I sink deep into the ground, feeling almost weightless. A big breath fills my lungs, traveling into my stomach, opening my hips. I feel it in my toes. It’s the first real breath I’ve taken all day — at a meditation class.
Being stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted are familiar feelings to most parents in this strange time of isolation. Coronavirus or not, parents continue to juggle their jobs and care for children and their homes. Taking a moment to breathe deep and unwind seems like an impossible task.
That’s where mindfulness courses like Finding Strength for the Long Haul and Finding Our Way come in. Funded by grants, the program is brought to the community by Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in the Central District.
The meditation classes meet once a week over Zoom and provide a safe space for community and learning, as well as an avenue to explore self-kindness and compassion.
“I’m raising three children, two of which have chronic illnesses,” says Foxy Davison, a parent participant-turned-facilitator. “Not only that, being brown and a woman in my community, it [mindfulness] helps me to realize some of the stresses that I probably don’t address day-to-day because I’m used to living through them.”
“It just gives me pause, a moment to process and acknowledge and to plan how I want to navigate within community.”
Finding Strength for the Long Haul, a drop-in class, was started in 2018 by a group of moms who needed a way to cope with the stresses of raising children with chronic health conditions or disabilities. Collaborating with other parents, they created the program from the course Mindful Self-Compassion by psychologists Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer. The course Finding Our Way was added later to help new parents develop positive relationships with their young children, from birth to age 5.
“Mindfulness practice is a way to be with the many stressors and challenges in people’s lives and can provide some tools/practices to help with self-care, self-compassion and well-being. As a pediatrician, I know that if I can support the well-being of parents, their children will do better too,” says Dr. Lenna Liu, a mindfulness facilitator and Odessa Brown pediatrician.
Facilitators lead a four-to-five-minute guided meditation class, focusing on breathing techniques and relaxation. Participants then take turns sharing their thoughts about the meditative practice and discuss the challenges of their days.
The program’s mission promotes accessibility and inclusion, providing both courses at no cost and in different languages.
“Our lens is definitely trying to bring mindfulness to spaces that it hasn’t been, and trying to bring content within our mindfulness meditations that address race: How we manage it, deal with it, and talk about it. We want our mindfulness practices to be a part of that conversation,” says Davison.
Individuals come to the meditation class with varying levels of experience, each sharing their own stories, while forming deep connections and bonds with one another.
“Hearing them [parents] say that they are remembering to take a breath when they are in a hard moment with their child, or taking time at the end of the day to just sit in silence and come back to themselves, is why we do this,” says Dr. Liu.
For more information and to sample guided meditations, visit seattlechildrens.org/contact/odessa-brown/programs-partnerships/mindfulness-program/