Culturally-Sensitive Restorative Practices 

When we engage in conversations about self-care, the representational politics of this discourse are generally white.  Self-care, and often the mindfulness movement in general, uses language and framing that speaks to a white-dominant middle class culture, and which therefore poorly meets the needs of other cultures to see themselves reflected in its language and values.  How then do we extract the value of restorative practices, including mindfulness, which are truly universal, but set them within a cultural context that makes them relevant and accessible within other cultures?  How do we claim appropriate symbols and frameworks that take into consideration race, class, and gender and the ways these shape understanding of what self-care and restorative practices might mean.  In this training we’ll tackle these questions, and work to formulate cultural-specific framings of self-care and restorative practices that are more effective in translating universal and scientific concepts into particular cultures and conversations.

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • participants reframe a discourse of self-care as a discourse of restorative practices, and identify a conceptual framework of restorative practice

  • participants develop a trauma-sensitive neuro-scientific analysis of nervous system wellbeing including the concepts of attention, neuroplasticity, and the Polyvagal Theory

  • participants understand what mindfulness is, and investigate and experience applied mindfulness in relation to self, others, and nature

  • participants identify critical questions in the discourse on restorative practices, and reflect on developing appropriate language and cultural framing to communicate more deeply with members of the particular cultural groups they serve

Applied Mindfulness: Bringing the Connection System online

For 30 million years humans evovled within what researcher Darcia Narvaez terms ‘the evolved developmental niche’.  This context prioritizes the development and stabilization of the connection system- the neurophysiological systems that support connecting to ourselves, to eachother, and to the living world.  In the past several hundred years, the way that we have been living has begun to radically deviate from this ancestral context, with extremely negative impacts on our ability to connect.  The connection system is the primary source of wellbeing and regulation, so knowing how to access it and turn it on is critical for our own wellbeing. 

In this training, we’ll explore 

  • the evolved developmental niche: the extra-genetic context in which optimal development occurs, and why this is important

  • the neurophysiology of the connection system

  • reasons the connection system doesn’t develop and reasons that it gets shut down

  • ways to support turning the connection system back on

 Applied Mindfulness: Relating Across Difference

We live in a culture with deep and often unacknowledged (by mainstream white culture) historical legacies of racism and genocide and patriarchy, and these histories, as well as our individual and community experiences are in the room with us.  How do we forge authentic connection across difference, making room for the difficult emotions that arise when we authentically connect around these issues?  This training is informed by the relational mindfulness work of pioneering film-maker and master diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah, whose mindfulness based cross-cultural facilitation techniques help us more skillfully navigate this terrain. 

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • what is the importance of bringing mindfulness into cross-cultural conversations

  • what is relational mindfulness?

  • what are healthy ways to communicate?

  • what is the importance of reflective listening/ and how can we practice it?

  • how can we more skillfully accompany difficult emotions in others?

Restorative Practices: Reflecting on Cross-Cultural Masculinity

We live in cultures of frequently toxic masculinity, as portrayed and evidenced by a plethora of recent events in American culture, where men frequently choose power over others rather than being with them, are taught to prioritize intellect over emotion, dominance over connection, and are socialized to experience and express only certain emotions while repressing others.  While this has obviously harmful impacts on those interacting with men, it also harms us.  The social services profession is largely made up of women, so men who are part of it have generally chosen this work for deeply personal reasons, and can often provide a uniquely healing or corrective experience for young people, who so frequently have wounding around their relationship with male figures.  As a man, then, what does it mean to show up fully in service?  What parts of ourselves get left behind?  In a culture where men are not taught to take care of themselves, what does self-care and restorative practice for men look like?  What does it mean as a man to walk with an open heart? 

 In this training, we’ll explore:

  • What core beliefs about masculinity are imposed by culture, and which of these do we need to deconstruct?

  • As men, what is significant about our roles in social service contexts?

  • What unique strengths and challenges do men face in this work?

  • How do cross-cultural images of men impact our ability to relate to those from similar and different backgrounds than our own?

  • As men, how have we been indoctrinated into cultures of violence- how do we extricate ourselves from this indoctrination?

  • What does it mean to develop emotional awareness as men?

  • How do we learn to practice self-care and restoration?

Restorative Practices: Emotional Awareness for Men and Boys

Every day in our culture, men are harming others and themselves because they are unable to be present with their own emotions.  In this training, we’ll explore the acculturation of men around their own emotionality, reflect on the mediating role of culture in emotional awareness, reflect on theories of developing and supporting the development of emotional self- and other-awareness, and engage in practices for helping young people develop and increase their emotional intelligence.  While we will focus on men, many principles of the training are generally applicable to developing EQ for all young people, and of course the training is open to all providers. 

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • Why it is that so many men in our culture have a hard time accessing emotions in themselves, or being present with emotions in others

  • the roles of socialization, media, and culture in the development of men’s emotionality

  • principles of developing emotional intelligence

  • experiential exercises, skills, and activities for helping young people develop emotional awareneess

Restorative Practices: Helping Young People Be in their Bodies

In this training we will explore interoceptive awareness, the inwardly-oriented sense perception of what is happening inside the body.  Although recognized as a perceptual category, somatic awareness, or interoceptive awareness is a perceptual category that is neither measured, assessed, or cultivated in young people, although deficits in interoceptive competence adversely effect a wide variety of functioning, from physiological self-regulation, to self-calming, to emotion regulation.  Furthermore, when interoceptive competence is not developed, young people don’t learn how to channel the wisdom of their embodied experience into decision-making, or understand how to incorporate what they feel in how they respond to their worlds.  In this training we’ll look at the neurophysiology of interoception, as well as how to cultivate and enhance somatic and embodied awareness, and how to utilize it in our decision-making.

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • the construct of interoceptize awareness, its neurophysiology, and ways to assess it

  • the negative impacts arising from deficits of interoceptive awareness

  • developing interoceptive awareness and helping young people do so

  • using interoceptive awareness to inform decision-making

Teaching Polyvagal (trauma-informed) Mindfulness

The Polyvagal Theory is a paradigm-shattering evolution in our understanding of the Autonomic Nervous System, which mediates connection and threat states.  When we approach mindfulness from a polyvagal perspective, it says a great deal about how we should intervene with youth to support their wellbeing.  Some of the observations arising from polyvagal theory include: don’t tell young people to shut their eyes, don’t tell them to hold still, focus on creating a felt sense of safety, bring attention outward before you bring it inward, pay more attention to creating appropriate contexts for practicing mindfulness that cue safety, learn how to read nervous system states and tune mindfulness intervention to nervous system state, use invitational rather than directive language, prioritize relational mindfulness.

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • the major theoretical tenets of the Polyvagal Theory, its origins, and implications

  • the physiology and functioning of the social engagement, fight/flight, and freeze systems

  • what Polyvagal Theory implies about how to most effectively teach mindfulness

  • at least 10 modifications to traditional mindfulness practice to make it more polyvagally-informed

  • a wide variety of polyvgal-informed mindfulness practices


Impacts of Technology on the Developing Brain

Our society is presently engaged in the largest experiment on young people’s attention (without an ethical review board) in the history of humanity.  Young people’s moment-to-moment experience of reality is increasingly mediated by their devices, which have in many ways become inextricably linked to their sense of self.  Teens would rather text than talk.  They are exposed to an ever-increasing amount of information and fragmentation of attention by an internet that has profound power to acculturate young people in ways very different from the value systems of most of their families and caregivers.  A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2012 found that the average American teenager is sending/ receiving 100 texts a day, and spends in excess of 7 hours per day in front of some kind of screen.  In this training, we’ll examine the role of all of this technology in the lives of young people and those who care for them.  What do we think about all of this exposure to technology?  How is it changing our relationships to ourselves, one another, and the world around us?  How is it benefiting young people and how is it harmful to them?  What do we know about the developmental impacts of all of this technology? How is it conditioning and changing ours brains and nervous systems? What do these changes lead towards? And more importantly, how can we strategically counter-act the impacts that are negative?

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • the impacts of screen time on young people’s brains and attention

  • the social engagement system and why is it so important to developing meaningful relationships

  • the way that young people are interacting with technology and how it supports or fails to support the development of the social engagement system

  • negative impacts of technology on young people’s ability to create meaningful relationships

  • ways for helping young people develop attentional stability and authentic relationships

Impacts of Social Media on the Developing Sense of Self

We are living in a technological moment where teenagers are developing in contexts where social media is a preferred mode of communication for many.  Data suggests that many teenagers would rather text than talk- a mode of communication which deprives them of several of the most important facets of communication, including hearing the tone of someone’s voice, and seeing the impact of your words landing on them.  The landscape of social communication, through social media, is one where life is often performative, where re-telling is sometimes prioritized over direct experience, and all the world is a stage.  What does it mean to come of age in an environment where the way you look can be commented on by people you don’t even know, where break-ups happen over mis-punctuated texts, in an internet that has the power to acculturate?

In this training, participants will explore:

  • the landscape of social media and reflect on its formative impacts on adolescent sense of self

  • ways in which business models of technology companies have unintended impacts on young people

  • practices for helping teenagers become more skillful at building meaningful and authentic relationships

  • the role that mindfulness can play in helping teenagers to develop deeper connection to themselves and one another

Boundaries around technology: Caring for self in an always-on 24/7 technological world

Not happy with the amount of time you are spending on your phone?  Not liking the way it is affecting your mood?  Your attention?  Your relationships?  Want to examine/ change this?  Smartphones have quickly centered themselves in our lives.  We will carefully examine our relationship with our phones, within the context of social service work, becoming aware of what is beneficial about them, and what is harmful.  With this new awareness we will have the opportunity to change how we relate to them so that they become a more useful tool, and less of an addictive distraction.  We will re-configure our devices, we will explore changing our behaviors in using them, we will explore lifestyle changes, and we will look at the psychological needs they are fulfilling- in terms of our attention and needs for connection, and explore healthier ways of meeting those needs.

In this training, we’ll explore:

  • assessing your relationship with your phone

  • current research about the impacts of technology on attention, memory, relationships

  • re-configuring your device

  • becoming more intentional with your attention

  • the deep psychological needs that drive you to use your phone

  • developing new habits