By Christine Mason. . “Our hearts are broken, our spirits are strong” In response to the devastating massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school, in Newtown, CT, Sandy Hook parents, along with their many supporters, proclaimed that they would work tirelessly to prevent such tragedies in the future. CEI, like others, is dedicating our work to such prevention — not only to prevent violence, but to build communities of caring.
On the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT, CEI is pausing to honor the children, the principal, the teachers — the 26 victims who died– and to honor the Sandy Hook community as it strives to recover. In December 2012, in less than six minutes, 20 children and 6 adults were slain. In under six minutes, a community’s life was forever changed.
Senseless, Tragic Violence: When will it End? At CEI, as with many across the nation, we were stunned by the senselessness of the acts of a lone gunman on a December day at a small school that was very much like many schools across the U.S. Like others, we keep asking: “why, and when will it stop, what will it take?” Many, including our colleagues at the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), have spent long hours planning, meeting, and negotiating to bring about change, since December 2012. These actions are steps in the right direction. They have resulted in funding, and agreements to pursue more “character education” and provide more anti-bullying and more community mental health programs. And yet the violence continues, including yet another school shooting just a few days ago– a shooting at a school in Colorado, a school not far from Columbine.
At CEI, we have spent the past 9 months planning with Peter Yarrow, Co-Founder of Operation Respect, and Mark Weiss, the Director of Education at Operation Respect, to broaden the scope and the impact of Peter’s important anti-bullying program. Together with Operation Respect, CEI is continuing to plan for a more comprehensive, research-based, “heart centered” curriculum that will increase children’s sense of belonging to a caring school community. At CEI, our vision is that by adding “heart” that others will feel the connectedness of kindred spirits. By joining with Peter Yarrow, we are intending to research the impact of an integral, heart centered curriculum-infused component to his motivational Don’t Laugh at Me song and program.
Heart Beaming? Just as CEI is continuing to work to reduce violence, I, as an individual am continuing to facilitate teachings that will promote healing, a sense of well-being, and a sense of community. Part of my work is as a yoga teacher. I have taught yoga and meditation for the past 13 years, teaching as many as 5, and as few as 2 classes a week over the years. This past Saturday, we paused at our yoga classes to meditate on healing for this planet. We imagined a world surrounded with light and healing energy penetrating through every cell and every molecule of every being and every thing on this planet.
In yoga and meditation, this past Saturday, we projected out from our heart centers “love, light, healing, and happiness” — heart to heart, soul to soul, to family, friends, and others across the globe. In fact, we were doing what CEI is calling “Heart Beaming” TM — projecting out love and healing, my heart to yours. This positive projection from the heart is an ancient yogic tradition. We invite each of you to stop, pause, right now. Place your hands on your heart, right hand over left, sit up straight, take a few deep yogic breaths, relax, and connect first of all with your own heart. Listen to the beat; feel the beat of your heart. Then think of a loved one and practice “heart beaming”– envisioning healing energy and kind, loving thoughts going from your being, your heart to the heart of a loved one. We encourage you to try heart beaming for a week, 10 days, a month, a life time.
Why Heart Beaming? First, heart beaming is a positive thing for youth and adults to do. It isn’t expensive; doesn’t take hours of inservice and preparation; and the only equipment required is one’s heart, body, and mind. It can be done anywhere, anytime. Secondly, it is more than reading about change, and it really connects with individuals at a level that is beyond words– it is one thing to protest, another to role play, and something else to simply sit and project out love. Third, from what we know about neuroscience, by heart beaming, and focusing our energies on projecting out love, we are wiring our thoughts for a positive connection with others. By adding the heart-hand component, hands over heart, we have added a kinesthetic experience to the mental projection. By engaging in heart beaming, especially with repetition over time, there is a high likelihood that other, less positive thoughts will be replaced with thoughts of love and kindness.
Note: Elsewhere on the CEI website we have described Dr. Richard Davidson’s fascinating work (see his videoclip). Dr. Davidson has dedicated his life’s work to understanding and measuring the impact of meditation, including obtaining data through EEGs, EKGs, and MRIs, on the hearts and brains of monks and others who have spent long hours in meditation. He has substantial evidence on the stimulation that occurs in the prefrontal cortex and other changes in the brain and physiology after meditation. We see meditation and heart beaming, as part of the path to healing communities and establishing interconnected communities of caring. We also believe that the heart centered approach, when combined with good instruction and leadership in schools, will result both in students who graduate prepared for tomorrow’s workforce and also prepared to lead with global healing.