Honoring the Transition
Before moving into private practice, I used to work for a large Bay Area non profit. This agency worked with what was called "emotionally disturbed youth" and what I would call young folks who experienced a lot of trauma.
I loved this job, and not least because for 8 of my 11 years there, I got to work in my own art therapy room. It was wonderful.
Each week, I would pick up groups of 5-6 kids and take them to the art room for an hour. At one point, I was working with every young person in the school, leading 18 art groups a week.
Once we were inside the room, it was a magical, creative, and inspiring place. I played music and told stories as the young folks made masks, sewed memory pillows, painted, and tried origami for the first time. That was the fun part.
The hard part was getting there.
The school campus was spread out in a series of "portables" which were rooms which opened directly to the outdoors. There were many advantages to this, but it made getting from one place to the next a lot of work.
In particular, Classroom "I" (the classrooms were labeled A through I) was the farthest away from the art room, and this was the "middle school" aged classroom. Most students were between the ages of 10 and 12, and had their own ideas about what was cool, what was fun, and what they wanted to be doing in the art room.
Many times, we would set out from the classroom to the art room and have to stop because someone wasn't listening, or they were roughhousing, or yelling or...
Many times we turned around before we even made it to the art room.
I was frustrated and annoyed, and really wanted to get these young folks into the art room. I knew they were creative and interested and interesting and just as eager to explore the materials as other students in the school, it was just that we had to get there first.
So, out of desperation, I asked them to have a mindful walk one day. We would be focusing only on what they could see on their way to the room- could anyone spot all the colors of the rainbow before we made it to the art room (I asked them to make a note and let me know when we got there)?
The next time, I asked them to note what they could hear- how many different sounds could they notice?
We moved slowly, and focused on the transition. Instead of being in a rush to get to our destination, we decided to bring curiosity, interest, and openness to the walk between Point A and Point B.
And while I had proposed the mindful walk as a way to get the students ready and focused, it was an opportunity for me to slow down, check in with myself, and take a breath as I rushed from one art group to the next.
Now, as we move from lockdown life to whatever the new normal will look like, I invite you to take a moment to honor your own transition.
Take your time. Move slowly. Notice what you see, what you hear, what your body feels like.
You can even do a rainbow walk:
-As you move from one point to the next, or go for a walk or hike, see if you can spot all these colors in order: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
I recently did this while walking in a field of what looked like only green and brown grasses, and was completely amazed to discover a red leaf hiding in the depths of a a tree, a small yellow flower right next to my feet, and tiny purple flowers strewn all along the hillside next to me- I hadn't even registered them before.
Slowing down, stopping to notice the things that want to get our attention (our children, the color purple, the nagging pain in our belly) is gift we can give ourselves- everyday, each moment, right now.
Try it- lift up your head from this computer. Take a deep breath. Notice the colors, the shapes, the light, the movement, the smells, the beauty that is available to your attention in this moment.
As you move through your day today, take time to notice what is in front, beside, and around you as you transition from one activity to the next. Slow down, move slowly, and take your time.