I have been working at a school for autistic kids for just over a year now. I drove quite a while to get there, and two times a week I was teaching mindfulness and yoga to all the kids. When I first got there, most of them looked at me like I was an alien from another planet. They all had their daily habits — and yoga and mindfulness were not in their repertoire. But after a couple of months most kids took a liking to me, and we started breathing and feeling peacefulness. We learned that if we move our body in certain positions we can relieve stress, anxiety and unwanted negative thoughts.
Working with autistic kids is not always easy. Some days there was screaming in class, rude words were yelled and out-of-control body movements were sometimes part of a lesson. However I love my job, especially when kids tell me they are practicing on their own and I get thank you letters that yoga has been helpful in their lives.
But then, after 13 months of working there, I got an email out of the blue saying, ”We are going to cancel yoga.” I thought, “They must be crazy. What is going on?”
I could keep going on here with more negative thoughts because, as you know, the mind goes to lots of emotional places when something happens that’s upsetting. Have you ever had anything happen that was upsetting? I am sure you did — we all do. So here’s how I deal with it and integrate mindfulness.
First, connect with your tribe and feel supported. For example I called my friend and family and expressed myself. This is super important — you need to feel heard, seen and understood.
Next, accept what is happening in the moment and connect how it makes you feel. For example, I no longer have a job at that school, and I feel very sad and confused. After all, these kids had been a part of my life, and I feel they are like my extended family, so letting go of that was hard. Cry if you need to. Let it all out. I did.
Next, ground yourself by writing down what happened. I wrote two pages and felt much better after expressing myself on paper.
Last, breathe. Be aware of your breath and start to release your emotions by saying the word “release” with every exhale you take. Releasing all the negative thoughts, in my case the school, that was part of my life — I am moving on. I started feeling a lot calmer when following my breath intentionally.
After one week I started feeling relaxed, and my thoughts moved to hope. Now that I am calm, I can focus on my online courses and other projects I have in front of me. I now look forward into the future with positivity and hope. I realized that by using mindfulness I can turn a negative experience into a positive one. I felt happy again and full of excitement for my next adventure — hoping that I would be able to make a difference in people’s lives by teaching them mindfulness one breath at a time, just as I had in the school.