By Taeya Boi-Doku
During these past few months, the world has felt like it is simultaneously spinning out of our control and desperately needing our help. To try and make sense of this jumble, I have found that I need to stay in motion. Knowing that I cannot keep up with all the information in my space I knew returning to a makeshift new normal was not enough to satisfy me. This summer I renewed my commitment to meditating as regularly as I could, in an effort to feel less out of control.
During this time, I heard about an organization that was building mindfulness into the daily life of a school. I thought it was an amazing idea as someone who was rebuilding my own daily routine. This organization also called to mind a rather unique experience I had as a sophomore in high school when the world still seemed normal.
I had heard from my meditation teacher that there was this sort of camp where other students my age came together to meditate and hang out. I had a few weeks before a highly anticipated internship so I went. When I got there, knowing no one, I was struck by how the adults and “campers” interacted with each other. People seemed to smile a lot bigger, in big groups, other kids would share how their meditation was, everyone seemed so engaged when listening and perhaps most importantly everyone seemed to be comfortable talking, laughing, and sharing with everyone else. I loved it. I spent a week at camp and left starstruck with my experience, and ever since then, I had cataloged the differences between my day to day life versus life at camp.
In High school and even into University, I did not feel that same focused attention in conversations with my peers. It felt harder to connect with the adults and mentors in my space. There was a certain subduedness we all normalized so much so, that smiling big and laughing loudly was reserved for private settings with small close-knit groups of friends.
Instead of getting caught up in everything school was not, I decided to try and cultivate my own radical openness, and maybe find other people who practiced mindfulness. Like many other college students, I was heavily involved in student organizations. Affinity spaces, student organizing, and classes were my primary occupations.
Then my campus was evacuated.
Organizing student groups became digital and the exasperated breaths I was talking with my fellow students turned into a desperate cry echoed by thousands online. The distance I faced between myself and my classmates and friends shed a bright light on another crisis that has been the undercurrent for the many other crises at this time. A crisis of connection, I felt not only out of touch with my own emotions, but the emotions of my friends and family members.
There was so much pain in myself that needed reckoning, and when I looked outward I saw so many of the people I cared about needed to reckon with their own woundedness, empathy, compassion, courage, and fear. The best way I have found to do that work is through meditation, giving my mind the quiet that is necessary to process my past and present enough to move forward with steadiness.
Despite this knowledge, I had no idea how to fix this issue. There was no 101 class on how to connect with these emotions enough to find a sort of balance. A few months later I got involved with WholeSchool. They were providing exactly what so many of my peers, loved ones, and what I needed. WholeSchool was brought into existence to address the lack of education around relating to ourselves and others, through the practice of mindfulness and I was lucky enough to intern with them.
There is something invigorating about being at a beginning, especially the beginning of an organization. At WholeSchool we are starting something new, radically changing how we are educating now and how education will look moving forward. WholeSchool is, to me, a movement to equip every student with a framework to help them feel their feelings, notice their woundedness, and connect with others using the same care they built for themselves.
Working with WholeSchool, I get to hear wisdom from our Mindfulness Directors who each have a deep meditative experience. Our Mindfulness Directors are people who value connection with oneself and others, they are skilled in being able to integrate those qualities into how we live, and with WholeSchool, how we all interact in school communities. With our Mindfulness Directors, WholeSchool reimagines how we can build openness, compassion, and resiliency in our partner school communities. Not just for a week at camp, or a year, but for lasting and sustained timeframes.
I heard a quote recently that said, “I could never do all the good the world needs, but the world absolutely needs all the good I can do.” WholeSchool is how I choose to do my good.