Peace Begins With Me

Friday afternoons are challenging.

 Around 4:30, I arrive home after sitting in almost an hour of traffic. I have just finished my work week and I have already taught a yoga class on both Wednesday and Thursday evening. But, I have one more to teach at 5:30 every Friday night. 

I come home, maybe rest for a minute or two, or maybe I have a quick errand to run, a phone call to make or an email to reply to. At 5:00, I am packing up again and heading to the juvenile detention center in my community to teach a yoga class to incarcerated youth.

Why? Because peace begins with me.

Peace begins with me has become one of my favorite mantras taught to me by Gabby Bernstein. It has been a source of comfort and empowerment when I felt like the world was falling apart around me. When I hear about another mass shooting, another case of child abuse, another delay in the trial of my dad's murder, I remember that I cannot bring about world peace, but I can start working on peace within myself and hopefully effect the world around me.

I hope to impart that to the boys of Central Valley Juvenile Detention Center. My intention for them is to feel a sense of peace on their yoga mats and to be able to take that off of their mats. Even as they are incarcerated, even when they are released, even when they are in a conflict, a trying situation or feel out of control of the world around them, can they access the peace that resides within them, that they hopefully find in their yoga practice?

Every 10 weeks, I start with a group of 10 boys. I give them a feedback form at the end of their 10 week class and here is some of the feedback I have gathered:

18 year old male-"Yoga has helped me manage stress and difficult times. To take a breath and look at the whole picture."
17 year old male-"Thank you for coming to teach yoga. It has helped me a lot in the past ten weeks. It has helped me with my anger and lower back pain. Thank you so much Ms. Angie. Very appreciated."
17 year old male- "Yoga has helped me change my life. It has brought light within me. Thank you for that. I never thought I would see myself doing it but it helps me on and off the mat. Off the mat it has changed my perspective of life. Thank you Miss A :)"

The following quote is from a youth who has been coming since the very first class. The population is highly mobile, so some youth I only have for a few weeks before they are off to somewhere else. This particular youth is pretty special and deserves a post all to his own in the future so I can share the transformation I have observed in him over this past year. 

18 year old male- "I just want to be a very good person free of evil thoughts and actions. Yoga has helped me a lot in my life. At times it becomes the most important than any other. That's why I keep coming back."

This past week, we ended class by chanting "Peace begins with me" over and over. In reminding them of this powerful concept, I remind myself. Instead of complaining or feeling despondent about the world around me, I will chose everyday to effect my world in a positive way. I will chose to see the good, to be the good, to cast off judgment, to practice empathy, to be honest, to strive for integrity, to meet people where they are at and hold space for them. I will mess up, but I commit to try and try again. I owe it to the kids I serve, my community and myself.

How can you practice peace today?