman, this book was of great benefit to me. Although much of Bornstein’s experience is a result of being a “gender outlaw,” she offers advice and stories relevant to everyone.

 

If you’ve read a book that’s helped you reclaim your body, please share!

Posted in Blog Posts

What Meaningful Support Looks Like

affection-black-and-white-couple-1004014

When you’re surrounded by negativity, healing and wellness can be hard. I think of times I have tried to heal when phantoms like guilt, bad friends, alcohol, and poor nutrition plagued me. Healing took longer and hurt more, and in the end I had other problems to solve. It took me ages to identify what a strong support network looks like, so I eventually developed a  habit of relying exclusively on myself. Like ridding illness without a doctor, rolling solo through grief, loss, or any other lower qualities simply exacerbates problems in the long term. Building a strong and reliable support network around yourself is crucial for celebrating meaningfully through the good and healing healthily through the bad.

1. Escape the echo chamber. While talking to others who have been through similar hardships can be incredibly helpful, be mindful of why you seek their support. Do you seek healthy affirmation and a helpful ear, or are you looking for an echo chamber to revel in? Wallowing in a problem will hurt more than it helps. When thinking of people and places that are truly supportive, escape situations that feel like an echo chamber.

2. Your network is not your therapist. We all experience symptoms of dysfunction or instability, whether it’s growing pains or atypical neurobiology. Thus, everyone absolutely needs a therapist. Unfortunately, very few can meet this need and attend counseling regularly or even at all. Whether that need can be met or not, your friends cannot be replacements for a therapist. Counselors have graduate-level degrees for a reason: it’s a profession that requires thousands of hours of study and practice! Our friends have other beautiful gifts, but are not apt fits for the professional-level counseling we need. In addition, therapy offers a completely safe space for the exploration of your thoughts that we cannot experience even with our closest friends. Friendships should have boundaries! Especially when we experience turmoil, we cannot strain and abuse friendships by constantly seeking free therapy from them.

3. Support at work is crucial. When I had my first manic episode, I emailed my supervisor at 4:00 in the morning saying I needed to take off and find supervised help. I had already taken 3 personal days that month, which is quite a few for a middle school teacher. However, I definitely needed that day: going to work manic with two sleepless nights under my belt, while suffering a major breakup and family loss was not smart. My supervisor’s response was gracious and supportive. He thanked me for finding help, gave me his cell phone number, prayed for me, and let me know everything would be handled at work. My coworkers pitched in to help my substitute and checked in with me in the days that followed. Coming to work and receiving love, hugs, and check-ins saved me. It gave me 8 stable hours a day where I knew everything would be great. Their response showed me my health and safety is a priority because I am valued by my peers.

Previously, I worked in many positions unlike this where supervisors expected the job to come first. That drove me deeper into depression and exhaustion. I gained weight, I stopped exercising, I didn’t relax, I worked 6-7 days a week. Failing myself meant failing at my job as well. Support at work is crucial, and we aren’t always taught that our jobs should be safe spaces. Make sure you check in with yourself and find a work environment that supports you as much as you support them.

4. True support means open compassion. Find people who understand you and your situation. There is a difference between love and understanding, though in your support network, many folks will do both. Where a therapist may understand you, a friend may love and understand you. Your supporters must also understand your situation, however, and exhibit this open compassion towards the problems that give you grief. Will negative yammering from a friend about your ex ultimately make you feel better? Probably not. You made the decision to be with that person; you don’t want to hear how bad of a choice that was. Seek supporters who exhibit open compassion, and give you mindful understanding with no expectation of gifts in return. You however, could bring compassion to the table as well, and engage in open (not forced) transactions of loving energy.

5. You are a critical link in the support network. Your network can’t heal you alone. Together, however, you will get the job done. What you bring to the table in a supportive relationship equals what you receive. Be sure to bring forth the energy and kindness you ask of others. Whether that’s with a friend, in therapy, or in a group exercise class, be mindful that you serve your full self and gratitude towards them.