Mindfulness Puts the “Kind” in Kindergarten

From six year-olds on a mission to spread kindness to the first meditation retreat created by and for the transgender community, here’s how mindfulness is making the news this month.

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Putting the “Kind” in Kindergarten 

The six-year-old kids in transitional kindergarten at Tropical Elementary, in Merritt Island, Florida, began talking about kindness in class. Now they’re working to emphasize kindness on a grander scale. Over the last 18 months, Barbara Wilcox and her students have designed and shared a symbol that represents kindness. “We already have and use symbols for love, peace, and happiness. A kindness symbol will add to our national focus of being kind,” they say on a Change.org petition to have the symbol adopted nationally. Whether writing letters to community leaders, managing the petition, or visiting members of congress, the students are working hard as “kindness emissaries,” as Wilcox says, inviting those who value kindness to join them. So far, city councils throughout Brevard County, Florida, and in Bellbrook City, Ohio, have recognized the symbol—small yet significant steps to expand the spotlight on kindness.

A Joyful Retreat

In September, InsightLA hosted “Creating Joy in Community,” the first residential meditation retreat by and for transgender, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming, and genderqueer (collectively, trans*) people. Mindfulness and Buddhist practitioners, as well as new meditators, attended the four-day program. It was broadly accessible, thanks to scholarships (from donations), care for accessibility needs, and a trauma-informed approach. 

All the retreat’s teachers and staff are also trans*. Martin Vitorino, InsightLA’s Director of Programming and a retreat leader, noted that factors like gendered housing plans and few teachers of diversity can make other retreats untenable for trans* people. “It’s so powerful and healing to see yourself reflected in the teacher at the front of the room,” Vitorino told Mindful. A testimonial from V., who attended, affirms: “The sanctuary of being with all trans* folks allowed me to be with and offer kindness to parts of my heart that I don’t often feel safe to access.”

People for the Parks

The British Columbia Parks Foundation crowdfunded $3 million to purchase part of Princess Louisa Inlet: a breathtaking swath of mountains, rivers, and coastline wilderness. Working in concert with the region’s Shìshàlh Indigenous peoples, 800 hectares will be protected for both conservation and public enjoyment. The land may also be “bundled” with nearby protected lands to create a 9,000-hectare provincial park, surrounding the entire inlet. Parks, write the Foundation CEO Andrew Day and Board Chair Ross Beaty, are “anchors for our hearts and souls—they are our cathedrals, our towers, our pyramids; the wonders of our world.”

Stories to Live By

What happens when you combine a guided meditation and a podcast? You might get Meditative Story—a collab by Arianna Huffington’s company Thrive Global and WaitWhat, the masterminds behind TED media. Each episode features a well-known host, such as author Dan Harris or astronomer Michelle Thaller, who tells of a transformative moment from their lives. With a relaxing musical background and brief meditations (narrated by app producer Rohan Gunatillake), it’s a fresh addition to the podcast realm. (For our review of a recent episode, see page 76.)

Sustainable Rubber

Rubber is omnipresent in our lives, from the tires on our cars to the duckies in our tubs. Today many of these products are made of synthetic rubber, a petrochemical. Stronger natural latex rubber comes from Hevea brasiliensis, aka the rubber tree, a native of Brazil.  While Hevea is sustainable, demand for non-synthetic rubber has led to pressure to clear-cut rainforest land in order to plant more rubber trees. 

Latex is present in hundreds of plants (including dandelions!), but one plant shows particular promise as an alternative to both synthetic and Hevea rubber: guayule, a shrub native to Mexico and the American Southwest. Tire company Bridge-stone is researching guayule’s potential. Meanwhile, clothing company Patagonia has already begun using it to help replace neoprene, a synthetic rubber product, in its wetsuits.

Act of Kindness

Foul weather and flight delays had Seth Craven worried he wouldn’t be at his wife’s side when their baby was born by scheduled C-section. Sergeant Craven was traveling from Kabul, where he was stationed with the National Guard, to his home in Charleston, but made it only as far as Philadelphia, which is where he met Charlene Vickers. She was determined to get to Charleston for a conference, and she agreed to take Craven as a passenger on the eight-hour road trip. Craven made it home in plenty of time to see his son be born—and was able to send Vickers a photo of the happy family.

A man in Altoona, Iowa, may have been parched when he held up a sign asking for beer money—and included his Venmo handle—in the stands at a nationally televised football game, but he was soon awash in cash. “I was like, ‘Well, this would be a funny idea. I might make a couple of dollars,’” Carson King told The Daily Iowan. But as donations poured in, “I realized there was something worthwhile I could be doing with it.” King raised more than $2.9 million for his local children’s hospital, and kept just enough to buy his beer.

FAQ

By Sharon Salzberg

Q: I’m wondering how loving-kindness and forgiveness practices relate to one another when you’ve been wronged or betrayed. Is loving-kindness extending forgiveness? Does one come from the other?

A: People use the word forgiveness in so many different ways. As my colleague and friend Sylvia Boorstein is fond of saying: “Forgiveness does not mean amnesia.” But we often think it does. I was teaching a course, and the person I was teaching with used the word “forgiveness” a lot and led a forgiveness meditation, and someone in the audience came to me to complain about it. He said that he was in fact in tremendous physical pain. He had been in a terrorist attack and his body was really trashed. He said, “I will never forgive them, but what I’ve learned is absolutely essential is to learn to stop hating.” And I thought, I’ll take that. But it’s never a coercive activity. It doesn’t work that way.

It’s more a sense of, usually, compassion for oneself and an ability to acknowledge harm done. Not to deny that in any way, but to want to recapture all that energy. I have a friend, he got into one of those obsessive bouts about somebody—how awful they were and their behavior and their actions and what they had done—and then he realized what he was doing.  He said, “I let him live rent free in my brain for too long.” And that’s sort of the feeling. Really it’s like, I’ve given over not only the original pain, but all this time and all this energy and all of my life force to you. I want it back.

People to Watch

In New York City in 2011, Jasmine Johnson was in the midst of a rough patch. Frustrated, she tried to pray, but she was so overwhelmed, she couldn’t find words. “I remember saying, ‘I’m just gonna sit here until I feel better.’”

Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, her sister Stacey found meditation through yoga. So when Jasmine called to describe her experience, Stacey said, “Jasmine, that’s meditation.”

“And I was like, really?” Jasmine says. “Because that was the first time I’d actually had a real peaceful sleep in a long time. The silence did that.”

On opposite coasts, the sisters moved more deeply into mindfulness. When Jasmine returned to California and studied at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center, Black Zen—an online community, resource hub, and podcast specifically for people of color—began to take shape. It launched in 2016.

Part of the goal is to be the representation they want to see in the world. “To project a different visual for someone,” Stacey says, “reclaim what it means to be a black person.”

And there’s something else mindfulness offers people of color, says Jasmine. “The right to not take on the weight of someone else’s ignorance. Instead to understand that person is on a different path,” says Jasmine. “And so the more compassionate we become, the more we’re able to say, I see how you are, but that doesn’t impact how I live my life.”

But there’s light, too, Stacey says. “Meditation can bring joy and peacefulness, and a sense of belonging and calm, and community and love, really. That’s what meditation provides.”

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