Awareness of the body’s state influences how we organize our lives. Knowing your body strengthens your mind.
- Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. in “The Mindful Therapist”
On Tuesday, I placed a picture of a series of faces showing different emotions on the table. I invited the fourth graders to look at them and think about their own feelings.
I asked the students where they feel different emotions in their bodies. Some felt fear in their chests or nervousness in their stomachs. One student felt happiness in his face, another in her arms and hands. Finally, when I asked what their current emotions were, they pointed to a range of faces and quickly named how they were feeling.
When I did the same exercise later with our high school students, the experience was completely different. They struggled to identify any feeling in their bodies, and when I asked which emotions they were currently feeling, they almost universally chose “calm,” a face with a flat expression.
Between childhood and high school, the healthy conversation between body and brain gets interrupted by so many things. Trauma, social pressure, media immersion, interpersonal conflict, economic instability, and chronic stress can all cause young people to disconnect from their feelings so that their bodies hold emotions that their brains don’t process.
The good news is that in a healthy community, the connection can be rebuilt. Students can grow back into themselves as they learn to connect with their own feelings and connect with each other. They can heal and live as whole people.
At Presencia, we’re reshaping our programs to help students keep this connection alive so that they can be their whole thinking, feeling, and acting selves.
Students walk in and choose a greeting ranging from a wave to a hug. They sit down and name their feelings in community. Then as we eat together and work, talk, and play, we grow together toward wholeness and health.
With so much of their lives oriented around pressure and performance, Presencia gives our students time to relax, connect with who they are, and to grow into their healthiest, fullest selves.