Supporting our grief and celebrating life

A few days ago, I had a very different agenda for this month’s blog. Summer is upon us, we have a year of successful programming to celebrate, new staff to welcome, new program collaborators to introduce to you, and new grant awards to offer our appreciation for. The recent violence ripping across our nation has left me with a pained heart for which it is hard to find words.

One of those incidents, incessantly repeated in the headlines right now, occurred in my neighborhood.  I have to say my system is still going through stages of processing. I’m not ready to give all of the thoughts, feelings, and responses name and form. It is all too raw, too complicated, too senseless, and increasingly, too common.

What I can say is that the work we are doing with youth through Inner Strength is beyond urgent. Teaching youth how to self-regulate, how to problem solve with words, not force, how to aspire and dream towards something positive, future-oriented, and generative are so needed. The soul-searching I personally and our organization as a whole are going through in a facilitated strategic planning process, using a contemplative approach designed at MIT Leadership Lab by Otto Scharmer and colleagues, is enabling me to take the time necessary to see how we can best support authentic transformation.

There are many levers of change. Upstream levers, downstream levers. There are triage needs. There are preventative needs. Both are equally important. During the height of COVID, we needed front line medical workers trained in respirator use. We also urgently needed biomedical researchers working on a vaccine. With the strife afflicting our cities and our young people, we need positive disruptors in so many places. At Inner Strength, we are leaning in to figure out what our unique calling and talent is so we can move forward full speed, confident we are in the right place, supporting teen’s higher potentials, doing what we do best.

Our next year’s programming is taking shape even before the long term planning is complete. We will return to at least 8 high schools, supporting students in roughly 120 classrooms to engage with contemplative, restorative, and inquiry-based work. They will meditate, learn to constructively channel their emotions, and discover the universality of the human experience so they can connect across difference or disagreement. We have deeper relationships with our school partners and I am looking forward to a fulfilling and very active year ahead.

Your support in so many ways keeps the wind in our sails. Thank you for your notes of encouragement, for your faith in the possible, for your own practice which contributes to the field of mindfulness, and also quite practically for your gifts which keep our instructors working with teens.

Let us all open our hearts and minds to a higher order of harmony and integration ahead, let us support the grieving and keep room to celebrate life.

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