Today the AmeriCorps Team at Project Change are being trained to live and work more mindfully. Their teacher Gregory Robison, is an expert, having run the John Main Center at Georgetown University for the last few years.
AmeriCorps members are dealing with high risk and high need populations of young people, and every friday, when we meet for training, we share some of the challenges each member faces. Kids who are angry and distracted, kids who are battling the odds at home, and can’t really focus on school. When an AmeriCorps member seeks to make an impact on the troubled lives of young people, the risk is that Troubles spread like an infection to upset everybody. Members take the stress of their work home, and lose sleep worrying about that kid who get into a fight and was suspended, or concerned about that secret that that teen shared with her and not sure who else to share it with. Stress is part of the job description even if its not written in the formal contract. So there has to be ways that members can deal with it and be creative about how they care for themselves.
The old story of being a helper used to stress heroic self sacrifice, and that if one were to wear oneself out for others, that this was noble. Nowadays, we tend to see this old story as dysfunctional and misguided. What good are we to anyone in need if we are not meeting our own human needs? So the training today is meant to introduce and re-enforce some of the practices members can be encouraged to use and to teach others. Living mindfully means we don’t lose what is on offer in this moment, and refusing to allow the worries of the past or the fears of the future degrade the texture of everyday experience.