My kids are having an active shooter drill at their school, right now. The teachers talked with all the kids, in an appropriate way, beforehand. The kids know it is “just” a drill. There will be no rubber bullets or adults yelling at them to hide behind the bookcase. My kids seemed ok about it all. And YET. I’m watching the clock and wishing it wasn’t happening at all. I hate that my 3rd & 1st grader kids are practicing our worst nightmare. Will they feel more prepared if and when they have to do it when it’s not a drill? Is the preparation so that they stay kind-of-sort-of-calm when their body will appropriately go into fight-flight-or freeze? What in G@d’s name are we doing?
This morning I reminded my kids of the “I love you breath”. It’s a breathing practice I teach in Kids Yoga to do when you are feeling scared, sad, nervous – whenever you have butterflies in your stomach. You rub your belly and thank the butterflies (your body’s automatic response to your feelings) for coming to be with you. Then you take a big breath in and blow the butterflies out of your stomach by saying “i love you-i love you-i love you” as many times as you can, extending that exhale breath far longer than you would normally, especially when you are scared and your heart is beating so fast. This helps you stay put in your body: find your breath, ease up your arms and legs, and maybe feel the feelings with a little less fear, and a little more love.
It’s not that I want my kids to not have the fight-flight-freeze response, if they are in real danger. I am exceptionally grateful for this incredible life saving magic, when it is needed. But today is a drill. We have decided that it is useful to “practice” trauma. My worry is that the staff and students in school today who are having the dress rehearsal for a nightmare might actually feel nervous and scared at just the thought of it being real, and their bodies will respond to that fear, as it is built to do, by going into some degree of fight-flight-freeze.
Have we taught ourselves – the grown adults – and these kids enough about how to come out of fight-flight-freeze? When the drill is over, will there also be a rehearsal of the after care to bring everyone to the other side of survival; rest and digest, or tend and befriend? We don’t have to learn how to panic – our bodies take over in an effort to keep us from harm. But, it seems like we actually need to learn and practice how to come back into a more relaxed, trusting, safe, and caring space in order to continue to survive and not be stuck in panic mode.
The next Saturday Morning Retreat is this Saturday, October 19th, 9a.m.-noon. This time it is at Uni Place church (Springfield & Wright). The retreat is called “Staying Put – Rest & Digest”. We are going to learn, practice, and encourage each other in the practices that keep us in Rest & Digest, or Tend & Befriend; the flip side of fight-flight-freeze. We’re going to learn about our AMAZING brains and bodies that always are working with us to keep us safe, connected, and in love. I think this is actually and important and life-saving practice to do. Please come. It will be great, I swear. The cost is $30, if that works for you. Please register by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Retreats are open to beginners, but some experience with yoga is definitely useful. It is most appropriate for people who can get up and down from the floor with relative ease. I hope to see you soon.
Thanks for sitting with me in my anxiety and worry for my kids. The drill is almost done. So we keep breathing; exhaling iloveyouiloveyouiloveyouilove to stay put in our bodies, slow down our busy minds, reach out in care, trust, and compassion.
Peace on your head, You.