Retreat with high school students from New Orleans on March 17-21, 2012: the aftermath!
I hope everyone is enjoying the day of mindfulness at the center. Here in New Orleans it is a beautiful, clear day…many birds are singing. I wanted to share with you several things that have happened since our return to the city.
We returned late Wednesday evening. For me, the next morning was spent at funeral services for a beloved friend and mentor, my former principal. The services were very long and some of my colleagues mentioned this. However, I had been practicing for the last five days and was so prepared to really listen and be present, what a gift. The pastors and friends who spoke were inspirational and I was to really enjoy the moment.
Although the students are writing their own individual memories and thank yous, I wanted to share with a few things that happened on Thursday and Friday at school.
Before leaving the school Thursday morning for the funeral, I was walking down the hall with our assistant principal. We came across a student, who attended the retreat at Magnolia Grove, who was at the water fountain, just steps from his classroom. The assistant principal immediately started yelling at him demanding to know why he was out of class. He explained that his teacher had given him permission to get water, the assistant principal continued to yell and fuss. The student put his hand together, bowed and said “Mr. Assistant Principal, I am sorry for upsetting you, please forgive me for this.” Wow, the assistant principal was shocked and could only reply to the student in a softed way.
When I met with all the participants in class on Friday, we sang songs and taught them to the students who were unable to go on the trip. We introduced the bell and had mindful breathing and then a small dharma talk. During this time many things were shared about how the students now feel since their return.
Student 1: when she came home Wednesday night she found that her mother had washed and ironed all her school uniforms and had them ready for her. She went to her mother to let her know how much she appreciated this and understood that it meant her mother was taking care of her. This may seem small, but a huge step for her.
Student 2: went home and transformed the broken door in her house that held such bad memory. She said that she has never felt so peaceful in her house.
Student 3: said that the city seems so loud and people arguing and yelling seem so wrong. He said it has given him the opportunity to stop and breathe instead of feeling so negative about it.
Student 4: cannot speak to anyone without bowing!!!!
Student 5: has secretly worn her ‘breathe my dear’ shirt under her school shirt both Thursday and Friday. She can’t stop singing I love the roses and is full of amazement that there are actually many birds near her house.
Student 6: poor child. Someone tried to break into his house Thursday night while he was home alone. It brought so much fear to him. He is safe, but very ready to leave the city. He is open about telling anyone that his time at Magnolia allowed him to see that peace is possible.
Student 7: He shared that he talked with his father about his experience and about the book Be Free Where You Are he had given him with great enthusiasm. He said that his father laughed at him and was probably making fun of him with all his prison buddies. How painful this must have been for him and yet he was not entirely discouraged. His classmates that were on the trip encouraged him to keep trying and that his dad would eventually have to soften.
I am confident that you will hear more stories when the children write. But please know that they have had MANY positive seeds watered. There is no way for me to express how happy I am that all the conditions came together to make the trip possible. It was a pure joy and I know much hard work for all the brothers and sisters. I hope that everyone was able to enjoy the lazy day that followed. Kids’ lives and perspectives were transformed!
With much love and happiness,