Sixth of 7 Workshops with Middle-School Youth at Red Hook Initiative: Universe Boxes

For our sixth of 7 empowering art workshop with youth at Red Hook Initiative, we introduced the concept of a universe box. A universe box can be a safe place in which to place written fears, dreams, worries and hopes. Before getting started with the art portion of the program, we talked with the group and checked in about continued use of positive affirmations and mirror work that we've been practicing in our workshops. Some students shared funny stories about receiving their self-loving Valentine's cards in the mail and their parents' reactions.

Next, in an effort to become centered and relaxed, we turned off the lights and sat in silence for 30 seconds while paying attention to our breath, inhaling and exhaling. 

The students decorated their universe boxes with acrylic paint, appliques, cut photographs and glitter. As their paint dried, we distributed colorful pieces of paper and encouraged students to write down their cares to place into their universe boxes. We explained that it is a safe place to store their important thoughts, which will help them feel more relaxed as if the universe is holding and handling their tough issues and dreams. 

We wrapped up with the mirror work exercise in which students look into their own eyes while saying something loving and kind to themselves.

Thanks, RHI, for having us back! We look forward to our final special workshop in this series of 7, next week. And thanks Patricia for the photos!

Fifth of 7 Workshops with Youth at Red Hook Initiative: Self-Love Valentines

This week in celebration of Valentine’s Day, we wanted to do something especially self-loving with the middle-school youth at Red Hook Initiative

Laura drew big red hearts on the dry-erase board and invited everyone to etch out an empowering word or phrase inside the hearts using their pinkie fingers. 

We talked in a big circle about how everyone’s week went, as well as using affirmations, observing negative thoughts and saying loving things in the mirror. One thing about questions we learned from Dr. Lissa Rankin is to ask meaningful ones, so we also asked if there were any moments they felt appreciated or upset, and we talked from there.

Patricia led an 8-minute guided meditation to relax and center us. As we inhaled deeply she guided us to imagine ourselves floating on a fluffy, light and loving cloud. As we exhaled, we imagined placing all of our worries inside a colorful balloon. We watched in our minds as we let it float far away, and when we could barely see it in the distance, it burst with our worries, disintegrating them completely. We repeated this several times and then imagined ourselves floating back down on our cloud while feeling warmth in our hearts and saying, “I am amazing. I am special. I am unique. I am loved.” 

This week the empowering art came in the form of creating unique hand-written love letters to ourselves. Most agreed that it is sometimes easier to tell other people how special they are and how much we love them, than it is to tell ourselves. 

Everyone decorated the cards beautifully using markers, colored pencils, stickers, photographs from PatriciaG Photos and paper square appliques. Some were inspired by "Power Thoughts for Teens" cards by Louise Hay that we put on the tables. These special self-love Valentine's Day cards are super heart-warming. We addressed envelopes to ourselves and mailed them.

As always, we ended the workshop by passing around our heart-shaped mirror and saying something loving to ourselves while looking into our eyes. Then we surprised the kids with organic chocolate chip cookies! It’s Valentine’s Day after all. 

Thanks RHI! We love being with you guys. Thanks to PatriciaG Photos for these lovely pics. Excited to be back in two weeks for workshop #6 - Universe Boxes! 

Out of the Darkness Community Walk with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Battery Park, NYC

Patricia here. I'd be lying if I said today was an easy one for Arts & Dreams. Being witness to the sorrow and heartbreak of people left behind by suicide is really tough. But bringing smiles to some faces, giving hugs and providing a creative outlet for these brave people as they waited for the suicide prevention walk to begin is something that fills my heart beyond words. My window into this world is through my dear friend and Arts & Dreams partner Laura Baran who lost her beautiful brother Jeff to suicide.

I am inspired by, and in awe of, the courage of Laura's boyfriend, another dear friend, Matt Green, also touched by suicide, and all of the people in attendance, as they put one foot in front of the other - today & every day moving forward. God bless all of you. - Patricia Geremia

Teach kids how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion

Here are some great tips on teaching kids how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion. From The Institute of HeartMath.
HeartShift Tool
The HeartShift Tool helps you calm down and think more clearly. It teaches you how to feel better when you are upset and how to shift from a negative emotion to a positive emotion.
HeartShift Tool
You experience many emotions every day: happiness, excitement, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, peacefulness, curiosity. Emotions come and go, sometimes helping us, and other times making life harder. Each of us can control the power of these emotions. Say out loud what emotions you experienced today.
HeartShift Tool
Feelings that don’t feel good, like frustration, anger, fear or sadness, are uncomfortable. Remember a time when you were upset or frustrated? Did you notice there was tension in your shoulders? Did you have an uneasy stomach? Was your heart beating faster? What was your breathing like?
HeartShift Tool
Let’s try to shift your attention to your toes. Focus on your right toe: Wiggle it. Focus on your nose: Wiggle it. Now point to your heart and focus there. At first, placing your hand on your heart in the beginning will help you focus.

The Steps of HeartShift™ Tool

HeartShift Tool
Step 1: Notice what you are feeling.
Take a moment and ask yourself, "How am I feeling?" Say out loud what you are feeling. Let’s go to Step 2 to practice HeartShift.
HeartShift Tool
Step 2: Shift to your heart.
Put two fingers on your forehead and then move them from your head to your heart while saying, "Focus on the area of my heart." Take a moment and keep your focus there for practice. Let’s go to Step 3.
HeartShift Tool
Step 3: Breathe a feeling of calm.
Breathe slowly and easily. Imagine the air flowing in and out of your heart area. Take your time breathing in and out. Do this three to five times. What changes did you notice in your body? How do you feel now?
HeartShift Tool
It is important to identify what you are feeling, whether you are upset, mad or sad. Remember, you have a choice to do whatever you want with your emotions! You can do a HeartShift to calm yourself down and think more clearly. Feel better fast. Let’s try practicing HeartShift one more time.
Step 1: Notice what you are feeling.
Step 2: Shift to your heart.
Step 3: Breathe a feeling of calm.
Hope you are feeling better. Have a happy day!

Karla McLaren: The Seven Intelligences

In my inbox this morning was Karla McLaren's newsletter for July 1st. It is so beautiful that I wanted to share it in full. - Laura
PS: I haven't read her new book yet (The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You) but I listened to a podcast discussion on it and found it fascinating.

Karla McLaren: Excerpt from The Language of Emotions

As I've been doing interviews, people have been focusing a lot on Conscious Complaining, probably because it's a good "hook," but I've really been thinking a lot about the seven intelligences I feature in the book. Here's the introduction to that section:
The skill of empathy allows us to read the interior state, the intentions, the emotions, the desires, and the possible actions of other people or animals. If we're very good at reading emotions, our social intelligence and our emotional intelligence tend to be very high. We get people and animals and their needs in the way some intellectual geniuses get mathematics or physics, or in the way artistic geniuses get colors, shape, and perspective. Empathy is one of the multiple kinds of intelligence we have.
However, most of us grew up in a world where multiple intelligences were not yet understood. It was only in 1983 that Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences became known. Dr. Gardner identified more than just the logical intelligence that most people focused on at the time – the intelligence that allows us to do math and science, identify patterns, and use logic and deductive reasoning. Logical intelligence is the one that can be measured on an IQ test, and for decades, it was the only aptitude that was openly called intelligence.
Dr. Gardner saw intelligence differently, and he put a name to six other forms of intelligence that go along with logical intelligence. Four of these intelligences are linguistic intelligence, which allows us to write, communicate, and learn other languages skillfully; musical intelligence, which allows us to identify tone, pitch, and rhythm, and to appreciate, compose, and perform musically; bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, which allows us to utilize our bodies and our musculature with great skill (think of dancers, athletes, and gymnasts); spatial intelligence, or the ability to recognize patterns in space, and to utilize space in novel ways. Architects, builders, people who are good at geometry, and most visual artists are strong in the spatial intelligence category.
The other two intelligences Dr. Gardner identified are interpersonal intelligence, which allows us to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of others, and intrapersonal intelligence, which gives us the ability to understand our own motivations, intentions, and desires. These are incredibly important forms of intelligence that help us pilot through the social world.
With the ground of Dr. Gardner’s work to stand on, we can refer to intelligence as a constellation of abilities – and not simply those skills you use on IQ tests. However, here’s the problem for empaths: When most of us were growing up, the only kind of intelligences that mattered were the logical and spatial kinds that are on IQ tests. Maybe our musical and artistic intelligences were accessed in school, and probably, our bodily, sports-focused abilities were too, but P.E. and art were probably not an equal focus of our school day. When I went to school, P.E. and art were not seen as essential to learning, and now, with all the budgetary problems facing schools, P.E. and art are even less likely to take up a large part of the school day. Therefore, we don’t tend to access all of our intelligences at school.
It is very telling is that our interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences are not a part of our formal schooling at all. I think I took a class called Citizenship once, but I can’t really remember it. What I do remember, in school and out of it, is that behavioral and social skills were often taught on the fly. We learned how to act by watching others or by being praised or yelled at, but there wasn’t any actual instruction. We earned to be in relationships and to be siblings or friends through osmosis, or on the fly, or by the seat of our pants. We didn’t receive direct instruction about our relationships or our emotions unless we made some huge social mistake, such as openly displaying unwanted emotions like anger, jealousy, or envy in their mood states. We were taught math and logic, we were taught art and music, we were taught P.E., and we were taught reading, writing, and languages. But in regard to our emotions, our interpersonal skills, and our intrapersonal skills, we were just supposed to have figured it out somehow.
As children, we were expected to have come into school with our interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences already fully matured. We were expected to have our emotions, our social awareness, and our understanding of others under our belts already. We got demerits or gold stars for our behavior, but we didn’t learn how to identify our emotions or work with them skillfully. So if we were angry or sad or afraid at school, we’d have to keep it hidden or risk being made the center of attention. If we acted out our anger, we’d probably be sent to the principal or the school counselor, or we’d have to go to detention or stay after school. The anger would take us out of the normal school day, out of the classroom, and out of the way. And the other kids would learn, “You don’t do that. You don’t express anger, or you’ll be shamed.” If we acted out our fear or our sadness, we might be seen as weaklings and maybe become targets for the other kids, or we might become the teacher’s pet, which is often the same thing as being a target.
We certainly didn’t learn that anger helps us set effective boundaries; that fear is our intuition; or that sadness helps us relax and let go of things we don’t need anyway. What I also noticed at school, and it may have been different for you, is that acting out our compassion was also frowned upon. For instance, if a child was being isolated and identified as a geek or a target, you took your social survival into your own hands if you tried to befriend him or stick up for him (if you didn’t have status, that is). Sometimes, I saw kids with status – you know, the cool kids, the pack leaders – reach out with compassion and essentially throw a cloak of protection over a social outcast, but it didn’t happen as often as it needed to.
What I saw growing up, and what I still see, is that we’re asked to grow to maturity while keeping two of our most important intelligences under wraps, in the shadows, out of the way, and off the radar. As adults, we tend to need therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists to help us access our emotions and our interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences – even though these intelligences belong to us and are essential to pretty much everything we do. It’s not surprising, then, that we don’t know what emotions are, what they want, or what they do. It’s also not surprising that we’re left to create a ground under the emotions for ourselves.
I wonder, did you have the chance to develop all of your intelligences when you were a child? Specifically, were you lucky enough to have clear instruction about emotions and how to work with them? Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone had that?
As I look at the troubles we humans are having with greed, insensitivity, violence, multiple intolerances, and all the varied "isms" we create, I can't help but think that our real problem is emotional. Certainly, we're as logically, spatially, musically, bodily-kinesthetically, and artistically smart as anyone could wish for. Humans rock those five intelligences!
But as we can see everywhere we look, every hour of every day, we humans often fall short in our interpersonal (and inter-group!) and intrapersonal intelligences. With my book, I hope to change this. It is truly the most important work I can imagine. I believe in the possibilities inherent in human nature, and I hope we can bring our already-massive smarts to the most vital intelligences we possess.