Knellee Bisram M.A., Certified Mindfulness Trainer and CMBM Instructor
This past year we lost loved ones, suffered financial hardship, and endured social isolation and virtual fatigue. One silver lining of the “syndemic” (COVID plus racial injustice) has been a renewed appreciation for practices that empower us to better navigate difficulty while enhancing our health and well-being. In Broward county, the syndemic has shown us that while many continue to suffer, we are on the right path in our resolve to provide equitable access to tools that help individuals bounce back quicker and stronger when hard times come.
Resilience vs Prosilience
Resilience means one’s ability to bounce back. According to Hoopes, resilience is the force that helps us to deal with challenges after they occur, while prosilience is the skill that helps us prepare for the next challenges before they happen.
Mindfulness and Mind Body Skills
Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment and with open curiosity (KabatZinn). It includes various attention and awareness practices that enable a person to cultivate the skill of being present. According to the Center for Mind Body Medicine, mind body skills include “highly experiential and integrative techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, autogenic training, breath work, movement, self-expression and other approaches [which] are taught in a supportive environment…” Research shows that these skills and practices promote resilience, prosilience, post traumatic growth, better health and longevity, improved performance, better relationships and happiness.
A Mindful Broward and the Mind Body Resiliency Coalition
Thousands of health professionals, educators, mental health providers, first responders, community workers and others serving youth and adults have been trained in evidence-based modalities (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Center for Mind Body Medicine program, Happiness Course, Trauma-informed Yoga, and others) and integrate these practices into their work. More recently, through the work of the Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent’s Mindfulness Initiative (SMI) and the Comprehensive Wellness Program, a coordinated effort emerged to align and organize resources across the community culminating in the Mind Body Resiliency Coalition (MBRC), a committee of the Broward’s Children Strategic Plan. The MBRC vision is that “all children have access to mind body tools that empower them to cultivate inner resilience, self-compassion, build strong positive and empathetic relationships, and live a meaningful and fulfilled life.”
The purpose? To build a more resilient, inclusive, healthier, and happier community.
The intention? To create a cultural paradigm shift whereby taking care of ourselves by practicing regularly and taking care of each other by transferring skills in our home, work and social environments become a natural part of our lifestyle.
We are on a mission to transform our cultural DNA, to rewire our brain, to retrain our nervous system, for resilience and prosilience! And all the science tells us that this is not only possible but also trainable with daily mindfulness/mind body practice.
Creating a community-based model for resilience is a huge undertaking. Here are a few lessons we have learned so far through the MBRC:
• Prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in program design and implementation, even if it means “deconstructing” evidence-based models, helps to meet needs of ALL people
• Local leadership must walk the talk not just buy in – leaders at BCPS, Children’s Services Council leaders, and other entities have invested not only in system-wide support but also in their personal practice
• An army of well-trained, diverse, and experienced mindfulness and mind body leaders and teachers in multiple sectors within a supported structure creates momentum and impact • Co-creating a SMART and inclusive plan of action among leaders, teachers, implementers, and beneficiaries, made it easy to pivot quickly to sustain our efforts during COVID
• Engaging diverse participants in recurring communities of practice is habit-forming, sustains teachers’ self-care, builds awareness and grows program participation
• Local and non-local funders and stakeholders are needed to provide resources and technical support
Along with our progress, have been some setbacks. Now that mind body skills groups and mindfulness classes have gone virtual and those who lack the technology are excluded. Measuring resiliency and prosiliency across multiple agencies and sectors has been difficult. The broader community still lacks awareness and understanding of the benefits, and while a publicly available community map and directory of resources will help, it will take time to develop. Finally, we are still co-learning and co-defining what anti-racist structures, and equitable culturally responsive and trauma-sensitive spaces and practices look and feel like with our population. In spite of this, we know the vision for a more resilient community is possible with everyone’s involvement.
Here is how you can create a Mindful Broward:
• Practice self-care every day, encourage your loved ones and colleagues. Try “Soft belly breathing”.
• Practice regularly with a group. Join our weekly Sunday Community of Practice. Details at https://amindfulbroward.eventbrite.com
• If your child is a student of BCPS, request access to the Inner Explorer mindfulness app, free for families to use at home
• Join the Mind Body Resiliency Coalition or volunteer to teach mindfulness at the Community of Practice
Knellee Bisram M.A. is a Certified Mindfulness Trainer and CMBM Instructor. She is the co-Chair of the Mind Body Resiliency Coalition, and CEO/Founder of AHAM Education Inc, empowering 1 million underserved individuals with Presence, Positivity, and Peace programs in the Americas. More at http://www.ahameducation.org