Tuesday, October 25, 2022
You might remember a story from ten years ago about a yoga and mindfulness program that transformed an inner-city school’s roughest, toughest, most troubled kids. A trio of meditation and yoga warriors (who grew up in that very neighborhood in Baltimore themselves) were behind the mission to prove that movement, breath, stillness and love could change lives, even very unlikely ones.
In the decade since, Ali Smith, Ottman Smith (brothers) and Andres Gonzalez have gone into some of the most violent cities in the country and done the same thing. By the time they move on, the number of suspensions will have plummeted if not completely disappeared and a new process will be in place for when a kid gets disruptive. Now when somebody becomes unruly, they go to a meditation room and spend 15 minutes with a trained mindfulness teacher who listens and reflects back to the student what they are feeling. That’s it, the teacher just listens and mirrors back, no further commentary. Then they do some breathing together and the kid goes back to class. Instead of detention they get yoga.
When summarized in that way, bringing about such astonishing transformation almost sounds easy, as if yoga magic is casting an immediate calm and quiet spell over the kids. It’s nothing like that. There is a lot that must be proven to these kids who are not inclined to go politely into downward facing dog. Central to Ali, Ottman and Andres’ success is the respect they hold for the kids, space they are able to hold by following the instruction of the word:
- “spec” (as in spectacles) means to look.
To look again.
The instruction built into that word is eye opening. I think about the people in my life who might annoy me or who I occasionally may have limited patience for, myself included. If I look again, there’s always something more.
To second looks,