#MyPath50: Finding a Home Within Yourself
Mindfulness meditation and yoga are practices that can be crucial in transforming one’s life. Specifically, these activities address the past and present effects of violence and trauma. Unfortunately, marginalized communities and populations are disproportionately affected by traumatic personal events. Given all of the evidence that supports the benefits of meditation and yoga, Drs. Nicholas Barr and Robin Petering of the research firm Lens Co. were interested in exploring ways to introduce these techniques to such communities. Consequently, they conducted a study in the Summer of 2018 that trained twelve young adults experiencing homelessness how to be peer-based mindfulness in their communities. The results of this study included increased the frequency in which in the youth practiced mindfulness and yoga, inspired them to practice with their peers, and reduced violence within their overall social network. With that in mind, Robin and Nick developed MyPath50, a two-day training open to all that comes from the perspective on how yoga and mindfulness can be taught to and practiced by homeless youth. Although focused on homeless youth, upon completion of the training, participants are equipped to teach yoga and mindfulness in any non-traditional community from an intersectional lens. No past experience is required.
The inaugural MyPath50 Training took place September 7-8, 2019 at the The Hub in the Arts District of Los Angeles, CA. The group of participants reflected the intersectional emphasis, consisting of nineteen individuals from diverse backgrounds. The majority were service providers, clinicians, or employees of organizations that directly serve homeless youth. Furthermore, this group also was apropos for a training concerning youth homelessness, as there were individuals in the group who were currently experiencing or have previously experienced homelessness.
The first day of the training was an opportunity for participants to absorb knowledge. Throughout the day, Dr. Barr presented the fundamentals of deep breathing and meditation as it relates to trauma and affects the body. Once everyone in the room had a basic understanding of meditation practice, a panel consisting of three homeless youth that participated in last year’s study spoke about how they have used meditation to cope with the struggles and reality of not having a permanent home. This panel was useful to all those who did not originally understand how mindfulness and yoga can be employed by this population, given all of their immediate concerns. As one participant I talked to explained, homeless youth use these practices to find a “home inside themselves.”
To discuss intersectionality, there were a pair of guest lecturers, from Safe Place for Youth, who ran a workshop concerning power and privilege as it relates to these practices. This experience made everyone examine their own individual privilege, as well as learn what they can do to fight against the privilege and non-inclusive aspects of traditional yoga and mindfulness when introducing these practices to communities that don’t have as much experience and background. With this knowledge, facilitators can now create an all-inclusive group space that genuinely welcomes all people.
Day two allowed for the participants to put into practice all of what they had learned from the first day. The morning consisted of a thirty-minute body scan meditation, followed by instruction on how to execute various yoga poses. In the afternoon, participants engaged in activities amongst themselves and discussed challenges on leading groups. By the end of the day, all those participants not only had the theoretical knowledge of yoga mindfulness but also the necessary practice to lead others.
Just the Start
Robin and Nick are quite optimistic about this program’s future. Moving forward, they plan to host these trainings twice a year. However, the success of this program goes far beyond the information shared by experts. As Dr. Petering explains, “Instead of talking to 100 people and telling them that mindfulness is great and could help them, why don’t we just take a select number and show them what do we do? We can select ten of those 100 people and train them to be ambassadors for the community. They become the change agents. They are the ones that go out and share the knowledge of these skills and these behavior-based tools.”