Mindfulness and Holistic Heart Health

2012_03 - Florida 189aWith February being Heart Month, here is my heart health checklist for last week:

~ exercise:  two (kind of short) yoga sessions, one skating trip with the kids, and a considerable effort scraping off the ice from our walk.

~ food intake review:  lots of legumes, steady flow of fruits and veggies, sugar remains a food group most days.

~ love and friendship:  lots (lucky me).

~ mindfulness:  5-10 minutes at school council meeting.

?

But that’s what happened, I swear.  Two teachers came to our monthly parent council meeting and, as part of their presentation on the mindfulness that they seek to bring into their classrooms, they asked parents to participate in a guided mindfulness exercise similar to what our children are doing at school.  Every one of us stood up, closed our eyes or kept them softly focused, and breathed and moved our bodies together.

I don’t know what your school council is like, but ours is active and strong and fueled by passion around holistic education which, as it turns out, means different things to different people.  The energies parents bring to the school are often positive and productive, but as with any concerted effort, we have bumps along the way.

Last week’s meeting was no exception but I’ll tell you this:  breathing and swaying my arms alongside dozens of people who had not convened for this purpose, was a surprisingly powerful experience.  For those few minutes, we were unified:  not just in our hopes for our children’s education, but in our own bodies and minds.  A frequent tagline for holistic education is that it embraces the head, heart, hands and spirit equally, but as parents we still often operate primarily in our minds, especially at meetings.  It was a beautiful thing, if fleeting, to move into our hearts for a change, and to do it together.

My heart health could be improved by more exercise and a better diet, but I’ve got some momentum in those areas, and these things can’t alone create holistic heart health.  Last week’s school council meeting reminded me that what my heart might need most is greater openness and softness, through the mindful practices that keep us grounded and patient and present.  I could cite evidence of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation on heart health, but for now I’d rather focus on how it feels.  Simply, my heart liked it, and so I resolve to give her more.

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Where the Concrete Ends

010I’ve mentioned before that my kids go to an alternative public school.  It’s called Equinox, and offers a holistic education with an emphasis on environmental stewardship.  It’s a pioneering school, and established the first public outdoor kindergarten program in Canada.  It’s new and imperfect, but I love. this. school.

One huge imperfection is that our groundbreaking kindergarten is in desperate need of some literal groundbreaking.  The outdoor classroom space that we have been given is a concrete jungle.  The teachers have done an amazing job in spite of the concrete, but with a full-day kindergarten program coming to Equinox in less than four months, the barren space is even more inadequate than before.

Knowing this, a group of parents have galvanized themselves into a veritable force of advocacy!  The Equinox Outdoor Kindergarten committee is launching an ambitious fundraising campaign this morning on indiegogo, an international crowdfunding website.  The way it works:  we spread the word about the campaign, and then donors contribute in return for great perks!  Our goal is to raise a small but meaningful portion of the project to get started and to demonstrate to potential funders that we have significant support for the project within our school community and beyond. Then we’ll be able to leverage the money the cover the full cost of the outdoor kindergarten – much better than the best dollar matching program anywhere!

Preparing the campaign has required tremendous effort from so many people and can only be described as a labour of love.  Hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours have already gone into it (we have an amazing video to tell you about it!), and we are just starting!  The completed outdoor classroom may not be ready in time for many of the committee member’s children to enjoy, and our scriptwriter has no personal connection to kindergarten at all – but we all worked on the campaign anyway.  What we all share is the belief that environmental education needs to be put on the map for the future of all children, and an outdoor kindergarten is a beautiful inroad to that goal.

We finally have a real chance to make it happen, and with full-day kindergarten around the corner, we need to act now!  Please help if you can – the sooner we have the funds, the sooner we can create a true outdoor classroom and promote environmental education for everyone.

Donate now and help us spread the word!  The kindergarteners and I thank you with all our hearts!